Home Forums Sci Fi 6mm Sci-Fi Scenic Basing at 3mm Scale

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  • #16436
    Mr. Average
    Participant

    I’m posting this here, because the project I’m using this technique for is a Sci Fi army and OPFOR set for Future War Commander.  However, the technique is in principle applicable to any figure set and timeframe from the new 3mm Ancients line from Magister Militum through the Medieval ranges by Irregular, up to Napoleonics, ACW, World Wars, Moderns, right up through Sci Fi, provided by O8.  The latter is worth mentioning in particular since I picked this technique up from Marcin Kazmierczak, who runs the show at Oddzial Osmy.  I’m sure he won’t mind my sharing this “secret of the trade,” and I believe good gaming techniques deserve to be shared.

    With the onrush of new 3mm scale systems in all eras and varieties, good basing is critical for playing games at scale.  Up to yesterday, I’d been basing on 1mm plastic wafers, with the scenic material built up with layers of model railroad talus.  It looked like this:

    Passable, but somewhat out of scale.  Also, with the little bits of gravel, it tended to make the vehicles sit crookedly on the base.  And it took forever, as you had to build up layers of the stuff with various glues, which was smelly, messy and time-consuming.  However, after seeing a number of beautiful examples of scenic basing on O8’s Facebook Page, I knew there had to be a better way – and there is, which Marcin shared with me.  What follows is my interpretation and modification of his technique.  Here’s what you’ll need:

    – Lasercut plywood bases (I use Litko bases, which are cheap and durable, but don’t go for the very thin 0.8mm ones – they warp).  I also like to add magnetic bottoms to allow easy storage on a metal plate.

    – Lightweight Wall Putty

    – Steel putty knife – preferably the same width as the bases you’re making

    – #2 round brush with a soft tip

    – Paint for your desired base colors (I prefer Reaper paints for their heavy pigment and very flat appearance when dry)

    – Old toothbrush

    – Sanding block (optional)

    – A clean, sharp utility knife

    Step 1: Lightly sand the edges of the base.  This is just cleanup.  Make sure you clean off any dust afterwards, and make sure the top surface of the base is totally dry.

    Step 2: Spread a layer of plaster over the whole top of the base with the putty knife.  Work it into the plywood surface to ensure good adhesion.  Don’t worry about making the whole thing the same thickness – variation is good and will work in your favor later.  Overrunning the edges will also work for you, as you can trim them flat and get a nice undulating edge effect, like gently rolling ground.  When you’re done the top should be more or less smooth, but perfection is not necessary.

    Step 3. Using the old toothbrush, gently tap the surface of the wet plaster.  It will kick up in a nice, random pattern.  Do this across the whole top of the plaster.  Don’t worry if it kicks up higher than you think it should – you can correct for this by gently patting the surface flat with the putty knife to get rid of flyaway bits.  If you have infantry to base, you can gently press them into the wet plaster to make a nice recess for the base block to sit in when you attach the miniatures later.  I also like to scrape away a segment along the bottom to allow me to attach a base label later on, which has game stats for the unit printed on it.  When you’re done, the surface of the base should look something like this:

    Step 4.  When the base is totally dry (should take about 15 minutes), use the utility knife to trim the edges of the plaster flush to the base edges.

    This is also a good chance to check the size of the label, if you’re using one, and trim away any additional plaster needed to make it fit.  The prepared base will be something along these lines:

    It looks very uniform, but it’s going to look better when we add a coat of paint.

    Step 5. Set out your paint colors on a palette.  In my case, I have green tanks, so I want the base to be mainly yellow-brown to make the tanks stand out in contrast.  Pick your colors to allow good contrast.  I chose Reaper “Dark Highlights,” “Tanned Leather,” and “Khaki Highlights.”

    Paint the base with a generous coat of paint.  I recommend against priming first.  This sounds strange, but the porous plaster will very slightly absorb the paint and give it a much more natural, dull, “muddy” look when dry.  As you apply the paints, mix them liberally on the base itself.  Don’t clean your brush as you vary colors, and let them run into each other so you can blend the edges.  Apply your darker color to lower areas and use your lighter color only sparingly.

    Work the paint into all the little nooks and crannies you created and ensure that you have good coverage.  More mottling and less uniformity will work to your advantage here, and make the base look like the kind of mix of dirt and sand you find on the ground in real life.  If your color scheme allows it, a little bit of green paint will add a mossy look to the base, but I omitted it here so as to emphasize my green tanks and not blur the contrast.  In the end, what you’ll have will look like a sloppy mess.

    However, when it dries, you’ll have a nice, natural-looking flat base.

    The variation in height on the surface will be low enough to allow your vehicles to seat evenly on it, which will be a real advantage.  Also, the dents and divots in the plaster will scale much more naturally to the vehicles and infantry.

    Step 6. Paint the edges in the color of your choice.  I like flat black, but reds, browns, even bright colors like blue and green are all possible.  Gently work the edge color into the contours along the edges of the base, to emphasize the irregular surface and add to the scenic effect.  I also underpaint the flat area for the label to make sure no clear wood shows through when I glue it on.

    If you’re using a printed base label, attach it with a thin layer of PVA glue.  I press it in place with the putty knife to ensure a good seal and a uniform flat surface.  Try to trim the label before you attach it – if you trim it afterwards, do so with a single-edge razor and use a careful sawing motion – otherwise you’ll end up with ragged edges.

    Step 7.  Attach your painted miniatures with cyanoacrylate glue, then apply any finishing you desire – tread marks, stains, bits of foliage, etc.

    I’ve tried this technique with a couple of materials, but so far only plywood bases have been successful.  Metal and plastic bases, being non-porous, don’t take the plaster very well.  Remember that in basing this way, the figures are attached to the plaster and not the base, so a sharp shock will break them loose.  I’ve also tried drybrushing and washes to lowlight and highlight the base, and have not found the results satisfactory – just a good, blended coat of paint seems to be all that’s needed for a good look that holds its own, but supports the miniatures rather than overpowering them.  At the moment, I’m basing in groups, but will probably try the technique with smaller, single-figure bases as well, and expect it should work with only very minor modification.  All in all, the process is very amenable to production-line basing, making one base after the other, where talus and glue often was a long and tedious process that slowed down because of the short working time of the glues I had to use.  Overall, this is rapidly becoming my go-to basing technique, and I can hardly wait to see how it works on the table!

    Hope you found this helpful – happy gaming, everyone!

    #16439
    Norm S
    Participant

    I like that thanks. My own limited experience with 3mm has been that it is essential to identify the facing the base (i.e. like your label on the rear does). I had some napoleonics based 2 wide by 2 deep to make a line, but I did not do the base deep enough as I wanted a small footprint …… however I saw the problem when I took a digital photo, zoomed in and noticed that one of my bases in the brigade was in fact facing the wrong way – so I think If I were doing this again, I would use your system with a label.

    #16442
    Robey Jenkins
    Participant

    Nice tutorial, and some clever ideas I will definitely steal.

    #16443
    willz
    Participant

    That was a informative tutorial, nice to see the mention or base warping (not anything to do with faster than light drive ), had it happen to me once.

    The secret is as you mention good plywood bases.

    #16455
    Mr. Average
    Participant

    That was a informative tutorial, nice to see the mention or base warping (not anything to do with faster than light drive ), had it happen to me once. The secret is as you mention good plywood bases.

    Actually, I think it bears repeating: 0.8mm plywood is tempting, but no matter what they tell you, it DOES warp, and seriously. I had the problem with naval miniatures – the bases curled so badly they popped the ship right off and one even split itself from the warping.

    Litko 1.5 mm ply bases seem to me to be the sweet spot – thin enough for a good visual effect, thick enough not to warp. The turnaround time for Litko and other on-demand laser cutting outfits is the only drawback; I’ve become accustomed to a month’s time for orders so planning ahead is crucial.

    Nice tutorial, and some clever ideas I will definitely steal.

    Please do! We’re all gamers here – secrets deserve to be shared, especially when they result in more and better gaming.

    I like that thanks. My own limited experience with 3mm has been that it is essential to identify the facing the base (i.e. like your label on the rear does). I had some napoleonics based 2 wide by 2 deep to make a line, but I did not do the base deep enough as I wanted a small footprint …… however I saw the problem when I took a digital photo, zoomed in and noticed that one of my bases in the brigade was in fact facing the wrong way – so I think If I were doing this again, I would use your system with a label.

    For me the label is aesthetic as well as functional. It helps identify the unit and facing, and contains all the game stats to reduce rule book consultation. But also, it adds a nice visual aspect, I think – like a War Room map. In terms of facing, that’s less of an issue with moderns, since the gun points forward. Also, you may find that the material being produced in 3mm these days is of a considerably higher level of detail, which will reduce those mistakes. That said, we are of course dealing with the smallest practical scale here so a sharp eye and a lot of dry-fitting and double checking is definitely needed. And the labels DO help.

    #17031
    Mr. Average
    Participant

    The final product, after painting and finishing the tanks and adding in some rough tread marks.

    #17037
    shelldrake
    Participant

    I somehow missed this when posted on the 29th!

     

    Thank you very much for posting the tutorial – I like the end result and will have a crack at it myself.

    #17103
    Mr. Average
    Participant

    Glad you found it useful!  This is the look with a variety of other unit types – APCs, Infantry, etc.

    I’ve gone with a VERY simple look for these in order to maximize the contrast – I may add a little dark foliage later on just to add some texture, but I’m still mulling it over.

    #57660
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    I like what I see.  Will give this a shot.  Muchas Gracias!

    #57662
    Mr. Average
    Participant

    I’ve actually revised this process as lightweight plaster has proven too flimsy in the long run. The tanks break off too easily! I’m in between methods at the moment, but I’ve had a good deal of success with textured acrylic paste from… Is it Vallejo I think? Don’t have the bottles in front of me. But the stuff is more durable and bonds strongly to ply bases, although I recommend the thicker 3mm ply material from Litko as the thinner ones have been warping on me. Otherwise the same process applies.

    Incidentally, I find Scotch Removable Clear Tape is very good as a mask for the base label, if you choose to use one. If you lay the paste on and then strip the tape off while the paste is still wet, you get a very nice, sharp edge along the top of the margin for your label.

    #57684

    Ballejo works great for me and is much less fiddly than plaster. Also, in my expernce, simple matte board works fine for bases, especially if you’re basing individually. It’s really too small to warp much.

    We get slapped around, but we have a good time!

    #57694
    Mike
    Keymaster

    I use either of these, the Windsor and Newton being finer and smoother than the Vallejo.

     

    #57705

    You can get all sorts of grades of Vallejo, from earth up to white pumice.

    We get slapped around, but we have a good time!

    #57706
    jagannath
    Participant

    For small scales I really like the ‘sand’ one. It’s pretty fine so doesn’t dry brush brilliantly – I apply it, touch up any missing areas with a matching Vallejo colour (Iraqi sand I think) then ‘wash’ it for depth, but my wash is just a lightly tinted matte medium as opposed a full dark wash. These bases look great though.

    #57730
    Darkest Star Games
    Participant

    That ground color is excellent for the scale, I really like it!

    "I saw this in a cartoon once, but I'm pretty sure I can do it..."

    #57748
    Splod
    Participant

    Fantastic guide mate!

    I use the Vallejo White Pumice at 6mm, and it’s fantastic.

    #57777

    A very thin and partial covering of Vallejo white pumice usually does the trick for me, giving just enough texture for dry brushing to pick up.

    They key here is that you don’t want the base to be so “noisy” that it detracts from your model.

    We get slapped around, but we have a good time!

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