Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Bit About My Bones Basing Basics

I had a question from a reader about what I used to base my figures, so I thought I would take the time today to tell a bit about my basing technique. As I have mentioned in my posts before, I like to glue all my figures onto a fender washer that has been primed with flat black spray paint.  I usually use the cheap .96 cent flat black from Walmart for this. I like to us fender washers, because I line my storage boxes with magnetic sheeting, and these washers help the figures stay in place when transporting my figure boxes.  I use various sizes of fender washers, and tend to pick the size that fits the inherent figure base best.
  So, after I am finished painting a figure, I paint it with a brush on matte varnish by Ceramcoat.  This helps protect the figure's paintjob while I'm flocking it's base.  To flock the base I used a mixture of three different Woodland Scenics Turf products.  I mix roughly equal parts of these into an old metal lunchbox that I use for my basing
To adhere this turf mix to the bases, I mix cheap brown craft paint with elmers glue at about a ratio of two parts paint to one part glue.  I keep this mixture in an old plastic 35mm film container that has a nice airtight seal.
I also have a number of household items that I sometimes use in my basing. Shown below are some of these: Cheap Oregano (which makes nice scattered fallen leaves), coarse sand, dried coffee grounds (which make nice dirt), and dried tea (which makes nice dirt or dead vegetation).
 I also cut short lengths of undyed rope to make tall grasses, and use a bag of chamomile I have for dried or dead grass.
 Of course, I have also gathered a number of Woodland Scenics products over the years, including Clump foliage, static grass, long grass, and various shades of fine turf.
And I have a number of different small stones I sometimes glue on bases. Shown below are: gray kitty litter, decorative gravel, and brown aquarium gravel
Also, handy is various plastic foliage, which can sometimes be glued on to bases, though I usually use this for larger scenery projects.
So, on to the actual basing.  To begin with, I paint the base with my glue and paint mixture, being careful not to paint up over the figure's feet.
Then I add any odd scatter I  want to include on the base.  Here, in the photo, I'm sprinkling some coffee grounds onto the wet paint, to make it look like loose soil on the base.
Then i dunk the whole thing in my turf mixture and gently swirl it around a bit, so I make sure all the base is covered.  I then let it sit in here for a few hours to let everything dry.
Afterwards I take the figure out, and gently tap the base to remove any loose turf.  Then I use white glue to glue on any decorative elements I choose.  Here in the photo, I'm gluing on a bit of dark green clump foliage to make a little bush or weed.
And here's the finished basing project show below. (And a sneak peak at one of Monday's figures) I now will let the glue dry for a few hours, and then will spray the whole thing with Testor's Dullcoat to help seal the figure's paint and the flocking onto the base.


  1. Some nice ideas, I have heard you could get mold from using organic things like spices and coffee grinds, even free sand from the beach or construction site....I always buy bleached sandbox sand (fairly cheap and the bag is HUGE)...

    1. Thanks.
      Yes, I too have heard about the mold concerns, though I have never had it happen over the years. Nor have I known anyone it happened to. I suspect the glue and protective Dullcoat spray I use act as a sealer of sort to keep out air and moisture.
      That said, I have heard for those who have concerns about mold, that you can cook most of these items, particularly the sand and coffee grounds (note, I use 'real' coffee, not instant), in a conventional oven, or a couple minutes in the microwave to kill any bacteria. I would imagine that same would be true for the spices and tea, though I have not tried any of it.
      The sand I use is sold in a big bag and is called "Patio Paver Base Sand" it is a nice coarse mix that I like.

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  3. As a new painter, these sort of posts are tremendously helpful! Now I just need to figure out the best way to track down the cool non-homemade products you listed above. Thanks for a very informative post!

    1. Glad to be of help. :)
      Most Woodland Scenics stuff is available from any hobby shop that sells model train stuff. You can also find it in some of the large chain craft stores that have sections for making kids' school dioramas.

  4. Nice post, lots of great photos too.

  5. Any suggestion for creating urban bases for, for example, Zombicide? I'm using baking soda with craft paint to make concrete or asphalt, but I'm also looking to create bits of paper or other debris. Thanks!

    1. I haven't done a lot of urban basing, so don't have much experience with trying things. I might try actual crumpled up paper for paper. Maybe small bits of crumpled up aluminum foil for soda cans, or maybe bits of crunched up bits of plastic sprue, chewed into bits with a pair of clippers or pliers. I'd also try little bits of actual plastic grocery bags to make them in miniature.