I get a lot of questions regarding how I do my bases... so I put together a tutorial to explain the process. While it is a long tutorial, it is actually quite a simple process that is very repeatable. You can vary the look you get by changing the mix of basing grit, wash color and foliage materials you use... so look at this more as a basing approach than an exact formula to follow. Step 1:
Paint the base bestial brown, the color is close to the ultimate color of the basing grit and will hide any imperfections in your coverage. Step 2:
Spread a generous layer of glue on the base. I use white PVA glue spread with a toothpick. You can also use an old brush, just be sure to clean it thoroughly afterwards. Super glue works as well but I like the working time and clean up options the PVA gives me. The thicker the glue layer the more grit and larger grit you'll pick up. Make sure to use plenty extra to cover up the slots in a slotta-base.
Getting the glue into the nooks and crannies of a complex base can be tricky, I actually used a brush for the deeper recesses as it was easier to control and move glue. Be careful not to get glue up the sides of your figure (unless you want to of course) as the grit will stick to that too!
Step 3: Get your grit on. If you're going to add anything extra to the base (large rocks, body parts, etc.) do it before you add the grit. I use Gale Force 9 basing grits small, medium and large in a 1:2:1 mix.
Here is my basing grit mix. With grit of such size variation you have to be careful as with the slightest agitation (shaking/vibration) it will start sorting by size (smallest sinks to bottom, largest rises to top). I use my finger and swirl the pot after each figure is inserted to mix things up a bit.
Now insert the figure into the grit. I use a rocking motion to insert the figure into the grit... almost like you'd strum a guitar. Once he's in, I gently place my finger on top of the head and shake the bin slightly to make sure the small grit settles in, filling in the gaps between the larger pieces. The longer you let it sit, the more of the large pieces will get stuck. Usually, 30-60 seconds is quite sufficient for my purposes.
Side view of another figure in the bin. This would make a cool diorama actually.
For large bases, put then in a decent size tray and either fill with grit & use the regular process, or pour grit over the top. WARNING The grit will sort in the pouring, so by pouring you will have mostly small grit with fewer large pieces... which might be the effect you're looking for.
Once the allotted time period has elapsed, simply lift the figure out of the mix, turn it sideways over the bin or lid (whatever you're using to catch the grit) and tap the figure firmly with your finger to dislodge the loose material back into the bin. Here's the final product... trooper with a nice mix of varying sized grit on his base.
A wider shot showing the results so far. You can see that there bases are all consistent but not identical, adding to the illusion of people standing in different locations but on the same battlefield. Note: the scout in the front just to the left of the dread is actually a re-flocking of an old version, which is why he's got more large pieces (there were more crevices to hold larger amounts of glue, which then seeped out into the mix and grabbed onto the larger pieces. If I'd had poured the grit onto him, I would have gotten a smaller mix over-all). Step 4
: Once the glue is dry, give the base a generous wash with sepia. Be careful as if your glue was set but not dry, the wash will liquefy it again and things will move on you! You want to "flood" the base with the wash so you're sure it's gotten everywhere.
Immediately after washing the base, rinse off your brush, tap it once on the water cup to remove some of the water (not all) and the brush over each of the large rocks, diluting the wash on them and essentially giving them their natural highlights. Once the wash and dilution is done, you can use a large dry brush to pull off the excess wash from the base. This will not only speed drying by decreasing the volume of liquid on the base, but will help give some highlights to the medium sized grit by pulling the pigment off the tops of them & down into the smaller grit only.
And here's where we are so far. Step 5:
After the wash step has been allowed to dry completely... (be patient!), ring the base in your chosen color. Since I want these to look natural and blend in with my table better, I go back to bestial brown. I dilute the paint a bit here, you're really just trying to cover up any discolorations from the wash or bare bits from handling. Ideally you want a nice, smooth finish at this stage. Step 6:
This is your one and only chance to get some lacquer on the base to protect all your hard work! Once you start with the static grass and shrubbery... it's too late (the lacquer will mess up the look of the foliage. Step 7:
At this point we get to start adding growing things (or formerly growing things) of various sorts. I can not stress enough that it is of the utmost importance that you don't over do it! Too much grass makes it look like they're fighting in your back yard! Use these elements sparingly and they'll enhance the figure, rather than becoming a distraction in themselves.
I do the static grass first. I use a couple of muted Gale Force 9 varieties of grass. They match the semi-arid, stressed environment (or fall) theme, their muted colors contrast with the base but don't compete with the figure, and it's a fairly short static grass which I think works nicely with the figures.
I apply most of my grass in tufts as this is typically now C4 (dryland) grasses grow. I have a rule... usually not more than 3 tufts per 25mm base, and never more than 4. I only apply what I need to balance out the base, add some color and or cover up basing imperfections. I also mix it up so each base has varying colors in varying combinations or size patches. Use your CA
glue sparingly... if you put too big a drop on you're either going to get a carpet effect or a huge mound of grass, neither of which will be flattering to the figure. If you want to make a line of grass, put a drop down and use the tip of a toothpick to draw it out.
Once your glue is down for the first color of grass, put the figure in a small container (I use the lid from the GF9 grass containers) and with a tweezers, take a mound of static grass and press it down onto the glued spot on the base, Do this for each spot, Use a lot of grass as you want to overwhelm the glue drop with grass. This, and the pressure of pushing the grass down on the glue seems to help the glue spread through the grass in such a manner that a lot of blades will stand up.
You only need to leave the grass on the figure for 5 to 10 seconds, then pick the figure up, turn it on it's side/ upside down and tap firmly with your finger until all the loose grass falls back into the lid. Then you can take the grass in the lid and easily return it to it's original container. Lastly, you want to hold the figure upside-down and blow strongly from the outside of the base towards the center in order to help the grass patches stand up straighter. This also helps get rid of any stragglers that are lying about on the base unglued.
Repeat process for other colors (I wouldn't recommend more than 2 on a small base). Here's what it looks like at the end of this step. Step 8:
Adding foliage / shrubbery. Dozens of companies make foam or lichen foliage for shrubbery. I am currently using (again) a GF 9 foam product, though I think litchen would also work very well. The foam has some advantages though. At the rate I use it, this one bin will last me for years. The exact material I am using is Gale Force 9 #92015 "Clump Foliage Autumn).
I find the foam right out of the package to be too bright, so I mute it by a quick wash in dilute sepia. You can either do this before or after they're glued to the base. Note how small the individual pieces of foliage are... anything bigger would overwhelm the figure and not look believable as actual plants.
Even more so than the grass, I look to place the shrubs in the lee of rocks, cracks and the like as this is where you'd find them in nature, especially in a harsh environment. They are also very good at covering up areas where your grit didn't quite fill properly (like a slotta base or underneath a boot or rock that didn't quite get stuck down all the way). Step 9:
The tall grass I use is made by a company called Woodland Sceenics, and can be found at most any (US) shop that caters to model railroaders. The grass comes in many colors and some mixes of colors in a baggie filled with long, straight fibers of reasonably uniform length. Separate a small bundle with your fingers and fiddle with it until it is the shape you want in cross section (round or straight, depending on what you want to do with your grass. You will lose fibers during this process... ignore them or gently pull them out of the bundle. Next you need to add a little bit of CA
glue to the center of the bundle, this is easiest with two people as one can hold the bundle from the ends while the other adds the drop of glue. One person can do it though by putting a drop of glue on any surface and then gently touching the middle of the grass bundle to the glue for a second or two. The fibers in the bundle will quickly draw up the glue and you can set the bundle aside for drying. You will note that many parallel fibers are very good at pulling up the glue and sending it down the length of the grass tuft. This is why we put the glue in the middle of the bundle rather than at the bottom as you will end up with a long stiffened section of grass at the bottom, not very natural looking. Let dry, either by holding until dry, gently placing it on a surface to dry, or nailing it with CA
When dry, you'll note all kinds of stray fibers sticking out of your bundle, many of these are not glued and can be gently pulled off the bundle with your fingers. You may also notice that the top of your bundles have developed a very un-grass like shape. Take a scissors and trim each fiber individually until you get it into the shape you want. No seriously... one fiber at a time. Cutting as few as 2 or 3 fibers simultaneously will set up a pattern in the tuft which will make it look like the grass has been to a bad barber shop. It should only take about a minute per tuft to get them looking right.
Once they are nice and dry, cut the bundles in half with an end-nippers (or flush cutter if you prefer), this will give you a nice flush cut without disturbing the bundles much. You will notice that rather a large portion of the "bottom" of each of these tufts is now a hardened mass. Trim most of this off with the nippers, leaving about 3/16" of the hard area to serve as the solid base for your grass tuft. You can rub your finger across the top of your grass to fluff it out a bit if you want. In the photo here there are several round tufts and one elongated one.
The grass tufts may now be glued to the base. Because the base fibers are already clogged with glue, the grass tuft can be safely glued down with no further worry about it drawing up the glue and hardening into a solid pillar. I prefer slow jet for this part of the process as it's thick, gel-like texture provides more support for the tuft than thin CA
. Note that the bottom of the tuft must be trimmed off cleanly, just 2 or three stray fibers can hold your grass far enough off the base to prevent it from gluing correctly (see photo below... there's a shadow *under* the bottom of the grass tuft). The grass tufts will also not want to stay upright while drying, so some help from neighborhood sternguard with their long, sniper rifles can be very fortuitous. As before, be prudent in the placing of your tall grass, don't over do it! Note you can get different heights of grass by moving the initial glue point from the center of the bundle towards one of the ends a bit.
When you're finished... it looks like this!
This seems like a long procedure, but it's actually quite simple. Just do everything in a logical order and you'll be fine. Happy basing!