Painting Miniatures: Bases

So we’re pretty much getting into the home stretch of this series. Last week I talked some more on highlights. This week I want provide some tips on the final part of your miniature paint job, the base. Flat out you need to give your miniature bases some attention. It can be quite jarring to do a fantastic paint job on a mini only to have it sitting on a flat piece of plastic covered in green paint.

Your main tool with sprucing up your base will be PVA glue (aka white craft glue or Elmer’s glue). Adding a good amount of water you want to thin out the glue to a consistency of milk. You can add some sand to this to give it more texture. Then carefully paint the glue-sand mixture onto your base.

Once dried, give the model base a simple coat of paint and then drybrush with a lighter color. The small bits of sand will have enough of a rough surface to gather up the lighter highlights. This can work well if you want to mimic asphalt or concrete. If your base has a lip, I suggest only focusing on the top surface. You can add texture to the sides but wear and tear from handling miniature will commonly result in material getting rubbed off some.

If you want rougher texture, the base can get a coat of watered down glue and then dip the model into a small jar of sand. Gently tap the bottom of the figure to remove any excess and set it aside to dry. The sand texture can be painted over and then drybrushed. This works well if you want to mimic grass and rough ground.

Personally I bypass the dipping in sand and go the route of using flock. Flock is a railroad modeling material which mimics vegetation and comes in a variety of colors and textures. I paint the base with a solid color. Then I give the surface a coat of watered down PVA glue. Finally I carefully set the figure in a container of flock. Tap off the excess, let the glued on flock dry, and you are good to go.

Eventually you will be giving your model some varnish which seals the flock even more, but in general once the glue dries it’ll be pretty set. Note that the flock will rub off if you run your fingers over the surface. But the glue will give a good adhesive base to the flock. With normal gaming wear and tear, I’ve done this with figures and had flock stay on my mini bases for decades.

If you want an even more textured surface, you can use railroad modelling talus. This is a clay material with rough edges. It can work great representing rough ground and rocks. I usually add some to my flock to represent the odd stone or two. Like with flock you can set it using watered down PVA glue. Be mindful though that it’s a little more prone to rubbing off.

If you want a more solid bond, you can add drops of superglue to the talus. As the material is clay and porous, it will draw up much of the glue. You may get some pooling and a little bit of a sheen to the base. However the stuff once dried will be rock solid. You can even paint over the material and drybrush to represent grass or other rough ground.