Wednesday 24 October 2018

Urban Basing - I'm sure I've already use a 'base-ics' pun already...

As mentioned in a previous post, I've been experimenting with how I base my zombies recently, so when I was making up another batch of them, I thought I'd chronicle the process in case it might be helpful to anyone else!

What you'll need:

  • Cork - I use IKEA placemats, as the art shop that sold the ideal thickness of proper cork sheet that I used to use for this sort of thing closed down
  • 30mm DS bases - use whatever you want to match the rest of your collection though, I mainly use these for my zombies because I've already got so many based like this and don't want to go back and rebase them all!
  • Tools - knives, files, glue (superglue and PVA), fingernails - you almost certainly have all of these already if you're a modeller, I assume

To begin, I cut out a circle of cork.

Fun fact: you can use a pound coin as a template to cut out an insert that fits into the indent in a 30mm DS base. Old pound coins were better, as they were actually round, but the new ones will do in a pinch!

When cutting cork, if I'm making something like a building where I want a nice clean cut, I'll make sure to use a fresh knife blade; with these, however, where texture is desirable, I'll use whatever old blade happens to be in the knife at the time and hack away with wild abandon...

Now, as it is, the cork I'm using is too thick for my tastes - if I was basing a superhero or something equally heroic, I might go ahead and use it as is, but I prefer something a little less 'herohammer base' for my zombies. So, I go ahead and roughly cut it in half:

Now, here is the special secret - in order to get the effect of worn, sunken concrete, I hack away from all sides, cutting a little at a time with a vague sawing motion, to avoid ending up with a flat, featureless surface:

It's a little hard to explain, but cut a little at a time, approaching the piece from all angles until your cuts eventually meet in the middle, and between that and the cork's natural texture, you should end up with a pair of pieces that have a rough but smooth texture...

Repeat this a bunch of times, and you'll end up with what looks like a tiny pile of delicious oaty biscuits:

Now, it's further detail time! Break some of the pieces up, tear off some chunks with your fingernails, dig out some chunks with knives and files!

I like to leave a few empty spaces on the bases, that you can fill with basing sand later to look like patches of sunken rubble.

Top Tip - when you glue them to the base using superglue, try and avoid touching it with your fingers, as they will inevitably get stuck to it, and you'll end up tearing off chunks. If this does happen though, pass it off as 'additional texture'.

To add some further variety, I also like to include some height differences between pieces to make it look like the concrete is somewhat sunken:

Cutting away an additional layer (or carefully filing, watching as the cork crumbles underneath your hands) lets you achieve this effect.

Not every base has to have a crevice in it though, or a mound of rubble, some are fine with just a little sand added in the next step!

Here are some from an earlier batch too - some of the original pieces used to cut the cork from were smaller than the pound coin used as a template, leading to some interestingly shaped pieces, as well as trying out some bases using blocks cut from cork as a basis:

(That one didn't look too great, so I hacked at the bricks a bit to make them look less unnatural, which led to them being a bit buried in the rubble - back to the drawing board for that one methinks...)

Once the groundwork is done (tee hee), it's time to glue on some sand. My basing sand is a carefully curated blend of sieved pet sand, small slate, and various grades of grit that I got from a guy on the LAF over a decade ago that worked in a lab somewhere sorting sand and grit by size (so many things in that last sentence could be hyperbole, but weirdly none are...). Water down some PVA, and fill any blank spaces left in the base with sand, before going back and adding some dabs of glue on top of the cork where you want there to be an accumulation of rubble. Bear in mind, you need to leave somewhere for the model's feet to go eventually! This is a step that you can easily overthink, and end up having it look really unrealistic with too regimented patches of rubble - to avoid this, I'd advise having a three year old do it:

When done, the bases should look a little like this:

Then paint away! I spray the bases black, then basecoat them with a heavy overbrushing of GW Codex Grey (although I think I'm on a pot of Dawnstone now). I wash everything with a heavy wash of diluted Vallejo Smoke, making sure that it really gets into all the details, acting as both shadow and dirt. Once this is dry (leave it overnight, or hold the base up to a lightbulb between your burning fingers if it's Sunday morning and you're racing a Zomtober deadline), drybrush away with successively lighter tones, thinking all the while about how glad you are that you cut the cork roughly earlier leaving you with such texture for this step - Dawnstone, then Administratum Grey (what used to be Fortress Grey in the old range), before finishing with a gentle kiss of Bleached Bone (Ushabti Bone?), which should leave you with some bases that look a bit like this:

Then it's just a case of tidying up the rims with a lick of black paint, and adding any additional details that you fancy, whether that be some faded road markings (pop on a white line then weather it with a few dabs of grey) or some grass poking through any gaps in the concrete:

Then it's just a case of carefully pinning your painted miniature to it, et voila:

Next time I make some, I may even go as far as printing out some tiny newspapers to stick to the bases...