Faces, Bases, Something, Something: Basing Instinct

Nick: “Are you a pro?”
Duncan: “No, I’m an amatuer”

Basing Instinct – 1992

Anyone who has listened to the podcast, if you don’t you really should you know,  will know that I’ve been taking advantage of the limited ability to get out at the moment to finish off some of those jobs that I’ve been putting off for years; the main one being to base my entire Soviet/Czechoslovakian Motor Rifle Company. Now that is a lot of infantry bases.

There is an old wargaming maxim that the things that matter on the tabletop are: faces, bases, flags, and shields – with Flames of War and Team Yankee that condenses down nicely to: faces, bases, something and something so the importance of basing 15mm figures can’t be underestimated. So here is how I do my bases for NW Europe.

Step 1 – Texture

For a more European-centric base, I like to go old skool so I apply a nice even coat of PVA glue to the entirety of the base.

Try and make sure not to clip legs or equipment as you’ve spent a long time painting these figure so you don’t want to obscure that detail with the next step which is to dip the base into some fine basing sand – I pick some up from eBay in this case. 

Leave the bases to dry somewhere warm, like an airing cupboard, before you move on to the next phase – the glue must be dry before you crack on with shading.

Step 2 – Shady

Next, I add shade to the basing material to give it some depth. I use Game Ink Sepia to add a brown tone to the sand.

I find that this can be a little too dark and not make the most of the variation and tone of the sand underneath so I tend to dilute the ink with water in a 50/50 ratio. 


The bottom, middle is the thinned ink

This gives you a nice thin wash to go over the sand – you could use thinned down paint but I’ve always found that the wash flows better. As you can see below that this still leaves some of the natural colour present. 

Make sure that you leave these bases to dry for at least 24 hours, again an airing cupboard is perfect, as you do not want to start the next step if they are still wet.

Top: Before the ink wash
Bottom: After the ink wash

Step 3 – Highlights

Next up a good old dry brush. Now, I pooh-poohed the Citadel Dry paints when they came out – I don’t any more. Terminus Stone is brilliant and gives a nice consistent dry brushing experience because it is at a drier starting point.

Wipe your brush over some kitchen roll until you are left with the powdery residue that we wargames know and love. Now gentle brush over the sand kissing the surface lightly. 

Top: After dry brushing
Below: Before dry brushing

Step 4 – Edging

Now you have done the majority of the messy stuff you can tidy up the edge of your bases. I like to use a variety of browns – mainly so I can identify different platoons. 

For this Dutch platoon, I’m going to use a darker brown – Citadel Rhinox Hide. 

Top: After painted edges
Bottom: Before painted edges

As you can see this just neatens everything up and ties the models together. Leave the bases to dry before moving on to the next stage.

Step 5 – Grassing Up

Once the edge is dry you can move on to adding some additional texture to them. Static grass is a godsend for the modern gamer – I just remember only really having coloured sawdust as an option! 

I picked up this bumper tub from my FLGS, the Dice Saloon, in Brighton and it does the job nicely for that fresh green grass of spring or summer.
I brush PVA glue over 60% to 70% of the base and then dunk it into the tub before tapping any excess off back into the tub.
I only cover around 60% to 70% because it is nice to see some of the brown earth still and we are going to compliment the grass with some height in the next step.

Right: Before the addition of the static grass
Left: After the addition of the static grass

If you want to leave your models at this stage then you will still have a very handsome looking unit but we are going to add some variation and height next. 

Step 6 – Tufting Time

The final stage is probably the most fun part – adding some tufts to the bases. 

I picked up a variety of tufts from Serious Play, based in Cornwall here in the UK,  they have tonnes of options from flowers and snow to dead grass and seasonal suitable sets. 

I used a brush and some PVA again to help these tufts to stay stuck to the bases – they have adhesive backs but I like to make sure that they are going nowhere. 

Top: Before adding tufts
Below: With added tufts

As you can see above taking a little extra time to add these tufts to the bases really makes them pop. The added height, colour and texture make them individually unique and yet still remain cohesive. 

The other advantage to adding tufts is that if you have any sunken areas or areas you might have overbrushed when dry brushing it lets you cover them up quickly and neatly without having to go back and amend the basing material – a kind of get out of jail free card if you will. 

End Result

Here is the finished Dutch platoon ready for the tabletop – looking pretty sharp I think. 

I hope that this helps get your newly painted #lockdown troops ready to roll on to the table once we can get playing some games again – remember painted troops always roll better! 

Until next time
– Dunc

Category: Flames of WarPaintingPainting GuideTeam Yankee

One comment

  1. Try mixing an inexpensive water based paint of your base ground color with the gule. This eliminates the extra step. Don’t worry about covering a bit of the boots as real ground cover hides boots up to the ankle, unless it is in the desert where boots become the color of the ground cover anyway.

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Article by: Duncan Gosling