Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Basing tutorial

As many of my fellow wargamers are volunteering to do up some units for our Napoleonic games I have been asked to provide a tutorial on how I have done the basing technique of our units

I like to have a clean, and 'unified' table without what I think of jarring effect of dissimilar terrain.  This is important to the look of the figures, the look of the game and indeed the rules themselves, the type, shape and size of the base of miniatures can be as important to the game as the miniatures themselves.

The compliments which Seth and I receive for the look of our games come in no small part from the unifying effect of a universal basing style which we will stress to maintain as more of our fellow wargamers join us in collecting for these Napoleonic rules.  With that in mind, I have produced this tutorial on our simple basing technique which is easy and IMHO looks very good on the table.

Da Basing - Step by Step
Step 1 - attach 'painter's tape' found at your local Home Depot or hardware or even dollar store, which will cover an area at the rear edge of the stand.  We find 2" by 0.5" is adequate.  Although I must admit that for some units I make it a bit longer to accommodate some of the commanders very long names !

Step 2 - glue down the figures and dice frame. A 7mm d6 in black is used.  These can be found at:

Step 3 - once that glue is dry (!) smear on the Elmer's "Walnut" wood putty.  See photo captions for more details. Do note that it can dry within 5 minutes or sooner depending on thickness applied so perhaps do two at a time, going back to first once the second one is 'smeared' to touch it with the dappling brush to give more of a look of dirt .

Step 4 - detach tape and paint exposed areas with brown paint.

Step 5 - if not previous done  [ I find it cleaner to to this step initially ] paint or repaint the edge of the base with black paint.

Step 6 - glue on flocking.  Inevitably there will be parts missed or don't look that earthy; perhaps you still may see some "wave" action from the application of the putty.  No fear.  Simply cover those areas with the Woodland Scenics "Blended Turf" flocking.  I tend to cover most of the edges of the base and quite a bit all over but do to your satisfaction.  Additional representation of small bushes and vegetation can be done but for the most part these steps will produce basing that will match all the other fellows and produce an excellent look to the game.

The tools of the trade.  Note the size of the base for all infantry and cavalry is 12 cm x 6 cm [ 4 3/4" by 2 3/8" )  The wood - MDF or plywood - is 1/4" thick.   Painter's tape, several old stiff brushes along with coffee stir sticks or any such tool to apply the wood putty which is a paste.
the "earth " we use.  no need to paint , easy to apply.  Also very easy to clean with water, non-toxic - but I wouldn't eat it  - and have never found an irritant (??) and can be cut easily once dry if necessary.  Water will dilute so try to keep it from moist brushes.
the green 'painters tape' is placed at the rear of the base and is usually 2 inches by 1/2". The dice frame is place at the rear right corner. { most people are right handed and so this is the easiest place to reach to change the dice facing }
the initial smear of the wood putty ( my newly painted British Light Dragoons )
our grass, man   No. Not THAT type!  
the stiff brush in action
the idea is too roughen up it a bit to give the putty an earthy ground effect and to obscure any 'wave action' created in the application of the putty.
The putty cover.  You will notice the lack of putty and smooth effect under the horse of it's base.  This will be covered by flocking later.
You may notice that a bit is missing and other imperfections. These can be simply covered by glued flocking later.
Any thin areas dry quickly however these are usually on the outside edge which I mostly cover anyway as to blend into the mat surface covered in the same material.
Hmm, I tried removing the tape before the putty had dried and it came off well.  Still should wait until the putty fully dries before painting the exposed areas of wood.  The area is kept 'clean' so to allow easy attachment of our "Command Labels" These are pieces of green card on which the particular General's name in historical command of this brigade and which can be changed for each battle or scenario.  The labels are attached by 'Blu-Tak' or similar low adhesive gum.
While in the past I have used a home mixed versions of the colour of the wood putty, I have found this paint in my local hobby store. It is called "Shield Brown" #09161
Previously done French cuirassier with and without a Command Label

Well that is it, I guess.  Yup, that easy.
Hope this helps.


  1. Nice Tutorial! I especially like the stiff brush effect.

  2. the brush effect works well with most applied basing material and its effect is to remove those silly looking wave effects from the smearing on to the base. I use small brushes to get under the figures,

    Thanks for the kind comment, Bill

  3. Very nicely done, Doug. I never knew there was brown colored filler; I've been using white acrylic caulking - which needs to dry before painting.

  4. Cannot remember how I stumbled upon this material, Dean, but it works well, quick to apply, needs no painting and looks good as 'earth'.
    I personally really like the look.
    The tutorial did not take long as I was doing some of the basing as I was photographing.