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· Captain Eyestrain
1,205 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Just a few tips for building Scenic bases to Photograph or display your figures on : the materials are those you can get easily in the UK , but I'm sure similar or Identical stuff is available pretty well everywhere :~

I've been building little landscapes in various scales for many years now , and it's got much easier recently because of the general availability of really good scenic materials from Model shops , and also the appearance of DIY megastores almost everywhere means that it's easy to get the materials for baseboards at knockdown prices .
By way of an example , a while back I made this little piece of Spain/Portugal for putting my Napoleonic chaps on when taking snaps :

I Started with a piece of MDF ( = Medium density fibreboard ) offcut I had lying around , which had come from the pile of such scraps you find in any DIY store near the big saw bench where they cut the stuff to size for customers . 10mm thick , and this bit is 12" x 15" . You can sometimes get the smaller bits for nothing .
The " Ground " and bank is made from insulation foam : this come in various thicknesses , and has silver paper on both sides : strip this off , and you will find you can cut the stuff in any plane with a breadknife or a padsaw : BEFORE YOU START , realise that you are going to make a Hell of a Mess , so take the whole job somewhere it doesn't matter , like the shed , and get the Vacuum cleaner out ready .

Carve the foam roughly with a padsaw , breadknife , and for the fine stuff , a little rasp :

The use the PVA glue to stick it down to your baseboard : I spread the glue with a suitable old brush , but you can use your fingers if you like that sort of thing ; here's the assembled scene drying out :

After carving the foam to a shape you are happy with , and letting it all dry ( overnight is best ) you can mix up the surface mixture , which I call Goop : on the left you can see the filler ( I buy the cheapest ) . Find a suitable disposable mixing vessel : take-away trays are good .

The Goop mix : Water , filler , colouring matter and perhaps texture : this is all up to your own creativity . If Temperate rather than Arid , I add Burnt Umber poster colour Powder to the mix : Yellow Ochre is also useful for more Arid soils . You can throw in sand , real earth from the garden , and frankly anything that's suitable .
Whatever you choose , mix into a stiffish paste , and paint it on the foam :

Before it dries , you have a couple of hours in which to dress the surface : in this case I'm using a bag of Limestone chips from the Garden Centre to build a tumbledown wall at the back , simply by pressing them into the foam and letting the Goop glue them in place .

It's worth scattering the basics of the vegetation on at this stage : these are all scenic dressing powders and foams from the Model Railway section of the local model shop . There are various brands , and what you but depends on the effect you are trying to make : I find that " Woodland Scenics " are the best , but there are several others .
They cost money , and you might find a better way of doing it cheaper : BE CREATIVE !

Ths Scatter can be done by hand , into the wet Goop :

This dressing is a kind of fine powdered foam called " turf " : this will mostly stay put once the Goop has dried , but the excess that doesn't stick can be saved : I work with the base in a large shallow tray , and periodically shake the excess into it for re-use

And than it's a matter of adding more vegetation to taste , in this case various foams and " Foliage " which is foam in a kind of fibrous mesh , which can be teased out to look like fine leafy plants . If the Goop has already dried out , just glue in place with little blobs of PVA .

The Insulation foam can be used in many ways : here's a Bamboo Grove , where the fake plants are simply rammed into the base ( this is one great advantage of having the foam under the surface ). The soil surface is as described above , but the leaf litter was just that : dead leaves from the garden , minced up small and dropped into the wet filler :

Here's two lumps of desert ( WIP ) where the foam has been covered in a Goop of filler , sand and talc : not finished yet , but you can see the effect :

And here's another trick : long grass , made from Funfur , stretched over a foam base , glued down with PVA , and painted :


And three smaller bases , with various scenic dressings :

Left : Heki grass mat , from the model shop ;
Centre : Goop , fine leaf scatter , and tufts of grass mat ;
Right : Funfur long grass .

Finally , for a temporary pic , you can use real plants : this is Box cuttings , from a neighbours Garden , added to the first base shown to give the impression of the Laurel plants on Busaco ridge : the cuttings are just rammed into the base , and the underlying foam holds them in place :

Exactly the same techniques apply when making a smaller base for a single figure : you can use foam covered in Goop , or just filler over MDF , then dress the surface appropriately to your subject :

Here's Erich amongst the rocks of Cassino ( limestone bits in filler ) ;

Norman in Libya ( budgie grit and sand in filler ) ;

And Frankie in the snow of Belgium ( plain talc and filler ) :

The Possibilities are Endless .


· Captain Eyestrain
1,205 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
"Goop " is just my name for the mixture of filler , pigment and water used to make the surface : use any domestic filler you can get ; pigments can be powder or paint ; and you can add sand or anything else you want : for short ,the end result is " Goop "

· Registered
989 Posts
nice tip!

I have a few of those revolving stands that came with the old Hasbro Apes figures (and the Universal Monsters as well). I was thinking of adding texture to them for added realism.
nice tutorial you gave there.

One Shot out!

· storyteller
34 Posts
Excellent tutorial--thanks!

What a great and wonderful tutorial!:)

I haven't begun making any outdoors-type bases (I've been feeling rather intimidated by them actually) but the way you've described and shown how to do it makes it seem like a very do-able project! I think I am, going to have to take a trip to the local B&Q soon to get stuff to start :clap

Thank you! (and I hope I'll share my results in the not too far future)

· Captain Eyestrain
1,205 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Dear Wun Lung : the bamboo was just lucky ; they were selling fake plastic and paper bamboo in the local hardware shop . I bought it all ! If you keep a look out you can find almost anything .
The trick with all these bases is to plan ahead : have a clear idea or sketch before you start ; gather your materials carefully ; and find a big space where it doesn't matter if you make a mess : you can work on the washable kitchen tops if domestic arrangements allow. Gather mixing trays , some big cheap artist bristle brushes , filler , colouring matter earth , sand. , grit , scenic plants . Then save time and cleaning by making several at once .

· Captain Eyestrain
1,205 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I don't have an airbrush : just one of those things I never learned to use. We can't all do everything !
It would be a useful tool, but it's not essential.
As you say , watch out for Cheesy effects : the real world is not a very airbrushed kind of place, save in special circumstances where there are even gradations of one colour against another.
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