This week we will be experimenting with sculpting more ‘urban themed’ bases. As I mentioned in the past, I don’t generally spend too much time on my bases (just use snow for my Khador), but since some of my local players picked up Malifaux and some Wyrd miniature base inserts, they asked me if I could sculpt more base inserts, that they could eventually try casting in resin and possibly use for smaller Warmachine armies as well (we will see how that goes).
Anyway, before choosing a specific look and sculpting 20 or more base variants with it, I decided to try making as many different floor patterns as I could, to see how they looked on small bases (basically make a catalog of usable patterns) and work out their quirks and tricks, so it is easier to pick and mix textures for the base inserts my friends will cast.
Since I am starting a new faction, I will try giving all the models scenic bases, for a change from my usual plain snow theme. I hope the resin casting experiments go well, since sculpting every base individually is labor intensive (though bearable for small skirmish games like Malifaux and Infinity), but should that fail, I will be researching other tricks to cut corners and mass produce such bases and report back on my findings in future articles…
General sculpting tips
For starters, here are some general tips on the ‘sculpting tools’ I use and how to get the best effect with them (especially for those that haven’t read my past articles):
Going from left to right:
– Metal sculpting tools (the first is the old school GW sculpting tool, the other 2 are from a larger Gale force 9 sculpting tool kit). As I mentioned in the past the GW tool is the one I use the most for ‘rough work’, and I just occasionally use my other metal tools; these 2 are mainly useful to press long lines and flatten larger areas specifically on bases, but you can get the same effect with plastic card (the only advantage of metal tools is that they won’t loose their edge with use), so unless you plan on sculpting a lot, there is no need to go out of your way and buy a full tool set.
– Silicon tipped color/clay shapers. These are most useful to sculpt muscles, organic shapes and softly flattening bulges around you impressions (more on that later). Their main quality is that these are soft and don’t have sharp edges, so they don’t leave ‘scratch marks’ on fresh putty like metal tools do. You should be able to get them in art shops for 5-10 dollars depending on brand name and size. If you can’t find any, you can make your own ghetto version, by getting a pencil eraser and using a sharp hobby knife to cut the tip shape you want (it will lose its shape with use, but you can always re-cut the desired form).
– Custom plastic tools. You can make these out of leftover plastic (the frames of GW plastic kits are ideal) by ‘carving the desired shape with a sharp hobby knife). I use these for all of my detail work.
– *Hexagonal screw/bolt heads. Look around your garage or a hardware store for small objects that could be used to press specific shapes into fresh putty. As you will see further down this article I use such improvised tools to make light impressions and help me keep the individual tiles coherent. Keep in mind you don’t have to limit yourselves to hexagons; if you see a random small object with a shape you could use just go for it and try experimenting…
Now a few words on how to use these tools. The main thing you need to understand with green stuff (and any other modelling putty) is that it behaves like a high viscosity fluid: if you press on a point the mass will ‘move out of the way’ around the pressure point (try visualizing a water balloon and how it deforms when you squeeze it in different parts).
As you can see in the sketch, when you press down on fresh putty it will generally bulge out on the sides of your impression. If the lines you pressed in are close enough, it will curve out like a balloon (A), while if the lines are further apart it will create somewhat of a ‘shallow cup’ (B). In general you will want to flatten these bulges using the flat side of a metal sculpting tool or a silicon tipped clay shaper, depending on how big the area you want to flatten is. Keep in mind that when you press down on these bulges, the putty will shift again and probably narrow the lines you pressed initially, so you will often have to re-trace your impressions and re-flatten the surrounding surface a few times until you are satisfied.
The last tip for today is on how you apply pressure in green stuff to minimize deformations. As a general rule always apply force perpendicularly to the surface you are working on (from top down). Don’t use your sculpting tool as a knife; don’t bury it into the putty and drag it across the surface, hoping it will leave a neat line. Even if you lubricate your tools with oil or water, the putty is sticky and it will ripple and tear if you do it that way. Rather than a knife, imagine your tool tip like a guillotine, always applying force perpendicularly, never sideways (hope that makes any sense at all, otherwise don’t be afraid to ask questions in the comments and I’ll try to explain it in a different manner…).
That should be enough foreplay. Let get down to businesses:
Round cobble stones
This is a good pattern for paved city/country roads and can most easily fit into many different color schemes and basing themes (let say you want give such bases to a new unit/solo; by adding grass, sand or snow as used on the bases of the rest of your army it should not feel out of place).
To make the lines I used mainly a narrow strip of 0.5 mm thick plastic card (custom plastic tool like the ones shown above). I started by making a water drain in a corner and then pressed in the edges of each cobble individually (bit by bit) in a concentric circular pattern from there. It is important to vary the size of the cobbles, so that they don’t get monotonous. Keep in mind that the smaller you make each cobble the more time it will take you to texture an area.
Irregular stone slabs/tiles
This is a fairly quick pattern that can work as your base street level, walkways or even the floors of military fortifications.
As you can see I first pressed some shallow guidelines for my floor and when I was happy with the overall look I pressed in more deeply to make the lines consistent in width and depth. I added a wooden trap door to break the monotony. If you want your floor to look pristine you could stop at the second step, but if you want a more worn out look, you can then add small cracks and nicks in the edges of the individual slabs with a small ‘knife tipped’ custom plastic tool (this point applies to all the bases I made from here on out).
Square floor tiles
This is a group of different ideas for tile patterns. In general they make most sense as the floor of some wealthy estate, a morgue, toilet (Silent hill style) or some other indoor areas, so they might be more appropriate for characters or settings like Malifaux or Mordhaim.
As you can imagine you just have to make a nicely consistent grid of squares, flatten the edges of your tiles and add cracks as you wish. These bases will stand out the most if you paint them in a checkered pattern (Alice in Wonderland theme).
Now if you want to spice it up a bit, just make a quick search on the net to find loads of pictures of different tile patterns to use as inspiration; here are just a few variants of the basic square tile pattern:
For this I again made some very light guide lines to accurately define my grid and added smaller squares in all the corners. I first flattened the smaller squares to erase the guidelines still showing and then proceded to make the deep impressions and weathering.
This is a slight variation on the previous idea, just using circles instead of squares in the corners. This method could also be used to make patterns like the power nodes in the Retribution armor plates and constructs.
Here’s another variation using the small squares in the corners, but this time I didn’t add squares to all the corners, creating and alternated pattern and added a different strip of tiles to vary it a bit more.
Next I tried adding rombs to the center of each square. Again this pattern will work best if you make the tiles in 2 contrasting colors. Looking at it for a while I got the feeling that the grid of greater squares got somewhat lost , if all tiles had the romb in the middle so I tried doing them in an alternated pattern to accent the detail a bit more:
I think this option work better (less cluttered) and is also faster to make (less lines to press).
Lastly I tried a slightly more challenging pattern (mainly because you can’t rely on a square grid like before). For this you start by making one larger square and adding smaller squares to it’s borders (it is best to make them half as long/large as the starting square). Then you add more big squares so that they continue the pattern until you have traced your guidelines over the entire base.
Hexagonal (and other regular polygons) tiles
To make this pattern you will need a small hexagon to make you ‘guideline impressions’ using it like a small stamp (a screw head or alternatively a piece of plastic card you cut as accurately as you can manage):
This is the basic pattern that you get just by pressing the hexagons next to each other, but if you play around with it it a bit you can make other variants of it, like the following example…
If you decide to go even further, I would probably advice drawing your desired pattern on paper first, to figure out if the angles and disposition will work out correctly.
Brick fish-bone pattern
This is another floor pattern you can find in old city centers and parks.
As before you should first ‘draw’ your shallow guidelines (draw the pattern on paper first) and when you are happy that the bricks are more or less coherent you can make your deep impressions. The easiest way to get the bricks to be consistent and the pattern to be orderly is to use rectangles with one dimension twice as long as the other.
Anyway, this should be enough for this week’s article. Hope you will find it useful. If you have any questions or requests for future basing articles, leave a comment below. Cheers!