This article was originally published on the now-defunct Kapiti Fusiliers website in November 2003 (eek, that’s nearly a decade ago – how time flies!).
A couple of notes first:
I gather PVA glue is called Elmers in some parts of the world. It is a very common white wood-glue that dries relatively clear.
There is no reason why you can’t use this technique on commercially-produced plywood bases instead of home-made cardboard ones.
Even the crudest-painted figures will look great if they are placed on attractive bases. And, conversely, even the most attractively painted figures will look terrible if placed on crude bases. Here is Fusilier Roly Hermans’ simple method of making your bases look good with a minimum of effort.
1. Cut the bases from heavy card, and paint the sides matt black.
2. Smear the base thickly with Selley’s “Liquid Nails” (or a similar builder’s glue), then push the figures into this glue in the positions you want them. Also push in one or two pieces of broken pumice or kitty-litter to represent rocks – don’t overdo this effect, though. Leave overnight to dry.
3. When the glue is dry, paint with a mixture of PVA glue, a little water, and a few drops of flesh or brown ink. Carefully avoid the shoes and hooves of the figures.
4. Coat this PVA mix liberally with sand. Rather than buying ground material, I prefer the sand you find in the garden, as it is quite coarse and unrefined, and includes lots of interesting foreign bits and pieces! Let dry.
5. When the sand is dry, paint with patches of the PVA mix, then sprinkle with coarser sand to represent areas of pebbles. I actually use crushed seashells (found in patches on the seashore) as they contrast nicely in colour with the sand.
6. When this is dry, I glue on a few more tiny pieces of broken and ground pumice to represent small bits of rock. Like my other effects, I do this in patches, rather than spread evenly across the base.
7. Again, leave to dry. When finished, paint some more patches of PVA mix, then push in some fine bits of the green leaf material that comes from Woodland Scenics. This represents clumps of weeds or coarser grass.
8. When dry, paint more patches of PVA mix, then sprinkle with Games Workshop static grass. And, hey presto, all done!
If this whole process sounds laborious, it is actually easier than it appears. The hardest part is the careful painting of the PVA mix at Step 3 to ensure you don’t accidently get glue on the figures’ boots. The subsequent steps don’t take long, and you can do them at about one hour intervals. I usually fit them in amongst my normal family or social goings-on!
Note: There is some discussion in the modelling world whether or not it is a good thing to use PVA glue, as its acidic content may contribute towards lead rot over time. I paint the bottoms of my figure bases to reduce the possibility of this happening, but if you are concerned about long term conservation of your miniatures, you may wish to research this further.