Thursday, January 15, 2015

Basing 'A': PVA & silica sand

This was my go to method of basing for a good number of years. I believe I found out how to do it off the website . The author (Carl Woodrow) has since migrated to a blog, although I must say I only discovered this in the last 5 minutes as I couldn't remember what the name of the original site was for years. I did remember his 'sand jackal' marines which allowed me to Google it though. Most interestingly (to myself), I think I first found dropship horizon, in the past the mecca for all matters 15mm, but hunting for Carl's site. And thus my interest in 15mm sci fi began.

Back to the point: Basing. This method is fairly slow (it takes multiple steps), but gives you a lot of control over the final colour of the ground. The layers of dry brushing give a bit more depth than the other methods I use now. One problem is that it isn't as robust, so chipping will occur over time, and the silica sand is white underneath, which makes damage quite noticeable. It is a very cheap approach.

We require:
-white (or carpenters in my case) glue
-silica sand (I procured from an aquarium shoppe)
-paint (black, yellowish, and khaki ish)
-flock/static grass
-1-2 crappy brush (1 for glue, 1 to drybrush)

The directions after the break.....

Paint watered down glue on the base. Take care as this is where the sand will stick.

 Immerse in the sand. The silica tends to suck up some moisture, so you don't need to leave it long. Tilt to the side and flick/tap the base from the bottom to get loose stuff off. The sooner the weaklings (poorly bound) sand is gone, the better.
 Post 'sanding'.
 Watered down black paint is applied. Use cheapo craft paint. The degree of watering is slightly tricky, if it's too wet it can break down the white glue again and/or float the sand off.

It's faster to have it flow right off the brush into the sand, rather than needing to really 'paint' the sand black.

Post black painting. 
 I'm missing the 1st step of dry brushing. I use a fairly yellow colour (old GW paint). Unfortunately the old old paints I have are not labelled. Boo. It might almost be a dunkelgaub in tone.

Dry brush the 1st colour fairly heavily. The second (khaki ish/bone) colour gets a light dry brush.

Post painting.
This may be good enough for many people. At this point you can choose to add your static grass/flock. I like the effect of the ground so I err on less material being an accent to the ground.

Straight (non diluted) glue is painted on, static grass is sprinkled and/or blotted onto the glue. Flip the fig, flick/tap to remove loose stuff. Let dry. Voila.

The top picture is the result.


  1. Here's my method:

    I use sand taken from the beaches (Recent haul came from Monterrey I believe.). I then mix it with model railroad ballast at about a 1 part ballast to 7 parts sand ratio. This then makes for a more natural looking (At least that's the theory!) spread of groundstuffs on a base. I'm not familiar with the silicon sand; how is it different to natural sands?
    I apply this all with PVA like yourself, though not watered down as I find the sand clumps up nicely this way.
    For me the black "post sand primer" is too harsh and unnatural. I instead use GW Graveyard Earth, then wash it with their Agrax brown (Or whatever it's called.). Once dry, a quick drybrush of Graveyard Earth, followed by a lighter one mixed with Bleached Bone and then I move on to flock and grass.

    No idea why I typed all that... Your method works well enough as is regardless. :)

    1. Do you have any pictures (or links) to final products or in progress stuff?

    2. I think silica sand is just industrially made/sorted. It does have a fairly uniform size....
      I've tried mixing in ballast in some mixes, but I'm not too happy with the size of ballast I have. It also makes it tricky when I switch between 15mm and 28mm....and I'd prefer not to have multiple tins of basing material.

    3. All the 28mm figs I painted last year got the treatment. I think this post gives the best example of a finished result - below the quick-n-dirty zombies, that is.

      Agree on the multiple tins. Such a pain in the rear....

    4. I quite like your basing with the demon. Base, ink, back to base, dry brush x2 seems like a lot of steps though. It does seem to be the basing conundrum: time invested vs appearance.