Saturday, August 4, 2012

Painting WWII Soviet Infantry - Part 3:
Basing Tips & Tricks

Articles In This Series
Part 1: Series Introduction, Plus Ranks & Insignia
Part 2: Summer Tunics & Trousers
Part 3: Basing Tips & Tricks
Part 4: Winter Uniforms
Part 5: Painting Guides
Part 6A: Finished Black Tree Design 28mm Infantry
Part 6B: Finished Black Tree Design 28mm Infantry
Part 6C: Finished Black Tree Design 28mm Infantry

Series Overview
This is the third in an ongoing series of articles documenting the research I have been doing for painting my 28mm Black Tree Design miniatures for 1:1 skirmish gaming. Finding historical information on Soviet uniforms that gamers can use was very difficult, with much of it scattered across various Osprey and other books, along with some websites. I hope folks find this series of articles helpful and might even stir some interest in gaming the Eastern Front. While I painted 28mm miniatures, nearly all this information is useful for all miniature sizes.

Getting Started With Basing
Having some free time yesterday afternoon, I finally worked some more on the bases of my Black Tree Design Soviets. Several weeks ago, I had smeared Elmer's Wood Filler across the bases. When that dried, I painted the edges of the bases and much of the base itself using Ceramcoat Autumn Brown. When that dried, I sealed the paint on the bases using Americana's brush-on matte varnish, though it dried with more of a shine than I would like. Normally, I would have sprayed the bases with Dulcote, but it's been too humid here in Central Florida. I'll have to do that once the humidity lets up.

Using Ballast (not Sand) as Ground Cover
So yesterday the figures got some ground cover. You can see my set up in the top photo below. For these figures, I used a mixture of fine, medium, and coarse brown ballast from Woodland Scenics. In a small bowl, I mixed some of each. Since I was shooting for a rubble-look, I used more medium and coarse ballast than I normally would have.

Though a few years ago I tried using plain old sand and then painting it, I've found using model railroad ballast works just as well. Plus, model hobby shops sell ballast in many different colors and rock mixtures, not just the few colors that Woodland Scenics offers. Check them out when you get a chance.

This beings me to another point. Why did I use brown ballast if I was thinking of doing city fighting, like in Stalingrad. Wouldn't grey ballast and rocks be better, along with grey painted bases? You know, at first I had been planning on doing just that. Then I began thinking that grey bases would be too limiting, switching to basic brown earth instead. After all, cities have lots of earth, especially around blown up buildings. Earthen bases wouldn't look as out of place in city fighting as grey bases would look in countryside fighting. Kind of trivial, I guess, it was something that ran through my head.

Painting on the Glue
Ok, so I have all my bowls of rocks on the table. I then thin down white glue about 50/50 with the same distilled water/flow improver mix that I use when painting. Using an old brush, I paint the glue onto the base. Here is a little trick I figured out: licking my finger, I rub the ring of the base to get off any excess glue so my base edges don't become rock-covered.

Rock On!
Next, I take the figure and dip it deep into the ballast mixture, swooshing it about. When I pull out the figure from the mix, I make sure to keep the ballast piled on top. I then use an old bristle brush and pat down the pile of ballast, making sure the ballast settles into the glue. I then tap off the excess ballast, rub off any ballast around the edges, and move onto the next figure. This is the easy part, I always feel.

Base Details: Rubble, Rocks, & Grass
Now comes the fun part that make or break the look of a base and its figure. What details do I put on the bases? I want an autumn/early spring look to the figures, after all many are wearing bits of winter uniform. I'd love to do winter bases, but that specialized project will have to wait!

The other containers in the photo have Woodland Scenics coarse brown talus and coarse grey talus, along with some Cajon sandstone rip-rap. What's nice is that these packs also have bits of other rock colors in them, so I can pull them out to look like brick bits maybe. These rocks can be used for nearly any other project as well. Finally, I have some autumn grass tufts from Army Painter. You don't see any static grass because I don't own any autumn colors, only summer farm pasture, which won't work too well here. (Besides, I'll be placing an order with Scenic Express next week for more scenery stuff, like autumn grass.)

You can see in the photo that I experimented a bit with a few figures. A couple of them I glopped on some glue and then dipped them in either the grey or sandstone talus, looking for that pile of rubble look. Some rocks I just glued in place as I felt. I'm not sure if it capture the look of rubble, but since I don't have a bits box of rubble junk, they'll have to do for now. I don't think I'll do this to many of the bases.

When I get my order from Scenic Express, I'll finish the bases on all 25 figures. At least with the ballasted bases they look a lot better than they had look the past several months in their black-primed bases!

Now I just need some buildings, most likely paper, and get these guys onto the table for some gaming. I'll keep you posted.


  1. These really look great. I just went through a color-choice-for-basing process myself for some fantasy minis. I chose a different color, but with a very similar logic.

  2. Bases look excellent nice choice

  3. Practical and effective use of materials, and the figures look very nice on the bases.

  4. Thanks fellas! I forgot to mention that I'm keeping the ballast mixture in a small container for future projects because I still have more Soviets to paint. This will ensure that the bases all look similar, plus I hate wasting anything! ;-)