Monday, 14 January 2013

Producing Snow and Groundwork on your Bases

Developing groundwork on a base can bring it to life or set a mood or theme for your models

I hadn't done a tutorial before.  I'd held off because there are so many out there and I wasn't sure I was bringing anything new to the table.  This is something I've been doing for a while and had anything about it before so hopefully this will give you a new technique to play with and enrich your own hobby experience.  I'd done some reading on celluclay and how military modellers had used it for building up ground work for ages.  There wasn't any to be found at the time and I was a little apprehensive about how it might cure or play with some of the other materials I typically play around with.  


If you choose one get the gloss as it has most utility.  Don't pay out for a pre-mix!

The reason I was interested is because of the natural looking landscapes they were able to produce.  It was possible to build up rises and depressions in the ground and I wanted to bring that to my basing.  I settled on trialing some acrylic products to see if I could accomplish something similar.   Acrylics based products are a good way to go because they are waterbased like the paints we typically use and share similar properties.  I hear celluclay takes paint very well but I was more confident a polymer based product wouldn't crack over time and could take anything the paint could.
  • Heavy gloss gel is a good product for building up ground texture.  It binds well with sand to produce nice looking earth.  As a bonus you can also use it to prduce snow and ice effects by applying it after you seal a model.  The gloss properties give a realistic glint that works for ice or melting snow.
  • Modelling paste does good earthwork as well but dries matt.  It performs as well but if only buying one product take the gloss gel because you can try some additional effects with it.
  • Any gel with additives is going to cost more and is a waste of your coin.  The pumice I had picked up is filled with pieces of pumice that are all about the same size.  This looks unnatural and if you add your own aggregates of varying sizes it will look better and cost you less for more gel.  Buy pumice if you want a facial or soft hands; don't pay for it when modelling.

The ingredients for a winter wonderland of your very own.

Mixing up a coat of earth or snow for your base is done the same way you just have to alter your recipe a bit.  I'll show you my snow techinique and note the variation for earth as I go.  To try either project all you need are;
  • Gloss gel or a similar product
  • Filler:  Sand or Snow Scatter for this tutorial
  • Tint: Colour of choice acrylic
  • Stir Stick to mix it up
Add your filler of choice
  • Use a stick or brush you hate to dollop some gel into a container.  I use one with a lid because it keeps for a fair bit if you don't use it all.  I clumped a blob of it on the left wall of the container.  Before it sets the gel is opaque.  It will cure transparent.
  • Add snow scatter or sand to container.  I don't have any strict quantities or measurements but usually throw in half as much filler as I have gel in the container.

tint the gel


  •  Use acrylic paint to add a tint to the gel.  I added white to the snow mix.  If I was doing earth I might tint with a grey or a brown.  With snow you might want to go light on the tint.  By adding less you allow the get to maintain it's translucence and can produce an ice effect rather than heavy looking snow.



Have a look and see if you like it
  • Use your stick to mix up your ingredients.  Because the gel is wet it blends in with the acrylic and you won't be able to detect a colour change.  Give it a good spin just to be sure.
  • Have a look at what you got.  The snow in the picture above is suitably granular that it looks like the job is a good one.  If it looked pasty and wavy I might give it another mix to see if I could get it more uniform or add some more snow scatter to improve the texture.
  • With earth this is easier and the same rules apply.  Add a bit if required to get the ground looking the way you want.  The more filler you add it seems the leftover material will dry out faster so keep that in mind if you plan on saving some.

More ice than snow in this example. 
This last photo shows the ice effect that I'd described earlier.  By experimenting with your tint and fill you can change the end result considerably.  Apply your mixture to parts of the base that you want to cover.  You can apply with the stick but it's pretty imprecise and could end up smearing your model.  Because the product is an acrylic get the ugly brush I mentioned earlier.  The wet brush can move the material around more precisely.  Give it a go and if you make a cool discovery please let me know because "Hobby Secrets" are for douchebags.

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