I’ll be the first to admit that there are moments where I feel totally spoiled as a hobbyist. It feels like there’s a product for everything. At the same time, specialty products come with a specialty premium taxed onto the price: that $10 I spent for 3.5 oz of basing sand seems pretty extravagant upon reflection (I’d rather have spent more money on minis, to be honest.) Sometimes the best tools can’t be found at the hobby store (and are found in odd places, like the cosmetic aisle). Sometimes cheaper alternatives can be found by looking around your home. Either way, these tips might give you some help or inspiration for your next miniature painting project.
Check Out Your Spice Rack for Basing Materials
I’m constantly raiding my cupboards for unique items to put on bases. There are so many interesting effects that you can achieve with things that are commonly used in the kitchen. Take, for example, baking soda. When sprinkled on a layer of extra-thick cyanoacetate glue (AKA gel superglue), it has a chemical reaction that sets the superglue immediately while also crystalizing to create a lovely snowy-ice effect that is somewhat translucent while having a little white powder texture.
A second basing material that I have a near abundance of and am admittedly addicted to is my beloved coffee. Used (and subsequently dried) coffee grounds are a fantastic basing medium. You can superglue them down and use their brown colour to your benefit, or you can put a PVA glue seal down (a mix of between 3:1 and 5:1 water to PVA glue) on top of already glued down coffee grounds and paint them up (the glue seal will prevent colour from staining whatever you put on them. If you leave it unpainted, it’s pretty convincing dirt.
Since I feel that bases look best with a mix of at least 2 textures on them, a coffee-ground dirt base is easily embellished with dried herbs and spices. You can lay them on unadorned for some dry leaf fall texture, or you can add some paint to them for better emphasis. Starting from the top and going clockwise, the herbs on this base consist of dried rosemary, dill, thyme (rubbed) and Italian seasoning. On the right, the rosemary is painted with a mustard brown colour, the dill has a little brighter green painted on it, I added a brownish orange to the thyme and the Italian seasoning was painted with a mix of fall colours. And yes, that is coffee as the textured earth on the base.
Finally, peppercorns are fabulous additions to bases as round shapes. I used some white peppercorns (painted orange) for pumpkins and black pepper (painted with silver and a dark wash) as a pile of cannonballs, but these would be great as other ornamentation. They can also be crushed for a larger, more coarse texture to mix with coffee grounds.
Put The Kettle On To Reshape Miniatures
Whether you’ve got a weird bend in a plastic sword, spear or staff, or you’re looking to reshape your plastic miniature, hot water is your friend. Put the kettle on (or microwave some water) and bring it to a boil. Depending on what you need, pour the water over or dunk the miniature, letting the heat warm the plastic. With gentle pressure, reshape the miniature, holding the shape in place until it cools (or you can dunk it in some ice cold water to speed up the process). You can even do it to pre-painted miniatures, as I did in this Geek & Sundry Vlog, using a prepainted D&D Attack Wing miniature, though I wouldn’t recommend doing this after you’ve completed a paint job.
Please Pass The Salt (For Weathering Effects)
Got hairspray and salt? You can do some excellent weathering and paint chip effects with the pair of them. Spray the hairspray, throw on the salt and let it dry. Add some paint on top, and then go in with a wet brush and rub the salt and hairspray off to reveal the paint underneath.
Bonus Tip: Dishsoap is Tough On Grease But Great For Minis
I use dishsoap so much when I paint miniatures that I have a small bottle of it in my hobby kit, for good reason. Check out the article on Household Hobby Hacks to find out what I use it for.
Looking to learn more about painting miniatures, be sure to join Will Friedle on The Painter’s Guild this Monday on Alpha and jump on the miniature painting bandwagon! Share your photos of your painted miniatures on social media using the hashtag #happylittleminis and your minis might be featured here on Geek & Sundry!
Image Credits: Teri Litorco
Teri Litorco is a tabletop game fangirl who makes YouTube videos about miniature games that include various painting tutorials and helpful tips. To keep up with what she’s playing and painting follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and help her continue to make accessible painting tutorials by supporting her on Patreon.