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  • Display Base - Cliff with bridge and water

    Making a Display Base

    I first did this step by step article as a forum post, I'd done a few other
    base step by step projects and thought it would be a good idea to do the whole
    display base concept, from building up the plinth all the way through to paints
    and powders. The plinth used is about 5 cm across so plenty for space, and I'm
    going to try build a cliff face, then put a bridge on top and have some water
    underneath it, the idea being that the figure is charging across the bridge.
    you won't get to see the figure itself though as I did this project as a
    present and kept the figure out of the pictures for the surprise value.

    If you want to look the original post can be found here:
    Original display base

    And my other base articles
    Tech base post
    Marble base post
    Step 1: Planning

    First up is to get some basic sketches of the idea down. I tend to do this with
    all my bases to some extent, and I have a pretty good idea of what I want as I
    had a 5 hour drive home the other day with little else to think about apart
    from avoiding the rest of the traffic. The initial sketches get me a feeling
    for the sort of height I'm going to have, enough to fit some sort of support
    work under the bridge, but not too tall, it is only going to be a 35mil figure.
    So after a couple of initial sketches I spend a bit more care getting the
    details down on my little blue note paper. Nice to keep notes on the stuff to
    look back on later. These are done to the actual size, the top view sketched
    onto an outline drawn around the plinth, and red marks added for possible
    placement of the figures feet.

    The Backing

    One of the most important parts is to get smooth sides to the base, and one of
    the best things I have found for this is thin plastic sheet. It's quite easy to
    get hold of as lots of products come in plastic packaging these days. This time
    I used part of a tube from some Italian chocolates a friend had bought to work,
    so as you can see almost anything will do. I have used a strip wide enough to
    go round slightly more than half the base of the plinth, and 4 cm high. I also
    marked an uneven edge as I hope this will allow me to focus on a rough and
    uneven edge for the stone like face.

    Positioning the Back

    I must admit I was unsure how I would get the backing correctly lined up with
    the sides of the plinth. On a square plinth it would be fairly easy to do
    separate sides and then carefully smooth the edges, but getting the plastic to
    curve correctly with the round plinth could be an issue. However while working
    I realised I could use some paper to create a wall around the top of the plinth
    and then place the plastic backi8ng inside and it out push out to the edge of
    the plinth. This was made easier by a small ledge running round the plinth
    which allowed me to get the paper correctly aligned and standing vertically. I
    should probably mention that it was quite thick paper, almost card like. And it
    did take a bit of pushing about after the rubber band was used to hold it in
    place, but it eventually got positioned and looked quite vertical.

    A Good Grip

    Here's another pic just to show that the surface of the base and the backing
    have been marked and roughed up with a knife. the intention is to use some
    putty to fix the backing and the base together and this rough surface should
    give the putty a good surface to attach to.

    Fixing the Back in Place

    So here it is after I used some milliput to fix the backing and the plinth.

    Extra Structure

    Then I decided that the backing might be a bit flimsy until the cliff face had
    been done and filled it in so I decided to use some wood (Matches) to add a bit
    more solidity. These were fixed in place with a bit of superglue and a little
    more milliput. In retrospect it was probably unnecessary, but it certainly
    helped make it a solid structure.

    [pagebreak]Step 2: Building the Cliff

    Now to start the interesting stuff. With the backing in position we can get to
    work on the cliff face. But just before that here's a pic of the plinth with
    the paper support removed. The backing is a little out of step in a couple of
    places, but nothing a little putty and sand paper can't fix later.

    Materials for a Cliff Face

    There are a few obvious materials for making a cliff face, cork which is often
    used for rocks, bark which can have a suitable texture, or even rock and stone,
    this time however I have decided to use some rust. I got a bag of this stuff
    when attending the Platoon Britannica event earlier this year, and I thought it
    would give a good solid feel of large slabs of rock and has a good textured
    surface. It also has a quite nice red/orange colour and I felt that would be a
    good basis for the colours I wanted to use on the base anyway. As it turned out
    the first piece I chose had a quite straight edge, but broke in half while
    getting it in place (So much for solid . . .).

    The First Sections in Place

    I took advantage of the break in the first piece to add a crack to the cliff,
    using super glue and milliput to hold it in place as I tried to get the basic
    pieces in position across the whole of the cliff face. Eventually I managed to
    get a 3rd piece in place, it was quite thick and I took advantage of that to
    offset it from the other side, giving a ridge down the middle.

    A Few More Pieces

    A few more pieces were then added to deal with the gap at the top of the left
    hand side, as well as bulk that side up even more at the bottom. And I added a
    small chunk at the front of the plinth. The idea is that this will be about 2/3
    rds submerged when water is finally added. (With hindsight it will actually be
    almost completely submerged, but that just shows that even when planned like
    this; thing will change)

    The Complete Cliff

    Here's a pic after adding a few more pieces. The top of the left side was
    bulked out to continue the ridge running along the middle of the cliff. And the
    gap in the middle as filled from behind which adds some depth to the clear area
    on the plinth for the water effects. Just as well because I was beginning to
    think the cliff had moved a bit far forwards. After this picture I used my
    remaining putty and some PVA glue to fix and seal the rust in place from
    behind. Then after that had been left for half a day to dry I filled the base
    with plaster. Had one small leak but the PVA had done a good job of sealing
    things and it was easily blocked with a piece of tissue for a while

    [pagebreak]Step 3: Building the Bridge

    The next step is to construct the bridge. The upper surface shouldn't be a
    problem, but it is only now the cliff face is in place that the positioning of
    the supports can be properly considered.

    The Basic Frame

    The first step was to do the side supports and the crossbar to go underneath.
    The sides are made form a couple of large matches while the crosspiece is from
    normal cocktail sticks glued together and with some wire to make it look as if
    they are lashed together. I positioned the sides on my sketch to get the right
    sort of width, but deliberately made it slightly narrower than originally
    intended as now I felt the initial plans had the bridge too wide, almost the
    whole width of the base.

    The Planks

    Made from coffee stirrers (Really handy, must get some more), the planks are
    laid out on side supports and fixed in place with a little super glue. They are
    deliberately misaligned to give an old and ramshackle look to the construction.
    Later they will be roughed up with a knife, file and pick to give a worn look
    to the edges and surface.

    Checking the position

    A quick check to make sure the bridge fits, just as well I made it narrower. I
    had to wear away the corner of a couple of the planks to get it into position
    as well as cut a groove on one of the side supports where it went over some
    rust as the face of the cliff. It won't be an issue though as the bridge will
    have extra supports added and the cut won't be visible once upper areas of the
    base are finished.

    The Lower Supports

    A couple of small indentations were drilled into the rust to help anchor the
    lower supports and after testing the basic positioning the crossbar was glued
    in place and then the bridge and support glued to the base. You can see that
    most of the wear has been applied to the planks as well at this point. Indeed
    some of them had to be trimmed quite short to get a decent positioning for the
    support beams. Also visible are some slight clean-up adjustments to the side of
    the cliff, with a few small extra pieces of rust used to provide some textured
    surface and milliput used to blend it all together.

    Another Lashing

    More wire used to give the bridge supports the look of being lashed together by
    rope. I was actually thinking that cotton or linen thread might have been a
    better choice as the wire was quite difficult to pull straight and keep it
    taut. (Some people have suggested lead wire can be very good for this sort of

    The Upper Surface

    Some extra plaster is used to build up the upper surface so the first planks of
    the bridge are actually semi-submerged in the dirt, and some milliput is placed
    under the bridge where the figure is to be pinned to make sure it will have a
    firm anchor point. I have also added some extra debris at the base, and this
    was the point that I started to think it would look good a cold winter canyon
    scene for a duel. (not this time though).

    [pagebreak]Step 4: Painting and Foliage

    With the basic construction mainly complete (Except for the water effects and
    possibly a fish if I can sculpt one). It is time to look at painting and adding
    some foliage. The idea is to have a rather red arid dusty look to the cliff and
    top of the base with some contrasting green tones near the water line with just
    a couple of bits of foliage and maybe a root or two sticking out of the cliff

    Darker Darker Darker

    Bit obvious this step I suppose, can't leave all that white plaster showing and
    now the sides of the base are complete I can spray the base itself. So first I
    covered the front of the base with square cut from a plastic bag and held in
    place with blue tack while spraying the plinth and the back of the base black.
    I then used VMC German Cammo Black Brown to cover the white plaster and also
    took the opportunity to darken some of the shading on the cliff face.

    Colouring the Cliff

    With that initial painting over with it was time to add some colour and a sense
    of lighting to cliff. Various dark and mid greens were used around the base of
    the cliff, under and around the water line. Meanwhile pale orange tones were
    used to highlight certain parts of the cliff to give a zenith style lighting
    effect. The wood was given an initial bit of colouring at this point as well. A
    thin wash GW Chardon Granite and Catchan Green.

    Underwater Vegetation

    I've used some lichen to add underwater vegetation. I was tempted to add some
    long wispy weed to look like it's flowing in the current but I felt the lichen
    had a rather nice alien quality that would do well for underwater foliage. Also
    I wasn't really sure I had the space to do some long flowing weed.

    Colouring the Lichen

    The lichen was interesting enough in shape, but I thought some extra red and
    green tones would it give it a more unusual appearance. Reds, greens and
    purples were also used to add colour to the base as well in an attempt to make
    it more distinctive from the general orange tone of the rest of the cliff.

    Wood needs Painting to Look Like Wood

    Well, it certainly needs quite a bit of attention to look like old weathered
    planking. After being darkened with more glazes of GW Chardon Granite, GW
    Catchan Green and GW Snakebite Leather it was time to lighten it. VMC Golden
    Brown was mixed with a tiny amount of GW Chardon Granite and then lightened by
    adding VMC Pale Sand and then VMC Ivory. Applied in several thin layers,
    focusing on the grain and edges, it built up a pattern of bleached out wood
    grain. This was given another glaze of Catchan Green. Meanwhile the underside
    was darkened with GW Chardon Granite and VMC Leather Brown, and the lashing was
    brought out with a similar colour to the wood, although some pure ivory was
    used on the upper sections.

    A little more Vegetation

    Having decided this stream is running through an arid area I didn't want to add
    too much vegetation. But I did want a bit of variety to add to the two bits of
    Hibiscus I'd used on the right side of the bridge. So I added a little grass
    (This is actually from a seed, not static grass), a couple of 'flowering
    plants' either side of the bridge (There's also some growing out of the cliff
    face near the left support strut in the second picture), and a few roots
    sticking out of the cliff itself.

    Vegetation Needs Painting Too

    Just like the wood, real vegetation needs painting to look like real
    vegetation. The roots were lightened to stand out more, the flowers had the
    stems lightened and flowers brought out in red, and the grass and hibiscus
    stumps were given a green glaze to add a little colour. And with that in place
    a small amount of weathering pastels were used to dust the earth at the top of
    the base and some of the ledges on the cliff face.

    [pagebreak]Step 5: Water (Or where it all went wrong . . .)

    One day I will try something with water effects that actually works (Does what
    I want it to) but do be warned now, this is not that time. Still it wasn't a
    complete disaster and the base is still usable even if I am a little
    disappointed in the final result. So remember to test any new water effects
    product you intend to use carefully before using it on something you've spent a
    lot of hours on already. And even if it does go wrong, there is probably a way
    to sort it out.

    Little Fishy Fish

    No river is complete without a bit of river life, so it was time to sculpt and
    paint a small fish. Painted in bright colours to help it stand out I was quite
    pleased with the final result, almost looks like it has gills

    Cover the Plants

    I thought that when the resin was poured in, some bubbles might get trapped
    under the plants so I decided to carefully use some GW water effects to cover
    and fill them first. This allowed me to use a brush to get any bubbles out and
    left a smooth lump which wouldn't trap any air as the resin poured in.

    Place the Barrier

    The final step before adding resin is to put a barrier in place so the resin
    can be poured. A little more of the GW water effects was used along the edges
    to make sure it was sealed. Then just pour the resin in, tease any bubbles
    out, and wait.

    Arrrrrgggggghhhhhhhhh !!

    Mix, pour, leave for 2 days. That's all you should need to know for resin, so
    when it still hasn't set after 4 day you know something is wrong. Somehow I
    ended up with a sort of ice shelf effect, the surface hadn't set so the top
    wasn't smooth and the lower part hadn't set either which was a real mess. I
    tried to fix it with GW water effects and some Vallejo gel but it just wasn't
    working. I suspect I hadn't mixed it properly due to cautiously trying to
    avoid air bubbles, oh well

    The Final Solution

    As I couldn't fix the gap under the water there was only one solution, to hide
    it. I suppose the final result isn't too bad, but because it is not what I was
    aiming for it is disappointing. However, it did give me an area to put a title
    to the piece, without which I will admit the covering band was a bit stark and
    really did look wrong. So I think I'll have to put this down as an experience,
    try a few water test pieces before doing this again, accept it's been salvaged
    and move on to the next piece.

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Diceplague's Avatar
      Diceplague -
      I really liked the colors and the beautifully well explained tutorial, but what i really loved was the sincerity to show us when things went fubar... Shoot happens to everyone of us and when we see that it may also happen with an advanced artist like yourself it gives us confidence to keep trying ! Thank you very much!
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