I've just made some trench warfare themed muddy bases for my Pre-Heresy Blood Angels Destroyers, and I've been asked how I went about it; so here's a quick tutorial! It's cheap, really quite easy and gives you results like these;
So, here's what you need that you aren't already guaranteed to have lying around already...
A pot of PVA Glue
Some powdered Filler (Americans call it 'spackle' apparently) from a DIY shop
Brown Paint, ideally quite cheap (no point using the good stuff)
Assorted sand, little pebbles, cork granules, whatever you have to give the mud some texture
The good news is that this haul cost me £3 from the local pound shop (ok, well not the cork, but then I could have foraged around outside for some sand and gravel) and there's probably enough there to make an entire army, if not more. This is a very cost-effective tutorial!
Step 1: Modelling detail
The first thing you need to do is to stick little bits and bobs on the bases to give them more of a trenchy feel. You don't have to do this, particularly if you're only doing 28mm bases which don't have as much room, but I think some barbed wire, corpses and assorted detritus really adds to the mood. This is where the bitz box really comes into its own; I used cut-up bits of sprue along with various zombie and skeleton parts, as well as a couple of hands positioned to look like some poor person is drowning in the mud and reaching upwards. I made my barbed-wire supports look like they were concrete, but if you had any used matches to hand (I didn't) they'd make nice wooden stakes, or indeed duck-boards. As my Destroyers are on jump-packs and are skipping over the worst of the mud, I also used this opportunity to drill some holes into handy spots and insert some pins to support the models.
This is what I ended up with;
Stage 2: Painting the detail.
When you're happy with your props, give them a lick of paint. Although you'll be covering quite a bit of what you're painting with mud, it will make things look a lot more convincing when you get to that stage. If you want your models to actually be slogging through the muck, this is also the opportunity to paint them too- but don't stick them on the base quite yet. You should end up with something like the below; it looks a little odd at this stage, like a random selection of stuff plonked on a normal base, but bear with me...
Stage 3: Making the mud.
Now comes the fun part; making the mud. It's probably best to do this in something disposable like a paper cup, but as you're only using PVA glue everything will come off with water and a bit of scrubbing, so anything will do really. I used one of those glass rammekins you get with Gu chocolate puddings; what you're making ends up looking pretty similar, although I suspect it won't taste quite as good! (I didn't try.) Start off by putting a couple of teaspoons of the filler powder into the mixing pot. Don't get too hung up on the quantites during this stage- things are not going to go disastrously unless you try very hard, and whatever you do, you'll end up making more than you need. Add some pva- a couple of good squeezes- to the mix, and then a good squeeze of the paint. The cheap paint I bought for the occasion was a bit too light, so I put in a little black as well to darken things down. The mix end up drying a little bit darker than it is at this stage, so bear that in mind. Mix all this together using whatever you've got to hand; I used the wrong end of a paintbrush. The mud should be very smooth at this stage, like chocolate mousse or a cake mix.
Now you need to add some texture. Sand will do fine, gravel is also ok. I had some cork granules of various sizes so chucked a couple of handfuls of them in there. Remember that the mix needs to be solid enough to have texture for the base, but fluid enough to be spreadable; it shouldn't easily drip off the end of whatever you're using to mix. Think lumpy school custard! Don't add everything in in one go but in two or three bouts, mixing together each time to see how the texture of the mix is looking. When it gets to your liking. You're ready to move on to putting your creation on the bases you've prepared.
Stage 4: Basing Up
You've got your mix, you've got your bases; time to introduce them to each other. Using your mixing tool or whatever else you've got to hand, start taking dollops of the mixture and putting it on the base. I found it was best to place a dollop on there and then spread it out using a toothpick. Don't be worried about covering the stuff you've already put on there- that's the point, after all!- but try not to absolutely swamp the base, the mix will go further than you think, and you still want things to be visible. At this point the mix is still quite liquid so there's no point going for fine detail like footprints; just make sure it covers everywhere you want it to, including the tops of protruding posts, on walls, or whatever. Try and avoid getting any of the mix on the side of the base, or indeed anything dripping off on to your work surface. if this happens, you can wipe it off with a damp cloth or an ear-bud. At this stage, things should look a bit like the below;
Stage 5: Detail
When you've covered the bases, the temptation is to start pushing the mud around to get it looking exactly how you want. There's no point doing it though; the mixture will be too liquid to stay how you've put it, and everything will just slump back to being pretty flat again.
Go off and have a cup of tea or something and come back half an hour later to check on how they're doing. My bases took an hour or so to get to the point where it was possible to do anything with them and it's fairly obvious to tell when it happens, as the 'puddles' liquid areas will begin to dry up and the grains of whatever you've used will become much more obvious.
When things are still tacky but not set you've got a good opportunity to do some fiddling.
For a start, you could make footprints or tank/vehicle tracks. This is really easy; just get a relevant bit from your bits box (ie a shoe, wheel or tank tread), and press it into the base. By this point the mix should be dry enough to take an impression, but also wet enough to partially fill in the print in a realistic way. If it's too wet and thirty seconds after you did the print it's gone, just wait a while until it's dry enough to work. This is also a good time to sculpt your mud a little to get some peaks and troughs; if you'd like some big puddles, just push the mix away from some areas, but not to the extent of revealing the plastic underneath (unless that's what you want!). If you want your models to be wading through the mud, now is also the time to add them, which is why I suggested earlier that you should have them painted up by this stage. Just press them into the base and then add/remove the mixture around their feet until you're happy with the look. If you want to do add to any weathering you're doing, place a little bit of the mix on their lower body too, to add to the general effect.
When you're broadly happy, wander off for a while; everything needs to dry. If your pot is disposable you can just bin it, and if not then now is a good opportunity to do the washing up.
Stage 6: Finishing off
After a couple of hours, your mix should have completely dried. If you want, you can just leave it; things will look quite good. But you may as well do things properly to add some finishing touches. If you're seriously unhappy with what you've ended up with, the good news is that the dry mix is quite easy to pick off with some tweezers if you put your mind to it, just like anything made with PVA. I think it'd be quite difficult to damage the base by accident at this point however.
Anyhow if you're happy, now is the time to titivate. I tried drybrushing a highlight and found that it didn't work very well, so either do a better job than me or skip that step entirely if you fancy. Shading did have good results, however. Mix up some very watery muddy brown ink and give each base a liberal dose. If you have any puddles you want to make, give each of these a couple more coats to really darken up the bottom of them.
Let all that dry, then do any weathering you might fancy; in my case I rusted up the barbed wire and made the concrete blocks particularly grimy.
Finally, crack open the gloss varnish. You can be subtle if you like and only paint a couple of areas with the varnish to give them a wet look; I decided to throw the kitchen sink at it and liberally covered everything. Be careful in doing this to only varnish the mud; or alternatively you can then go over everything else with a matte varnish. For the puddles, do a couple more coats of the varnish on top of the first, and keep dropping it on until you're happy.
Leave all this to dry (overnight to be on the safe side)... and you're done! Your bases should now look something like this...
Have fun deploying your unfortunate soldiers to a muddy warzone!
Edited by EdT, 02 November 2014 - 03:00 PM.