Help support TMP

"Base texturing paste made with gesso and fine-grain sand" Topic

22 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the Terrain and Scenics Message Board

Back to the Tools of the Hobby Message Board

Back to the Dioramas Message Board

Back to the Basing Message Board

Areas of Interest


1,208 hits since 7 May 2018
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Baranovich07 May 2018 9:25 p.m. PST

Up until now I was using the standard modeling sand technique of applying PVA glue to a mini. base and then dipping it in sand.

Works well enough for most minis. but I noticed that the standard grain size of craft sand like you'd get at Michael's Crafts, or even like what GW sells for basing, the grains can sometimes be a bit too large. I think the GW technique does this deliberately. The idea being that in order to see the texturing at tabletop height you need to exaggerate the texturing a bit. Personally I think the slightly bigger sand grain looks really good on most miniatures.

However I do notice that at times it can begin to cover the bottom of the model's boots or feet, giving the slight effect of the model's feet sort of "sinking" into the ground a bit.

We're talking mere millimeters in height so it's not a huge problem but rather one of subtlety. It seems now that the best application for the bigger-grain modeling sand would be larger models or for terrain, which I was already doing anyway.

I've always glued my models to the bases first and then added sand or texturing, it's just the way I prefer to do it. Of course some modelers will texture bases and then glue the mini. on top afterwards. I don't know about that, to me it feels like the mini. is fort of floating or hovering over the texturing rather than looking settles like they're actually walking in it. All a matter of preference I guess.

To remedy this I went to Michael's Crafts and simply switched to a finer grand of sand that doesn't come up as high on the minis. feet when it's applied to the base.

The finer grain makes all the difference. Now I have sufficient texture for drybrushing the sand but it sits much lower on the base. You can freely glue minis. to a base first and use it and the mini. still looks like it's walking over the top of it rather than sinking down.

I also decided to try my hand and creating my own texturing paste. I used the same fine-grain sand and mixed it with some Walmart acrylic gesso. The resulting paste is essentially like a Vallejo or Liquitex textured pumice, but at a much lower cost to me!

The paste is really cool because it sits very low on the base and feels more like settled ground on the model. Also you can apply the paste thicker in certain areas and thinner around the feet of the model, so that you get the impression of slightly uneven ground.

Here's pics. of the paste and some Star Wars Legion minis. that I tried the paste out on:


For the firing arc lines, I simply covered the entirety of the bases with the paste and then went back with a toothpick and re-scored the lines while the paste was still wet.

Cacique Caribe Inactive Member07 May 2018 9:56 p.m. PST

I'm about to start using acrylic filler/caulking. Doesn't shrink like other materials I've used before.

PS. Here are more suggestions:
YouTube link
YouTube link
YouTube link

nevinsrip07 May 2018 11:17 p.m. PST

Liquetex resin sand is the best basing material you can get.
I fail to see how Gesso is cheaper, when Michaels routinely has 50, 60 and sometimes 70% off coupons.

nnascati Supporting Member of TMP08 May 2018 4:31 a.m. PST

My terrain mix has always been craft store sand, white glue and whatever paint color I decided on. I make it more or less "chunky" depending on the scale of the figures.

Personal logo Flashman14 Supporting Member of TMP08 May 2018 5:53 a.m. PST

There used to be many railroad hobby shops that carried fine and extra fine ballast for this kind of thing. Some model hobby shops still may carry it. Woodland Scenics makes several varieties.

HobbyDr08 May 2018 6:00 a.m. PST

I take a simple 1/8" paper punch, and cut discs out of .020 or .030 styrene. I glue these to the bottom of the figure where it meets the base, then glue to the base. It gives enough separation to work the ground cover under the figure.


Personal logo Sgt Slag Supporting Member of TMP08 May 2018 7:40 a.m. PST

I like this idea! I, too, paint Wood Glue (yellow PVA, much stronger than white) onto bases, then dip in sand. It does, typically, run up/over their feet/shoes. I might have to experiment with pre-mixing it.

I mix 3-4 colors of sand together, to get a mottled coloring, which does not require painting after it dries. I even go so far as to use a reddish sand (from the North Shore of Lake Superior's beaches) to create a reddish, irregular swatch on the bases; when this dries, I fill in the open areas with the mixture of green sands, to create broken, mottled reddish-brown blotches, with green blotches. It works well on 2"+ bases. One-inch bases are too small for this to work effectively, as the glue spreads too easily, preventing mottled effect with the red and green sands. For the 2"+ bases, no two are the same. They butt up against one another, nicely, creating a mottled ground cover effect. For my 54mm plastic Army Men figures (1,000+), it works superbly. It works equally well on my 2"+ based fantasy figures (70+). Cheers!

Baranovich08 May 2018 9:28 a.m. PST


No, I didn't mean that the gesso was so much more cheaper than the Liquitex resin sand. Both products are pretty close to the same price. The gesso was $10.00 USD and the sand was $3.99 USD and the resin sand product by itself is $10.00 USD give or take…

What I meant was that I already owned the gesso and wasn't using it for anything, so it saved me from buying a whole new product. That's why I thought to just add sand to it and you've got basically a textured paste.

DeRuyter08 May 2018 9:30 a.m. PST

Liquitex Resin Sand here as well. In fact Liquitex has several products that work well straight out of the bottle (just apply color). Another one is their Stucco product. Cheap with a 50% AC Moore/ Micheals coupon.

Just mix with a sand or earth tone paint and apply to base. For 15mm it works as glue as well so I apply the figures after texturing.

Baranovich08 May 2018 9:34 a.m. PST

The thing that I noticed about the gesso mixed with sand is that it does shrink down a bit on the base. But ironically this is EXACTLY what I wanted to achieve.

Some of the actual textured pumice/resin sand products out there are a true textured paste, and it actually adds another layer to the base itself. This would defeat what I was trying to which was avoid building up any new layers around the feet since I glue the model to the base first. I wanted the feet or boots to look more like they were actually walking on top of the ground instead of sinking into it.

The gesso, and this was quite by accident, shrinks back to the point where really the only thing that's raised up are the parts where some of the sand is stuck to the base. But the gesso flattens down some, but still retains its texturing qualities.

The end result is PERFECT. You get a textured base but the model is still walking on top of it.

The bases end up looking like someone is walking over a dirt or sandy area with some larger gravel or rocks on the surface of the ground or some slightly buried in the ground.

The closest thing I can think of to this would be if you simply glued a few bits of gravel and sand to a base but not all over, and then painted a couple thick coats of white paint over the whole base. That's kind of the final effect but with the added benefit of the gesso retaining some of its ability to dry like a paste and leaving some texturing behind.

Jeigheff Inactive Member08 May 2018 7:52 p.m. PST

I don't have much experience with basing techniques like this. But Vallejo pumice seems to be a good product, if maybe just a little difficult to apply. Using this pumice, I got good texture on about fifty bases I'll be using for 1/285 vehicles. It accepts paint well and doesn't seem to be out of scale.

There are lots of good ideas here. I'll be working on basing some 1/285 infantry soon; I'd like for them to appear to walking on terrain and not to be immersed in it.

Cacique Caribe Inactive Member08 May 2018 10:53 p.m. PST

Baranovich: "The gesso, and this was quite by accident, shrinks back to the point where really the only thing that's raised up are the parts where some of the sand is stuck to the base. But the gesso flattens down some, but still retains its texturing qualities."

Wow, it looks like you've discovered the Holy Grail of texture medium options then!

I'm going to have to give that a try. Thanks.


Wealdmaster09 May 2018 7:30 a.m. PST

I guess black gesso would work the same.

ced110602 Jun 2018 3:28 p.m. PST

Good ideas here.

fwiw, Michaels also sells an inexpensive store brand Artist's Loft Coarse Texture Gel. Not as fine as craft sand, but also worth experimenting with.

Borderguy19003 Jun 2018 3:51 p.m. PST

If anyone is looking for very fine sand, get the lizard sand from a pet store. Very uniform, and extremely small grains. One bag will last forever.

nevinsrip05 Jun 2018 12:03 a.m. PST

I've tried the Artists Loft Gels and they are okay, but the tube is a huge drawback. You either have to make the paste up as you go along or squeeze the entire tube out into a different container.
From what I see, the Gesso is too flat and doesn't show
undulations in the ground.

This is my own Liquetex resin sand mixture. I added paint, sand, and two sizes of talus to it.



This is how it turns out:


And this.


Baranovich06 Jun 2018 6:57 a.m. PST


Well…the thing is – at least in my opinion, is you don't really want undulations on a mini. base. It's a technical/aesthetic issue and a spacial issue.

The idea is that the mini. base coveys the SUGGESTION that the mini. is walking over real terrain. But think about the amount of space that the base is representing. It's representing like a foot or two, maybe several feet in all directions whether the base is square or round. Even if that mini. is walking on a hill or ridge, the BASE area is still going to be mostly flat! There's not enough AREA on the base to visually "see" the curve of a hill or some other slope or ripples or whatever. Let the actual terrain have the slopes and undulations, not the mini.

Unless all your minis. are walking over landscapes totally riddled with gopher holes or was just tilled by a giant plow or some kind of extreme mutated ground, you don't want undulations that extreme on mini. bases. The gesso and sand provide enoug surface texture that you get the idea of walking over ground.

Think about it! It would be like doing 6mm naval ship minis. and have all your bases textured with water effects that are tidal/storm-sized waves. Would look silly. All due respect but I think that undulations on land bases looks silly too. But each to his own.

Bash On06 Jun 2018 8:14 a.m. PST

I mix house paint (in a neutral taupe color) and playbox sand (bought in a fifty-pound bag). Apply with an artist's palette knife. Used to mix it with matte medium but the paint itself is sufficient to hold the sand together. Very inexpensive, and easy to remove if rebasing is needed.

The taupe color, with varying ground cover added, looks great for everything from desert to jungle boards. I use the same color for every period from ancients to WWIII. Think I've used over a gallon of the paint in the last 5-6 years, a quart at a time. Another benefit is being able to match the base color exactly for future additions.

nevinsrip06 Jun 2018 11:53 p.m. PST

As you say. to each his own. Once I see the finished product, I'll have a better idea of what your doing.

My bases represent the AWI, which was fought in fields. Fields that are full of clumps, earth clods, vines, rocks and uneven earth. Nothing flat.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP07 Jun 2018 6:40 a.m. PST

Let the actual terrain have the slopes and undulations, not the mini.

Fields that are full of clumps, earth clods, vines, rocks and uneven earth. Nothing flat.

This is exactly why I go with flat black bases for my minis.

For terrain roughness I mix one part dirt/sand, one part base color acrylic paint, and one part wood glue (PVA). Then brush all over.

Stew art Supporting Member of TMP07 Jun 2018 2:58 p.m. PST

That's a great idea for 28mm figures. It never occurred to me.

anyways: years ago I was turned on to using concrete patch as a basing material. Been doing it for years. like this:


Paints well, takes a dry brush well, and adds some weight to the base for stability. One bucket will last you a LONG time.

nevinsrip09 Jun 2018 9:03 p.m. PST

I do not believe that there is any right way, or wrong way to base figures. Whatever works for you, is what you should use.

Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.