Thursday, February 7, 2019

Clear Bases: The Tutorial Ver. 2.0

Clear bases. It seems that no two words divide the miniature figure community more right now. Here are some of my favorite things I've read when someone brings up clear bases - "they look awful", "they look cheap", "the frosting around the feet looks terrible", "they look dreadful", "the glare on the edge is annoying", "they look ridiculous", "I wouldn't use them on my "real" models", etc etc etc.

Before I go any further, let me state emphatically that they are your models, do what you like and what you feel looks right in your eye. Clear bases isn't for everyone, and traditional basing doesn't work for everyone either. Do what is right for you, end of story. Just make sure that you do some kind of base so your models don't fall over, because ultimately that's the whole purpose of the base anyway.

Also, don't get me wrong, I absolutely love the rank and file figures done with a traditional wargaming base, and I'm not sure some of these types of figures should ever be on clear bases.

But in saying that, maybe all rank and file figures should be on round bases in movement trays? Maybe they should only be on a square base? Or rectangle bases? Do I use plastic or wood bases? 1.5mm thick? What about different rules sets? What happens when I have square bases and my opponent has round? As you can see we can go in circles on this all day, and again, it all comes down to doing what is right for you and if it looks right to you.

With all that being said, I personally play a lot of skirmish games, so the decision to go to clear bases on those types of figures in my collection was easy for me. And one that had been thought about for years - I'll go into the exact reasons why shortly.

What I do find extremely interesting, and honestly incredibly frustrating, is when someone comes out and says that clear bases are "lazy". And I keep hearing this point over and over again as an argument not to do it. What exactly is "lazy" about a clear base? This is the million dollar question to me. Is it the amount of "work" done to make a clear base? If it's that, are people who commission out their figures to be painted lazy? What if you buy a used army or some figures that are already painted, does that make you lazy because you didn't do it yourself? What about these new flat plexiglass figures and terrain I'm seeing a lot now? Again, we can go in circles on this.

Maybe I missed the rule in the "How to Properly Base Your Figures" handbook that says a model is only complete when flock is applied around the base, and two tufts of grass are glued on along with one horribly out of scale rock? I was a huge fan of that, and as you can see, I did it all the time. In saying that, I have seen some absolutely incredibly based figures in my time and I completely appreciate that effort, and will never think that what they are doing is wrong.

But... here it is, the end all be all reason for me going to a clear base. Regardless of where that figure is on the table - on a street, in a snow covered clearing, in a building, in a forest, on a boat, in the desert, etc. etc. etc., if it is on a clear base it is never going to look out of place. Zorro would look a bit odd up there with a grass or desert base no?

It's interesting because every single miniature game I've ever played my figures have moved all over the table at some point. They've never stayed in the same spot the entire game. What if these lads had a street type of base, would that look strange here?

And while moving over the table those figures have encountered different types of terrain and environments on that table. What if these guys had a more desert type of base, that'd be a bit of a weird photo no?

How many times have we had our figures on roads when their bases were full of grass and brush?

Certainly the Fellowship look odd in an Egyptian tomb, but would they look even sillier if they had bases full of grass in this particular environment?

Hills, grass, plowed fields, deserts, boardwalks, roads streams, sidewalks, stone floors, wood floors, etc. etc. etc. if that figure is on a clear base, in my eye it will never look out of place, like here.

Now again, that may not be something that either bothers you or isn't even thought of as a concern.

Me? It takes me out of that moment visually. The photos above have always frustrated me because the bases seem so out of place in regards to where the figures are on the table. But again, your figures, your bases, your eye.

If changing over to clear bases is something you're thinking about, or even want to try on just a couple of figures, I will give you a step by step tutorial and some tips on how I do it. After going through many trails and errors over the last two years (here is my very first tutorial on clear bases if you've interested, where I used to pin the figures to their bases), I've taken the best parts of that journey and I think I have finally found a way to make the clear base process the most efficient and effective as possible. But in saying that, this isn't the end all be all for making and using clear bases. I'm sure that this can be improved on, and if anyone has tips or tricks they want to share I'd love to hear them.

The tools involved are pretty simple -

Jewelers Saw
Scrap Cardboard
Xacto Knife
Paint Brush
EK Tools 3/4 Inch (20mm) Hole Punch
Toploader Card Holders
Loctite Super Glue (Professional Liquid)
Citadel Seraphim Sepia Shade

Before I go any further, I will tell you emphatically that there are three items that have been absolute game changers in this whole process for me. And that has been the Loctite Super Glue, the Ultra Pro toploader card holders, and the scrap piece of card board - the combination of these three items has effectively eliminated the "frosting" effect that bother so many people.

So lets start from the beginning on how I go about basing a figure. The first thing you will need to do is cut the plastic for your bases from the top loader card holders. I use the Ultra Pro 3x4 regular card holders. I got 200 for $17.00 on Amazon - I won't have to buy any more for the rest of my life lol!

You'll cut off the sides and the bottom, as the top is already cut.

And this will now give you two pieces to make your bases.

The EK Tools hole punches comes in many sizes and shapes, and overall 1 inch (25mm) really seems to be the most popular base size for individual figures these days. But I definitely prefer the 3/4 inch (20mm) size for bases, as I personally think they look much better.

Here you can see the difference between the 1 inch (25mm) base on the left and the 3/4 inch (20mm) on the right. Now obviously with this particular example I had to put a 1 inch base on Inigo because of his pose, and that will absolutely happen from time to time, but I guarantee you'll be surprised at exactly how many figures you wouldn't think could fit onto a 20mm base that do, and look way better for it. But to me this photo really shows just how much bigger that quarter of an inch makes visually. It's night and day to me, and why I always use the 20mm base.

In order to punch out your bases you do have to flip the EK Tools circle punch over so you can see exactly where you are at on your piece of plastic. It can be a bit awkward, and be very careful of the bases popping out quickly and onto the floor, they can be quite difficult to find on the carpet.

At 3/4 of an inch I'm able to get a total of 24 bases out of just one card holder - so you can easily see that one package of card holders will keep you pretty well set for ages with bases.

Now that we have our bases cut out we'll start on getting the figure ready. I will show you how I cut the bases off of two of the most common types of figures - the slotted figure, and I guess we'll just call the other one a "normal" figure. Here we have two examples from Knuckleduster, Curly Bill Brocius and a bandito.

Obviously the slotted figures are much easier to cut - you could probably just use an Xacto knife, but my preferred method of cutting the figures is a Jewelers Saw. I use a size 0 blade and I will tell you that I do break blades like there is no tomorrow - I have a ton of this size blade from a bulk purchase because they were super cheap (144 for $6.00), so something I will try when I go through all of these is the next size up to see if that reduces the breakage frequency. Despite the breakages this has been the best way I've found to cut off the base for me.

Once Curly Bill is off his base I check to see if he can stand on his own. With the slotted bases I usually don't have to sand down the feet at all, but if the figure doesn't stand on its own, a couple of passes on the sandpaper will get the feet even. It's probably hard to see in the photo because of the angle, but Curly Bill did lean forward a bit so I took him over to the sandpaper to even his feet out.

One trick that has kept the feet even for me is to pull the figure across the sandpaper and then pick it up and do it again - don't rub the figure back and forth. I found that rubbing the figure repeatedly back and forth wasn't getting me a flat bottom on the feet. 

Once you've got your feet even it's time to touch up around the boots with a little bit of paint. This one was actually really good and didn't need very much touch up, but between the cutting and sanding you will inevitably be touching up spots with some paint while doing this.

Next is to get your base ready. As I mentioned above when you're cutting the bases out you can lose them easily because they are so hard to see - what I do is get the base I'm going to use next and place it right in the middle of an index card. This allows me to see the base much easier as the above photo shows.

Now it's time for the glue. Again, this stuff has been the absolute game changer in terms of the "frosting" everyone complains about with clear bases. This is by far the most expensive super glue I've ever used but it gives me about double the actual glue compared to what I get in a single bottle of my old go to Gorilla Super Glue even though the bottles are practically the same size (look at those Gorilla Glue bottles brand new out of the package, they are half empty right from the get go?!?!). With the coupons you get from craft stores (who hand them out like they are candy) I'm only paying about $4.00 a bottle. While its only being used exclusively for basing figures, I've been using this same bottle for probably a good six months or more and it's still over three quarters full.

Once you've applied your glue to the bottom of the figure you want to next bring it over to the scrap piece of cardboard and place it on it. This will push out any excess glue. This has been the other big game changer in this process. What was happening before was all that excess glue was pushing out on the base and causing the "frosting" effect - utilizing the cardboard now eliminates all that excess glue before it even hits the base.

Then it's off to placing the figure on its new base. It takes literally a second for the figure to adhere to the base.

And that's it, easy peasy lemon squezzy you've now got yourself a figure that will won't look out of place wherever it is on the table.

And the best part of all, zero "frosting". And the bond is solid - I've yet to have any figure come off its base using the Loctite glue.

So let's give our "normal" base figure a go, the bandito. This particular model has a really small base and one of his feet was raised off the base, so again I used the jewelers saw as it was much easier to cut than with the snips. With these types or bases you can use the snips in my tools photo instead but be very careful as you can bend the legs as you try to cut close to the feet.

Again, very easy to get him off the molded base.

This figure needed a bit of sanding to get him to stand up on his own.

A bit of touch up paint around the boots and he's ready for his new base.

Your Olan Mills glamour shot.
*that joke is probably only going hit at about 20% of the readership I'm guessing*

On a side note, it's interesting how different these two figures are in size despite both being from Knuckleduster.

And there you have it, two new figures based up and ready move anywhere on the table and not look out of place.

A couple of other things I want to mention about the punches -  the 3/4 inch (20mm) base is by far my favorite and I think you can see why in all the examples above. But as I mentioned above EK Tools do have lots of other sizes which work great for different figures.

The 1 inch (25mm) base is perfect for those figures with a stretched pose.

The 1 1/2 inch (35mm) base allows for the basing of multiple figures onto one single base like these zombie hordes.

But I'm also going to blow your mind by letting you know I have oval bases that I'm doing mounted figures on.

If people were bringing pitchforks because of the clear bases on normal figures I can only imagine what these photos will do lol!

And the photo that will make heads explode!

But as I've stated over and over throughout this post do what you like and works for you.

The last thing I want to touch on is some tips for those of you that are having issues with the "frosting" because of either the plastic your bases are made of or the type of glue you are using. This is a figure I based early on in this crazy journey and is based on plastic taken from a regular old figure blister pack and the Gorilla Super Glue was used - you can see the glue and plastic didn't work well together at all and I've got a problem area around his foot.

As crazy as it sounds, take a toothpick and cut a really nice point on the end with an Xacto knife and then use that toothpick to scrape around the foot - get as close as you possibly can with that point around the foot.

You'll be amazed at how much of that "frosting" you will take away with that toothpick - as you can see above. A simple but absolutely invaluable tool.

Now to clear that "frosting" up even further take a wash and basically do a dry brush application around that last bit around the feet. By dry brush I mean almost taking all the wash off the paint brush and then stippling it around the feet.

Voila! Just like that no "frosting" effect.

Wow, this has been incredibly long, and if your still with me at the end I really do appreciate it! But more importantly I hope you will have gotten something out of all this, as well as the thought process behind why I use clear bases. And for the very last time it's all about personal preference, if this isn't something that would work for you that's totally fine, I get it. But I honestly feel there is a place for this type of basing and I really think you will be seeing a whole lot more of it in the future.

Until next time, cheers!


  1. Hi Ivor I've not come across a lot of antagonism to clear bases, but I probably don't read enough blogs. I'm in your camp on the 'do what is right for you' people who use round MDF bases suprise me. I was at a show this weekend and a guy asked the price of penny sized bases and was told £1.50, there looked to be about 20 bases in the packet so 7 1/2 pence a base of course he could have had 150 penny bases for his £1.50 but he bought MDF. There must be a reason, but it escapes me.

    Anyway the only thing you didn't say was what the base cutters are called, I've been cutting mine out with scissors but would like to get a neater circle but haven't seen a cutter in the local Hobbycraft and need to go online for one.

    1. Thanks for the comment John! I see more of the antagonism about the clear base issue on social media than anywhere else. But as emphasized, do what works for you 😃
      The circle punch is by EK Tools - I have it listed in the tools needed list, but definitely should have put its name in there again during the step by step parts. I'm going to edit that in there, thanks for bringing it to my attention 🙂

  2. Nice tutorial. I am not sold on clear bases personally but that is just my taste. For me it makes them stand out more with the reflection and I'm not sure about how long they would last being moved about on rougher board surfaces.

    1. Cheers Simon! As I said, it's not for everyone and I'm right there with you on the reflection, which is why I've thrown all my Litko clear bases put and went to this paper thin base instead. I think you'll always get some kind of reflection being plastic, but with what I'm doing now compared with before, the difference is night and day 🙂
      A teddy bear fur table has yet to see these types of bases and I would imagine that they may have issues standing up, so that is definitely something that I want to try out in the future - but beyond that they've been good on every other type of surface 🙂

  3. An outstanding post, Ivor, and definitely a ‘go to’ article for anyone considering going the clear base way. I’ve never really minded all my minis being on grass flocked bases personally, but that didn’t stop me thoroughly enjoying your writing about how you like to base your minis, and how you go about it. Top stuff, and thanks for taking the time to put this lengthy piece together.

    1. Much appreciated Simon! Thanks for taking the time to read it through, that was an extremely long post for a goofy 'ol hobby blog lol!

  4. Well of all the lazy things to do Ivor, taking so much time & effort just to do a post to show the world how lazy you are using clear bases lol

    Joking apart mate you've done a fabulous job & covered all the bases (pun) on the reason people like to use clear bases & topped it all off with a wonderful tutorial on how to do them, on the frosting I find that when I put the glue on the model that if I tip the feet off something before sticking it to the base it helps to reduce it & in a lot of cases does away with it all together.

    The great debate was on LAF again the other week & like yourself my point at the end of it was you buy paint & play with your own models so do what you like for them :)

    John I like yourself was cutting mine with a blade until the other week when Joakim did a post, I don't know the name of the tool but you'll get it in a craft shop, just tell them what you looking for & they'll see you right.

    1. Frank, if only you knew how lazy I really am in real life lol!!!
      I can totally appreciate the debate, and I totally get the other side of it - except for the lazy part, that one just completely boggles my mind.
      As I've replied to John's comment the hole punch is by EK Tools and I've gone back to edit that name more prominently in the step by step parts of the post instead of just in the tools needed part.

    2. I got one Ivor but hadn't a clue as to what it was called, so as I always do in cases like that I just put on my stupid hat & went into the store & told the lady what I was looking to do & she did the rest :)

    3. Lol! I've found that the EK Tools punches are by far the best - I went through several different brands during this whole process before finding the right one.

    4. I've not been on LAF much recently so missed the debate, that's usually the sort of thing on TMP which is why I almost never go there.
      I will see if I can find it just because I'm curious but really I don't care about these sort of debates, people should do what they wish not what the majority dictate.
      Fashions in paint, varnish, shading etc change over time and there is no right or wrong way, we should be inclusive not exclusive.
      Thanks for the info on the punch I saw one of these in operation and it had to be hit with a hammer until it broke so I'll see if I can find the one you use which sounds better.

    5. Yeah, it's too bad TMP is like that - and it's always the same usual suspects that stir things up, but personally I think that the owner of the site invites that type of stuff.
      Let me know if you don't have any luck finding the hole punch - I'd be more than happy to send you some bases I've cut out already to try if you'd like, I have plenty 😃

    6. Thanks Ivor I'll let you know how I go on.

    7. Please do, you should have my email, just send me a message - I still owe you some kind of kickback for the Zorro figures 🙂

  5. I like the idea of clear bases but i'm way too lazy to transfer my existing collection over to them. nice tutorial Ivor

  6. Thanks for posting this! I imagine that you have to pick the castings up by the casting though? The base being too thin to pick up.

    While I do not think I will be rebasing my collection (meager though it is), I certainly can see the utility for skirmish basing. Pulp adventurers with city bases in the forest and inside buildings being an obvious situation that would be improved by this.

    1. Appreciate you taking the time to both read and comment on the post Las 🙂
      Quite true, you are picking up the models themselves as opposed to the bases - and while in theory picking up your models by the base would be the preferred method to moving them, I would safely guess that those who actually do that are few and far between. I'm ok with it so long as there aren't snacks around the table making fingers and hands a mess lol

  7. I have also seen this said about clear bases "They are to glossy/shinny", I personally use both clear and none clear bases depending on the minis, that just me.

    1. The reflection is definitely a legitimate point, and as I've mentioned above something that was a frustration for me when I was using Litko bases exclusively. But I've found this new type of base almost eliminates the high reflection 🙂

    2. I did tell them that there is some clear bases that isn't glossy, they denied that as not being possible.

    3. Lol! Well, as I mentioned, with a plastic base you'll never completely eliminate the glare from the overhead lighting, but these have significantly lowered that glare in my opinion. Another thing to mention with all of my photos above, the ceiling in my studio is extremely low, only six feet high 😑, so the lights are right on top of all my tables increasing the chances for a glare - but in saying that I still think the glare is minimal.
      It would be an interesting experiment to get some photos of the bases in action on a table with a normal ceiling height - maybe at some point I can move a game downstairs and see if there is a difference 🙂

  8. Clear bases are obviously for the lazy and they look terrible.... joking of course.
    Actually this post comes at an opportune time bc I keep thinking about how I want to rebase my LoTR stuff, mainly bc I want to play them on a game table with a ruined city theme but of course the miniature are all based on grassy soil. A clear base would solve this problem and allow for more versatility as models went in and out of buildings and such as skirmish games do.

    It’s also a well written post with clear instructions which I appreciate, bc it makes me feel like I could attempt it. 😀

    1. Cheers Stew! My LOTR figures will be seeing action in both the Rangers of Shadow Deep and some RPG-ish types of games so clear bases will be perfect for that. I'm in the middle of basing all my new Knuckleduster Kickstarter figures for Gunfighters Ball and then it will be on to pulling all the traditional bases off the rest of my Old West figures - I think this genre really benefits from the clear base because of all the different types of terrain the figures encounter, especially interiors of buildings.
      Believe me, if I can do it, anyone can lol! I'd be more than happy to send to some bases if you want to give them a go before buying into the tools needed - just shoot me a message at

  9. You are a genius. Thanks for laying it out so clearly with so many clever tips.

    1. Lol! Not a problem, appreciate you reading through the post, hopefully this is something that you can try on a figure or two of your own - if you do try it I'd love to see your results, definitely send me some photos 🙂

  10. I missed this, but glad you linked it as when I get time I might clear base all my own cowboys, thanks.

    1. No problem George! Looking forward to seeing how you get on with them :)

  11. Super detailed tutorial Ivor - kudos mate. :)

  12. Replies
    1. Cheers Grant! Appreciate you taking a look through it 🙂

  13. Great job. I use Tamiya clear on my translucent miniatures to make them even clearer. Theory is that it fills in the minute nicks and scratches in the miniature. Mebbe this would help against frosting.

    Most of my miniatures are from boardgames, so have integrated bases, or are old (?) GW miniatures with tabs for their slotta bases. But I have an old GW 50+ plastic space marine set with "flat" feet, so I'm sure clears will be a good choice for them. I guess rebasing Clix superhero miniatures onto clears would be good, too!

    1. Thanks a lot 😃 All the best on getting your space marine to a clear base, I think you'll be really happy with the end results!
      Yeah, I have yet to switch out a HeroClix but I agree that they would be perfect - I have the TMNT set that I should definitely try 🙂