Making TracksBy Andrew Pieper
Your ranger has spent hours searching for signs of the giants she knows to be in the area, but to no avail. Hearing a grunt from behind her, she turns to see her quarry standing not 50 feet away in the pristine snow...
Wait, stop the scene what gives? Does the giant teleport? How can the snow have no tracks?
I developed this procedure after seeing countless minis in snow and dirt conditions without a track to be found. It just isn't possible to have the Ice Queen, frost giant, or 100 ton CAV surrounded by pristine snow or desert sand without making a single track. In this article, I will explain the techniques I use to create realistic looking tracks on mini bases.
For this article, I used the Reaper Spartan CAV in a semi-desert setting. I will provide notes along the way for adapting the same technique to fantasy miniatures as well as snowy conditions.
For the mini I used in this article, I freed the foot completely from the base so I could have the full track under the foot, as if the foot was just lifted for a step forward. (It was mostly raised already on the Spartan. Im not going to describe what I did to free it, as the techniques are very similar to work I did in the Cinder article, and it is not important for this article. For a good article on freeing and repositioning CAV feet, refer to the Craft article Dynamic CAV Posing by Mike Hardy.) To start with then, I had the following legs and base:
1. Get a piece of wood no thicker than 1/8 inch (3 mm) (a Popsicle stick would work fine), and trace (or if the foot is not lifted, draw) the outline of the foot. In this case, I had to draw two outlines because the Spartan's foot is divided into two pieces.
2. Draw in any tread detail that you will need to carve into the foot.
3. Using a sharp hobby knife, cut the footprint out of the wood and carve into its face any tread detail.
Note: Many people have asked me why I didn't just use the Spartan's actual foot to make the track. The answer is in three parts, first I would have had to cut the leg off of the CAV to be able to stamp the footprint, second, the foot on the CAV is sculpted with the separate parts on different planes and I wouldn't get a realistic looking print, and finally, by making separate footprint stamps, I can save the stamps and add Spartan tracks to terrain at a future date.
4. Using a fine-point permanent marker, mark the position of the miniature on the base, so you have an index to use after you finish sculpting. Also, mark the approximate location of the front of the footprint on the edge of the base. You need this on the edge so that you have a reference point once everything is covered in green-stuff.
Note: If you will be having a trailing footprint behind a foot that is attached, you'll need to imagine what the subject was doing just before becoming a frozen miniature, and position the print(s) accordingly.
5. Place your finished footprint stamps in water so that they will be wet later and won't stick to the green stuff.
6. Mix and apply green stuff to the area where you want the footprint, without covering the miniature attachment area.
7. While the green-stuff is still wet, cover it in fine-grained sand, flour, or other substrate (I haven't tried flocking, but I suppose it might work). If you are doing a snow scene, skip this step.
8. Ensuring that you are properly lined up with your reference mark (or in this case, slightly behind the mark), press the stamps into the green-stuff. Ensure that you push them in heel first and rotate toward the toe for a more realistic print. When you remove them, pull up the heel first.
Keep the depth of the print in mind as you do this step. Snow, soft ground, and heavier creatures will require deep prints (you may even need to build up the ground around the attached foot/feet). Harder ground or lighter creatures should have shallower prints.
9. Allow the green-stuff to set for a couple of hours.
10. Attach the mini to the base using your preferred glue/pinning technique, as appropriate for the miniature, and allow it to dry completely.
11. Add more green-stuff to the base, sculpting up and around the attached foot/feet as needed and apply the same substrate to the green-stuff that you applied in step 7. If you are doing a snow scene, do not add substrate at this time.
12. Using your favorite basing glue, add a bit of extra substrate at the front of the print to simulate the debris left as the foot pulled out. You may also want to add some in the print as well to simulate the sides of the print caving in slightly. If you are doing a snow scene, skip this step.
13. Prime and paint the miniature as normal. When you paint the footprint, the shadows in the bottom of the print should be quite dark, to allow it to contrast with the surrounding terrain.
If you are doing a snow scene, the snow will be packed in the print and no longer fluffy. Paint the print, instead of relying on snow flocking in it. I would use a cool white progression (blue-whites) with just a hint of silver paint to give a little sparkle to it, but use your judgment and painting style here.
14. Add any other base elements, just remember that anything you add into the print will have to be squashed down and flattened.
If you are doing a snow scene, add the snow flocking using your favorite basing glue after the mini is painted. Ensure that you do not glue flocking in the print, except for a few spots where the snow fell back into the print. Remember to add a little extra mound of snow at the front of the print where the foot pulled out.