How to make a display base from a picture frame

For the more experienced modelers among you, this may seem like a bit of an obvious one, but to a beginner starting out on the road to painting glory, this may just give you a boost of confidence, as a nice display base can really make your miniatures stand out (let me stress that It’s no magical solution to fix a bad paint job though, practice is the key as with all skills, it’ll just make it more professional which in turn should give you the boost to keep practicing)

Step 1:

Ok, first of all you need to buy a picture frame. most supermarkets will stock them now, I picked this 6″x 4″ up from Asda,  a pack of two for £2, bargain!

Picture frame

once you have your picture frame, tear it apart! Ok, well not literally, just take it all apart carefully (generally its just a few clips on the reverse that hold everything in place). The glass you’ve removed would make a good paint pallet, but other than that you don’t need it. Neither do you need the creepy picture of the fake family that comes with most picture frames, bin it (or burn it, I’ll leave that up to you).

Step 2:

Next you need to remove the stand from the backing board, it should just pull off. if your picture frame has any other clips attached to the backing board, remove these also. Once you’ve done that, superglue the board into place back in the picture frame and press the clips down to hold everything in place. it should look like this from underneath.

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And when you turn it over….congratulations, you now have a picture frame you cannot use.

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Leave this to dry for a while and if needed run some superglue around the clips on the back to give it a bit of extra strength.

Step 3:

Now comes the fun bit! Mask off the front of the frame like so.

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Next you need some multi purpose filler (such as poly filler, but I use the cheap stuff without any issues) and fill in the middle of the frame with it. How you fill it is up to you (rough, smooth, ultra bumpy etc), it does depend on what model you’re putting onto the base. As I’m going to put a Dark Elf Cauldron of Blood on this base, I need it to be quite flat as the model is large war machine and I didn’t want to distract viewers from the model itself (Remember, the base is supposed to compliment the model not overpower it)

once you’ve applied the filler, remove the masking tape IMMEDIATELY, if you don’t, it will crack and pull filler away from the main part of your base. Leave everything to dry (I left mine overnight just to be sure).

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in the picture above you can see that I have removed the masking tape and then re-applied it once the base is dry, leaving a small gap between the edge of the filler and the base, the gap is there just so the sand and pva covers the edges of filler.

Step 4:

Next just glue your chosen decoration to the base (you can even press things into the filler whilst its drying, I didn’t, but it is an option) and once the glue has dried on your details, chuck a ton of pva glue over the base, (there’s no need to be careful as the masking tape protects the edges), and while the pva is still wet, smother it in a thick layer of sand and GENTLY press down, being careful not to leave hand prints in the sand (use a wad of tissue or similar to prevent this).

Shake off all the sand back into your pot and you should be left with something like this.

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Now, you need to very gently pull off the masking tape before the glue has a chance to dry, pva glue forms a skin very quickly and if it does, pulling off the tape can pull off all the sand in a weird gooey sheet.

If you got this bit right, here’s what you should have now.

7Even taking off the tape immediately, you can see that the pva pulled a bit and deformed the edges slightly. to remedy this, just take a cocktail stick and push the edges back into place. if you’re left with a few bits of pva showing, sprinkle with a bit of sand, once you’ve tipped off the excess, this should be your result (the colour difference here is due to me using two different grades of sand, one coarse and one slightly finer to add some variation.

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And that’s it! all that’s left is to paint it, which I shall cover in another tutorial later in the week.

Here’s a money shot to give you a point of reference as to how I’m using the base.

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