Tutorial: Mushrooms

Mushrooms as Base Details
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o you've laboured over a figure for hours on end, only to sprinkle some sand on the base and call it done. Beyond any doubt, a poorly executed base can detract from an otherwise beautiful piece of miniature art. Bases need a little visual interest -- otherwise they're just dull little circles of plastic with dirt glued on.

Luckily, it's extremely easy to add basic yet interesting elements to a base. One of the simpliest is adding small speciality items like mushrooms and cat-tails. These are very easy to create.

We'll start with basic mushrooms and move on to the more advanced mushrooms later.

The key to good mushrooms is finding a good pin with the right type of head. Once again luck is with us, as your typical pin is very common -- such as used in new shirts or in sewing -- and makes a perfectly scaled mushroom with just a little bit of work.

Step One: Cutting Pins
I keep a small tin filled with pins handy for various purposes. Not only do they work wonderfully for faux mushrooms, but they also serve to hold small pieces in place, make excellent supports for pinning larger models (instead of paper clips, which can be too bulky), and are handy for very fine detail work when sculpting with green stuff.
Be VERY CAREFUL when clipping pins especially -- since they're sturdier than copper wire, they can easily fly out of the clippers as you snip. There are a lot of safe ways to combat the "flying pin" problem. For example, hold them inside the trash bin when clipping so the unneeded portion falls into the trash, or stick the pointy end into a piece of foam when clipping. Wear eye protection when clipping. While it may sound awful to worry about stepping on a random pin lost in the carpet, it'll be a lot worse to have to deal with one into the eye.

In general, you only want the top 25-20% of the pin, including the head. Of course, you can make it longer or shorter depending on your tastes. The only thing required is that the mushroom have a long enough stem to glue into a hole in the base and still rise slightly above whatever other ground or terrain you use to cover your base.
Step Two:  Drill Mushroom Holes!
This step is quite clear: using a pin vice, I drilled two holes into the plastic base where the mushrooms would be inserted. Like all elements of visual interest, placement is important to the overall feel but ultimately up to individual taste. Just remember that mushrooms in real life tend to cluster together. You could even go crazy and put a miniature in the middle of a mushroom ring.
A single mushroom can make a huge impact on a base, but they tend to grow in clusters in real life. Pieces of foam (whether from a blister pack or in the form of styrofoam) are extremely handy when dealing with multiple pins. For starters, you can stockpile mushroom pieces by shoving them into the foam as a mushroom mini-storage. They're also great for letting green stuff dry if you decide to make more advanced mushrooms.

For this tutorial, I'm only putting in two basic mushrooms. This is a small figure -- one of the Reaper Halloween familiars -- so I don't want to overwhelm the miniature with too much visual interest on the base. Tweezers will prove perfect to place the tiny mushrooms into their appropriate holes.

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