My blog about my wargaming activities. I collect a lot of 15mm miniatures for the American War of Independence and so collect a lot of rules for this period. I started miniatures with Napoleonics, so I have a number of armies in 6mm and 15mm figures for skirmishing. I have15mm WW II figures that I use for Flames of War, Memoir '44, and someday, Poor Bloody Infantry. Finally there is my on-again, off-again relationship with paper soldiers that I sometimes write about.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Using the Deco Art Ultra Fine Writer Tip for 6mm Grass

Time for something a little different. Recently I have been trying to get the troops that I have painted into a usable shape for the tabletop. They are either not based or they are based in some way that I cannot easily use them for the rules that I have decided upon. The biggest challenge I have is with 6mm figures, as I have never been completely happy with my previously basing methods.

Well, that is not completely true. When I use larger bases, I am pretty happy with the results, but not with smaller bases. As it happens, I am now going with 1" by 1/2" bases for infantry. (I refuse to use bases that are a multiple of 20mm anymore, but that is another story.)

Basing 6mm troops seems to always have the following issues:

  • Most basing material (gravel, rocks, volcanic sand, grass tufts, clump foliage, twigs, foam-based flock, etc.) is too large and thus way out of scale of the figure.
  • Given the close spacing of the figures, once they are fixed to the base it is very hard to get basing material between the figures while also not getting the material on the figure itself.
  • Where figures' bases are not touching, and gaps appear, it is hard to get glue into those gaps in order to fill them, and then to get paint onto the filler without also getting it on the figure.
My basing method for 6mm is:

  1. Make sure the bases to the figures are painted either an earth color or a grass color. This usually means touching up cavalry and skirmisher infantry because they were painted on strips and have to be cut off of them before mounting.
  2. Tack the figures to the base, minimizing the gap between the figures for infantry. Unfortunately, due to the number of figures that I use for cavalry bases it is too few to put them close together; they gaps on the sides would be too great. (I probably need to change that at some point.)
  3. Secure the figures by adding another layer of glue. I have it overlap more of the figure's base.
  4. Add another layer of glue and sprinkle a mix of sand, very fine gravel, and volcanic sand on top, knocking off the excess.
From this point is where I generally have issues. In the past I have tried adding spots of glue onto the base and sprinkling ground foam flocking or static grass, but the closeness of the figures has made it hard to reach the inner areas of the bases without accidentally flocking the figures.

The thing I have always searched for was a very small nozzle that I could use to place glue in these tight areas. Well, recent experiments with "Writers" – acrylic dimensional paint – has led me to the DecoArt Ultra-Fine Writer Tip, which allows you to "write" fine lines with acrylic paint.

As you can see in the photo below, the writer tip is very much like a drafting pen, only without the wire nib in the center. This tip is attached to a screw top, allowing you to screw it onto paint bottles.

In order to ensure the tip does not get clogged, the cap has a tiny wire that inserts into the top, pushing paint material out.

It screws on the top, acting as a cap. I am not sure if you are expected to keep the cap on permanently or to remove and wash it each time. But given that I put my grass green paint into a one ounce bottle and that is what I will use the tip for, I am not taking it off.

So rather than following the original plan – to use this time to apply glue to a tight area – I decided to give it a try for its intended purpose: to "write" with acrylic paint. I decided to try and draw on patches of grass onto the sand base and see what it looked like.

The above is an extreme close-up of a stand of 6mm infantry (Belgian infantry 1815, to be exact). Notice how the paint lays down pretty precisely in lines? I also like the effect that the paint has when soaking into the sand, giving the grass a "clumpy" look.

Granted, you cannot see this when holding the figure at arm's length, but you can tell that it no longer looks like the figures are standing out in the Arizona landscape. Once I paint the sides of the stand, I think it will look decent. I think I am also going to go back to the craft store, buy a few more, and use different colors for each writer, allowing me to have multiple colors for the foliage.

I do have very small grass tufts (for 6mm figures) and I do find that adding one to three tufts per stand makes it look pretty nice. Also, I used the writer to draw little lines from the top of the base down a bit, making it look like grass growing on top of earth. So I think I may have found a method I am happy with.

Arm's Length View of Stand
Arm's Length View of Painted (left) and Original (right)
Close View of Painted (left) and Original (right)
I think both views are enhanced by adding the green color and tufts. I am playing around with thickening the craft paint I use as a basing color to see if I can get it closer to the consistency of toothpaste, without excessively clogging the tip. This might also make for some interesting effects.

By the way, my painter for 6mm is pretty good, isn't he? 😊


  1. That is a very useful tip. I get around the issues with 6mm basing as I have acquired all my 6mm forces painted and pre-based :-) Although I have just remembered I have a bunch of 6mm ancients half-painted and unbased I got for a bargain, so I will keep your tip in mind.

    And I did admire the paintjob from the first picture onwards - my first reaction was "look at that detail!"

  2. That contraption is a new one to me. Oh, your 6s look splendid!

  3. Hi there! I think the grass came out nicely! Which bottles are you using for fine tip writer? The Art Deco bottles from the store didn't fit.

    1. It took awhile to find bottles that would fit, and they were ones I had lying around, so I have no brand names. I found some other tips in the plastic models section of Hobby Lobby, same price, only they include both bottle and tip.


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Huachuca City, Arizona, United States
I am 58 yrs old now. I bought a house in Huachuca City, AZ working for a software company for the last three years. To while away the hours I like to wargame -- with wooden, lead, and sometimes paper miniatures -- usually solo. Although I am a 'rules junkie', I almost always use rules of my own (I like to build upon others' ideas, but it seems like there is always something "missing" or "wrong").