Thursday, 27 February 2014

Tutorial; Cheap, easy snow for Warhammer bases

This Blog should be called the 'thrifty gamer', but I expect that's taken so instead I figured I'd try and bestow some of my cheapness to others instead. And I do mean that, cheapness.

Theres a significant difference between cutting costs, and going cheap. Cost cutting to me will mean sacrificing premium purchases until necessary. Cheap means substitutes! This means Ebay'd miniatures instead of full-price ones, proxies instead of bespoke, and cooking materials instead of terrain materials.

Ideally in all of this, you won't notice too much of a difference, and your tabletop opponents aren't likely to either, in fact more people comment on the good look of the snow, and then are pleasantly surprised by its cost.

So lets get started, first up, an example of what this effect results in.

Good for troops; Crisp snow, not tinted with blue or with reflective particles, its hardwearing on bases and doesn't flake or chip or turn to dust easily.

You can contour the snow to be bumpy;


It can be changed to whichever depth you like;

It can be applied to the clothing of camo units with ease.

Can have stuff easily embedded for realism

Good for terrain; the pure whiteness can also really solidify the building and makes the base feel more solid and rounded, it can seal cracks and cover up blemishes that you might have missed. Good for retroactive correction.

Can be 'sloshed on' rather liberally to large surface areas



Good for vehicles, specifically around tracks (one of the main reasons that I picked snow was to be bedded into the tracks of vehicles and around their mudguards. Its actually easier to apply to a vehicle than it is to apply to a squad of guys.

(As I've said before, other options might be preferable for other people, the one that swayed me to this method was the GW Snow basing kit. Its a fair start, it can work nicely in very small doses but it does have one fatal flaw. Flock strands. I mean the actual look of the individual flakes of flock when they adhere by themselves. They don't look like snow to me. See example below;)

You can see where the flakes have fallen over the treads of the tyres and it looks messy compared to the above.

Good for covering up mistakes/poor construction;

These Ebay Leman Russ's had been assembled in a Destroyer-esque sort of way, with the hull's sporting a battlecannon and a heavy amount of glue! This was the poor plasticard substitute that I cobbled together and as you can see, with a little artistic license you can see the large panel gaps have sort of disappeared.

So to the process.

All you need is Bicarbonate of soda, PVA glue, a little water and an old(ish) brush.

Bicarb; Bicarbonate of soda is different to Baking powder, I have seen people indicate the two products are the same thing. I haven't used Baking powder before, and since all my experience is with Bicarbonate of Soda, (which hasn't yellowed in the year and a half of use) I'd advise not mixing the two. 

Bicarb is about £0.75 from large supermarkets and the own brand stuff is better than the Dr Oetker products for this, as the grain size of the latter is much larger and doesn't go on as smoothly. This is what you want;

Then I use the cheapest by bulk brand of PVA that I can get (Industrial PVA can be more expensive than child-specific PVA, with little or no difference to be obvious), I went for this 

Squeeze a load of glue into a pot, add the Bicarbonate. This should result in a thickish mix, which will clump and bunch rather than mixing nicely, add a spoonful or so of water to the mix to make it smoother, 

Manly cup of course...
 This should be the result, a consistency close to toothpaste.

  1. If its runny, add more Bicarbonate of soda.
  2. If its thick and clumpy, add a touch more water.
  3. If its dusty and dry, add more PVA.

Then just slap it on, use your old brush and poke and prod it onto the base, its fairly forgiving when moving it about so you can get away with bunching it up. Once on the base you'll invariably have some overspill onto the black bases (see below). For this, allow the mixture to dry slightly, and then simply run a wet finger around the edge to tidy it up.

For vehicle tracks, again I use a finger, grab a blob of the mixture on your finger and run it across the tracks. The raised areas that would normally be in contact with the ground will then be clear of snow, so need to be relatively clear of snow as seen here.

Otherwise on vehicles, I get the hull at the front, and where the snow would collect at the bottom of doors and flat areas at the top of the tank.

Another good tip for this is to either make less snow mixture than you need (as it will go further than you think) and wait for the next time you complete some bases.

 Alternatively, I slap some on terrain pieces to make everything a little deeper, and save on wastage.

Hope this is helpful.

Part 2 of this is here:

If you liked this check out this too, save you more money! 

=================3 Year EDIT================ 
To confirm, these have also not yellowed with age, as evidenced by these photos!


  1. I'm looking forward to trying this out, I've had so many problems with the GW stuff with different quantities of PVA that none of the bases look uniform. Can you apply this over black and it wont show through? I plan to use a deep covering.

    1. You can definitely. Not one of my bases is pre painted or pre-treated, straight onto slotta.

  2. Very nice snow effect. I want to try it but i have a question first. Does the snow wear off with time/by (constant) touching? Do i have to "protect" it after applying it (e.g. with some Spray)? I hope you understand what I want to say because my english is not that good.^^

    1. Firstly, great English, good job :)
      Secondly, I haven't protected any of mine and I'm pretty bad at transporting these guys without padding and none of the stuff has broken off. You need to add enough PVA to make it solid so I would suggest testing it out on a bit of household plastic or old base to see how you like it.
      A friend sprays his and the effect doesn't change, whilst also remaining tough.

    2. Sorry for the late response! What can you spray it with? Mine has dried quite crumbly

    3. I never ignore a thread! So sounds like the original mix didn't have enough PVA in it. You've got 2 options. Either pick the original mix off and try and do it again but thicker, or you can try and add a large amount of PVA to a bit water (like a lot of PVA) and then paint over the original stuff,the big risk there is that if you don't keep the edge of the bases clean (i.e. the black rim) they will look like the snow has run over the edge. Do a tester and see (allow for a long drying time)
      Let me know if the tester works or email me direct?
      Hope it helps

  3. Hi Mark, I love this tutorial and would like to use it as an article in an upcoming edition of the Golden D6 (http://bit/ly/gd601). Please email me at if this is okay. Keep up the great work.

    1. Hey Adam, thanks for your interest but if its ok I'd rather keep it to myself.
      Good luck with the mag though!

  4. Thanks for this post, it's really helpful!

    Handy tip for anyone considering this... don't paint it over anything that isn't colour-fast! I use teabag contents for leaf scatter and painted a load of this over the top without thinking. In the morning the whole area I'd painted had gone brown from the tea!


  5. Hi Mark, I've been using your method of PVA + bicarb + touch of water and even after it dries it still comes off if I touch it. I even tried sealing it in with varnish but it still crumbles off. What am I doing wrong?


    1. Hi Ryan, sorry about that. Sounds like the mix was too Bicarb and water heavy.

      If you take some PVA, water it slightly (you need more glue than water but it shouldnt be gloopy), and reapply over the crumbly bits (do a little tester model first) that should dry pretty rock solid. You will have to clean your rims again as the mix will likely drip over but it should go pretty damn solid after.

      Its a problem I've had once or twice when i've used a little pva, and a little water, then to get the consistency right ive added more water rather that more water and PVA, its better as both.

      Also, if you store this stuff loose with metal miniatures that can bump against it they can knock bits off too.

      Hope that helps, let me know?

  6. Brill thanks Mark I will give it a try and let you know. I think I must have been too heavy on the bicarb then. Thanks again for this insanely cheap method of making snow!

    1. No worries, let me know if the redone batch is any better?

  7. I'm reading from lots of other sources that most yellowing is caused by the PVA, and that biccarbonate of soda specifically should be fine and not yellow.

    The yellowing is allegedly caused by using a PVA that is not PH neutral.

    Have you ever seen any yellowing? How old is the oldest piece you have done with this method? etc?

    Thank you very much for the amazing article, by the way! I've always disliked snow basing; it seemed unrealistic that snow would fall in strange lines and onnly land in occasional clumps. Your method, though, really looks like actual snow with accumulation.


    1. In actual fact, I've sold some of the models that used this process recently.
      So if this topic was posted almost 3 years back.
      If you look at the recently edited section, you'll see yellowing hasn't happened yet!

  8. Great tutorial, really helped me!
    Though snow on one of the bases I did really yellowed. And it did so really fast, in about a month it already looked really yellow and dirty, it was only one of the bases though! One that I did separately from others and I added more water (well, spilled too much into the cup really) to the mix than the ones I did before so maybe there is some connection here. Others haven't yellowed.

    1. Sorry to hear about the yellowage Albert, it really does seem to come down to the product that is used as I'm still yellow free almost 4 years on!

      I'll try and investigate further.

  9. Shame Tesco no longer sell this stuff!

  10. I seem to remember UK Lidl do these as well...I shall update when I next replenish my stock.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. Really nice tutorial, I've been wanting my Tau to have snowy bases, so I've gone out and gotten some stuff. Seems the exact products you mention aren't really available anymore, so hopefully whatever I got won't yellow (though I guess if it does, I can just paint it white...)

    I'll let you know how I get on!