Friday, December 24, 2010

Step-by-Step Guide to Painting and Magnetizing Movement Trays.


After thinking hard about movement trays and stressing about what size trays to make, I finally made some decisions and made up two sets of x5 files and x8 ranks. (Yes, that is 40 bases...) This was based on some good advice and comments, but also because Clanrats just feel good with about 40 in a unit to me right now (although I imagine that will change once I actually get a game - haha!)

In this post, I'll give a quick guide as to how I painted up the base you see to the left, and also how to get it magnetized. Note that here I'm dealing with the GW Modular Movement Tray set, which is untextured, but that the Textured Movement Trays would be a good choice if you don't want to bother with adding texture yourself.

EDIT: Following the launch of the latest Citadel Paint range in 2012, please note that the colours listed below are from the previous range. I hope to have time to rewrite in the future, but for the time being, you can use the conversion chart/ list I made here or use the official Citadel Conversion chart here.

If you are interested only in how I magnetized these bases, you may want to skip halfway down to the section imaginatively entitled "Magnetizing Movement Trays"...

Painting Movement Trays.
1. Cut and glue trays to desired size.
  • The size of tray you make up will depend on your intended play style. As the comments I received mentioned, if you use your units of Clanrats to attack only enemy units that have been weakened by magic or other distance attacks (weapon teams, Plague Catapults etc.) then you may only need units of 5x5. If you want to take advantage of the Horde rules in 8th edition, then you will need a unit at least x10 units wide. This would suit a playstyle where you are using a large unit to "Tar Pit" an enemy unit while you bring in another unit to attack their sides or flanks (The classic "Hammer and Anvil" approach.)...or so I have heard.
2. Add Texture.
  • Brush on PVA glue to the sides of the movement tray and along the top edge.
  • Over a newspaper, sprinkle liberal amounts of modelling sand onto the PVA. (Or, if you have a large ziplock bag full of sand, dip the PVA coated movement tray in the sand.)
  • Leave to dry. (30 mins - 1 hour)
  • Tap the underside of the movement tray repeatedly to dislodge loose sand.
3. Undercoat.
  • Undercoat the whole tray in Chaos Black (I use GW undercoat spray for this.) 
4. Basecoat.
  • Using a large brush, overbrush edges of the tray in an earthy colour. (GW Calthan Brown or equivalent).
5. Drybrushing.
  • Mix up a lighter tone of the basecoat. (e.g. GW Calthan Brown/ Skull White 75/25 mix) and drybrush all edges.
  • Finally, lightly drybrush using a light grey. (Fortress Grey or Codex Grey/ Fortress Grey 75/25 mix)
  • Allow to dry.
6. Flock.
  • Dab on PVA glue along the edge or top of the edge in areas where you want grass to be. Avoid doing this in too regular a pattern.
  • Over a newspaper, liberally sprinkle flock onto areas with PVA glue while it is still wet. (Or, if you have a large ziplock bag, fill that with flock and then dip the movement tray into it.)
  • Repeat until all sides are done. NOTE: I did one side of the movement tray with PVA, then flocked, then PVA on another side etc.
  • Leave to dry.
  • Once dry, tap the underside of the tray to dislodge any flock that is left over onto the newspaper, then collect all the dislodged flock so you can use it again.
7. Optional Details.
  • If you have time, consider strategically adding some clumps of modelling grass, discarded weapons, or other stuff from your bits box. This will add a bit of visual interest and can also nicely match whatever theme you have based your army with. (I think that my base above looks very, very, bland at the moment and could definitely do with some spicing up.)
Here are the trays, with some of my Clanrats...

Magnetizing Movement Trays.
I've never made movement trays before, let along magnetize them, so I am no expert!
A quick search on YouTube will show you lots of videos with good ideas. Below, I'll show you just what worked for me, using the resources that I could find in my local "100 Yen" store in Tokyo. To be honest, these may not be ideal and you may have access to other materials that would work better. (In many videos on the net, people use metal sheets on their movement trays, but I don't have a hardware store near me...)

Even if what I outline below doesn't work exactly for you, I hope it will provide some ideas...

1. Gather Materials.
a.) "Magnet Sheet". Usually comes with x2 sheets in a pack and (praise be!) in 100mm wide sizes (perfect for 20mm bases and units that are 5 models wide.) Make sure the thickness of each sheet is 1-2mm or so. (x1mm is ideal.) You will need at least x2 sheets.
b.) SuperGlue. I use Loctite, just because it comes in dinky little packs of x3 (for 100 Yen!) and seems to stick most things together well.
c.) Pen. Ideally a slim marker that will write on slick, glossy plastic.
d.) A ruler. We're gonna do some measuring!
e.) Scissors.
f.) Double-sided tape. (Not shown here.)

I paid for the magnet sheet (100 yen) and the Double-sided tape (100 yen). The other stuff I had at home. Grand total:
2.41 US Dollars or approx GBP 1.56 (at the time of writing.)

OK, off we go!

2. Check your model bases. 
You can see here that different models from GW can come with different bases. In this case, my Skaven had x2 different styles:

A classic "Slotta Base" (at left, above.) and a hollow base (at left, below.)
Depending on the kind of bases you have, (which I think depends on whether your models are from the Island of Blood boxed set or not) how you measure and do the next step will vary, so it is worth checking this out before you do anything else.

If you don't mind adding 1-2mm to the height of each model, then go ahead and mark out 20mm x 20mm squares as detailed below. However, if you use Slotta Bases and want a slightly recessed magnetic base that is almost flush the base, then cut out 18mm x 18mm squares.

3. Mark Out and Cut magnetic model bases.
If you are using Slotta bases and want to avoid adding height to your model, mark out 18mm x 18mm squares on your magnetic sheet (on the side that has plastic on it, NOT the magnetic side.) These are going to fit just IN the base, so they are recessed. You are going to glue them onto the cross-bars of the Slotta base.

If you have hollow bases, or don't mind adding 1-2mm to the height of each model, mark out your magnetic sheet with exactly 20mm x20mm squares. You are going to glue them onto the edges of the base. This will add 1mm to the height of your models. (Which is why you want magnetic sheet that is thin.) However, 1mm height doesn't really make a difference when on the tabletop.

I don't recommend using 18mm x 18mm squares with hollow bases. This is because:
a.) Once pressed into the base they will be x1-2mm recessed from the bottom of the base. Depending on the strength of the magnetic sheet you use (they are usually quite weak) your models might not end up be firmly magnetized.
b.) It will be harder to glue around the inside of the base and you will waste more glue.
c.) If you press the 18mm x 18mm square into the hollow base, it will be difficult to get the square level, again possibly weakening the magnetic connection.

REMEMBER: Leave enough magnetic sheet to cover the actual movement tray itself. In my example, my tray is 5x8 models, or 100mm x 160mm, so the left half of the sheet above is exactly the right size to fit into the movement tray.

Here are my finished 18x18mm magnetized model bases, ready to be glued. (I used scissors, but a modelling knife would of course do equally as well.)

4. Glue onto model base.
Apply glue to the magnetic base, plastic side up.

How you do this will depend on whether you are using the Slotta bases or flat bases, the key point is that you want the magnetic side facing down.

For Slotta Bases, apply a 10mm wide strip of glue, slightly offset from center. (You'll notice that the plastic cross bars from the slot actually aren't in the center of the base.)

Line up the glue with the cross bars and firmly press into place.

You should now have a magnetic base that is recessed.
 If you are using 20mm x 20mm, then...

Glue around the edges of the base (all 4 sides if you want a really strong connection.)
Quickly take a square and press it into place on the model. Try to be as accurate as you can as this will reduce the need for you to do any trimming later.

Remember, leave the magnetized side facing downward. Before you glue anything, do a dry-run by checking that the side you have facing down does in fact stick to the magnet sheet you are going to put on your movement tray.

Why all this caution? If you are using Loctite or Super Glue it is difficult to change position once done!!

As you can see here, a well cut 20mm x 20mm piece of magnetic sheet should fit well...

...but it will add a x1-2 mm to the bottom of your base.

5. Trimming.
Once you have all the little chaps glued on, check each of them to see if you have any areas of magnetic sheet that need to be trimmed. Even if you are careful it is easy for the magnetic sheet to be either slightly too large or out of place.

Take a craft knife and carefully, (very, very carefully) trim away the excess magnetic sheet. (Remember, the only bloodshed a Skaven commander wants to see is that of his enemies - or his underlings...hehe!)

You need the bases to be trimmed because in a GW movement tray it is going to be quite a tight fit and we want all the models to be able to sit flush next to each other...

6. Preparing the Movement Tray.
Finally, we want to prepare the movement tray with magnetic sheet for the models to stick to. This is the easy bit. The only thing to do is make sure that you have the magnetic sheet cut to the right size...

Add double sided tape in 2 or 3 strips along the magnetic sheet on the plastic side (so that the magnetic side is facing up...)
Of course, if you have glue I'm sure that would be fine too...

Carefully remove the double-sided tape and push the magnetic sheet into place on top of the movement tray, applying firm pressure so that it sticks.

You should end up with this. In my case, I'm not going to go as far as painting over the magnetic sheet. For one thing it will mainly be covered in Clanrats...and another thing is that I don't know what effect that would have on the overall magnetism and strength of the magnetic connection...

7. Finished Product...and Testing!
Voila! I'll let the finished products speak for themselves...

'ere we go, 'ere we go, 'ere we go...

...mission accomplished!

The magnetic sheet actually keeps the rats firmly in place, to the point where they won't fall off even when tipped like this. Just in case you were wondering, they models can still easily be plucked off the movement tray by hand. (Important as you are going to have to remove them some time!)
As I say, I'm sure this could be done an easier and faster way, and there are probably hundreds of different materials and methods that could be used...but this was what I did using the materials in my local (small) 100 Yen shop. 

I'm quite happy with the results, but please let me know if you have any questions!



  1. Squeek, you pulled it off again! once more, you've given us a great report that help us fellow comrades in arms developing and improving our armies :) hatruly love your method, now only hoping that my €1 store has the same kind of materials in store. Thanks a lot, and those pictures you've made make it for us a lot easier. To give you a small update to how my army is doing.. I mentioned that i'm slow as heck painting my army, but now started with another batch of around 20 clanrats 4 days ago, and they are already around 75% finished. (a great improvement to my last 20 rats, which took me over 60 hours). (Banzai).

    Love your entry, thanks a lot!


  2. Thanks Shendar - and Season's Greetings!

    Your store might not have these same materials - but don't worry! I initially got really depressed having watched all the YouTube tutorials that used metal sheet and other things that I just can't easily get hold of where I live, but being in the 100 Yen shop I suddenly had some inspiration from looking at what they DID have and decided to give it a go.
    The best thing is that even a total failure is going to cost you - at most - less than 5 dollars in materials.

    And BTW, congrats on those Clanrats!

  3. Great tutorial. I've been looking for a way to securely base my WAB Late Roman collection, and may well give this a try.

    Great blog, BTW. (I love the .gif of the rodent working out at the top of the page!)

  4. @Robert and John - thanks for the comments!

    One thing to bear in mind (and which I will update the article with) is that have I found since that as I am using two magnets against each other, one or two of the models don't naturally want to line up due to the magnetism. (E.g. one of the models wants to "stick" 5mm back from where I want it too!)
    This isn't a big problem in this case as the magnetic sheet is weak and I CAN move them into place. However it MAY BE one potential pitfall to this method that probably wouldn't occur if I was using metal sheet as the base, rather than another magnetic sheet.
    If you are a perfectionist, this may be a problem. If you have the mindset of a Warlock Engineer in training however (like me) this is an acceptable issue considering the overall low cost of this method and the fact that the other 39 models in the unit are fine!


  5. If anyone's interested I've used a similar method for some time and found that 3x2mm magnets on a metal sheet work rather well and are readily available in industrial quantities on the net. The advantage is you cut the metal sheet ONCE to fit the tray and a single magnet for 99% of models and two for topheavy/metal models is the most you need. That's if you simply can't track down magnetic sheets like the ones used here. Another alternative is magnetic tape which EVERY larger toolstore will have if you want to buy local. Works a treat as well.
    Lastly, I make my trays out of cardboard and sprue - for an example see

    Keep up the great work to you all from a brand new Ratman player in Australia
    Happy New Year

  6. @Comrade S. Thanks for taking the time to post that advice - and welcome to the Skaven...
    may many victories be yours yes, yes!

  7. Hey there, really helpful guide :)
    As stated in my other comment, I'm just starting with WHFB, so I'm really thankful for guides like this one. However, one question - instead of using magnets on both sides, have you considered using a small coin for the base? Something like a 1-Cent coin or something of similar size should work.
    Cheers, Simon :)

    1. Hi Simon - thanks for the comments! I haven't tried using a coin but I am going to be working on some more units soon and will give it a go. It will be interesting to see if they work with the magnetic sheet. I will let you know!


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