Posted on Leave a comment

How To Make Magic Mushrooms

I don’t know how about you, but I prefer to make everything on my base by myself. Well, within reason, of course. I’m not going to make my own plinths. And sometimes, I use pre-made parts, like wooden planks or cobblestones. But whenever it is reasonable, I do my own stuff. Or repurpose things that otherwise would go to the bin.

This article is a remastered repost from my old blog twistedbrushes.

This base for Little Alice was done basically from scratch. The only exceptions are the wooden planks I used as the door and the cobblestones creating the pathway. The rest is either natural materials or sculpted. It’s full of issues and imperfections. But it’s still very special to me. It was my first elaborate base, and I did it after more or less a 10-year break in painting. And it (with the miniature, of course) gave me my first Gold at Euro Militaire in 2011. Yep, it’s that old.

Alice is a beautiful girl from Smog1888. It’s a range of 1/35 models sculpted to represent Steampunk adventurers and cultists. Unfortunately, the company that released the miniatures (Smart Max) is long gone. You can sometimes find their miniatures on eBay or other second-hand selling sites.
She is one of the more benign-looking miniatures from this range. Clearly based on Alice in Wonderland with the pocket watch and giant rabbit in her arms. Did I mention the rabbit is wearing glasses? It is.

It won’t be a step-by-step tutorial on how to build the base like I did for Alice. I don’t have enough documentation to do that. I will focus only on how I made my mushrooms. I don’t have enough photos for every stage of the process, I’m afraid. But I’ll explain and show you all I can; you’ll see they’re pretty simple things to make.

Here are a few reference photos I used to understand how I want my mushrooms to look. As you can see, they are all tall with long, thin stems. Combined with the rest of the base, they should give me the eerie feeling I wanted to achieve.

  • Putty – it doesn’t matter which one. Pick whatever you’re most comfortable working with – I used Green Stuff mixed with Milliput; you can use the baked one if you’d rather work with this kind.
  • Thin wire – to create stems. It has to be sturdy enough to keep shape before the putty hardens.
  • Sculpting tool that can create thin lines – whatever you are comfortable with. I used a thick sewing needle if I remember correctly. Only because I had it at hand.
  • A primer that goes chalky and creates a nice texture – as you can see in the photos – I used Vallejo grey in a can.
  • Texturing paste if you’re lucky and don’t have bad primers.

I took a small amount of putty and formed more or less a ball. I wasn’t looking for a perfect shape; I just wanted to get the putty slightly warmed up and formed in roughly a round shape. Then, I flattened it into a disc, making it thicker in the middle, with significantly thinner edges. Then, I bent the sides downwards to create the shape I wanted. At this point, I didn’t worry about leaving any fingerprints. I was going to cover it all with a texture later, anyway.

The bottom line of the cap can be imperfect, too; it’s even better if it’s uneven. Many mushrooms, especially older ones, are highly asymmetrical and irregular.
Depending on the size of a cap I was creating, I formed them on my finger, the end of a brush or a pen. You can choose anything that works for you size-wise. I used chemically curing putty, so I had to give it some time to harden. If you use putty that requires baking to cure, follow the instructions for your kind of putty.

Here is a picture of ready caps. They are already covered with primer, but I couldn’t find any without it in my ‘treasure chest’. As you can see, shapes are slightly irregular and differ a lot.

If I made the mushrooms now, I would add more irregularities and damage to the cups. I’d focus on the bigger ones, which could have weathered more. If you google photos of older mushrooms, they often have broken caps. It’s either a clean break line going to the middle or more organic damage, like some bugs munched on the shroom.

When the caps were hard and ready for further work, I took a bit of fresh putty and placed it inside the cap to create gills. Because I wanted the gills to be quite sharp, I used Milliput without the Green Stuff. I pressed the putty to stick nicely to the sides of the cap. I made sure the putty didn’t fill the cups completely. I didn’t reach the edges, making sure they were thin.

While the putty was fresh, I created a hole in the middle for a stalk. Then, with the sculpting tool of choice, I made some gills. I dragged the tool from the middle to the sides, creating a slight indentation. I tried to be somewhat symmetrical with it. It’s good to go around in intervals and add more and more lines between the existing ones. Once again, it doesn’t need to be perfect.

All the mushrooms I found in this particular style that I wanted had gills under the cups. If you wish, you can go for other options: Pores, teeth or ridges. Whatever works for the project you are doing.

I wanted my mushrooms to be wispy and fragile, opposite to the stocky ones sitting low on a thick leg. So I took long pieces of wire and wrapped them in putty. I made steams pretty smooth and even, with only slight thinning closer to the cup. I left the top and bottom few millimetres of the wire clear to help fix them to the ground and the cup.
Before the putty hardened, I formed the steams to the right shape.

As I said, I made the steams thin and simple, without any extra elements. You can add the veil to the top of the steam to give more visual interest, but it’s optional. With some practice, you can make them thin, wispy and irregular.
Once the putty on the stems was cured and ready for further work, I attached the caps with some putty. Once again, I didn’t worry about fingerprints or other imperfections. I wanted the mushrooms to look natural and organic.

For this part, I applied a thick layer of primer that I knew would go chalky on me. I simply sprayed on the cups from the top. I didn’t shake it too well to make sure it would give them the texture I wanted. Unfortunately, it wasn’t even a necessary precaution. This sucker just never sprays smoothly. If you don’t have primer like this, you can use any delicate texturing paste. Or simply plaster of Paris mixed with PVA glue. Experiment with the consistency that works best.
To be fair, working with a texturing product can give even better results than using a faulty primer. You can localise the texture to the places you want to have it. For example, you may like to keep the middle of the cup smooth. Then, you can introduce texture gradually, making it more visible on the sides. Or the other way around, textured middle with smooth edges.
You might also prefer to keep your mushrooms smooth altogether. In this case, ensure you’re not leaving fingerprints while sculpting. Or even if there are fingerprints or other marks on the shrooms, sand them down.
I primed the bottom and stems with a different primer that gives a smooth finish.

It all depends on the scene you are building and your chosen colour scheme. I wanted my scene to be subdued, not very colourful and trippy. So I went for very mute colours.
I first painted the whole mushrooms with ‘Jack bone (P3 064). Then, I gave them a thin sepia wash, skipping the cups’ middle. Then, I applied layers of washes to the cups, making them progressively darker the closer they got to the edges. I mixed Sepia with Agrax Earthshade to keep the tone of the mushrooms on the colder side. At the end, I added a few brush strokes with ‘Jack Bone going from the centre and slowly fading closer to the edge.
This painting scheme suits the whole scene. But honestly, the options here are limited only by your imagination. Mushrooms are truly fantastic in their colours and textures.

And that’s it! Creating these mushrooms is pretty straightforward. You can use them to add an eerie or mystical feel to your miniature bases or dioramas. So why not give it a try? Who knows, maybe you’ll discover a new passion for sculpting and creating unique bases.

Leave a Reply