You want your models to look their best. I know you do.
What if I were to tell you a super simple, cheap, and easy way to make your models look elegant, classy, and display better?
Two words: Display Stands.
The idea is really simple. Just as a picture frame makes a painting or photo into a work of art, a display stand showcases your models in the best possible way. They "frame" your models, elevates them, and gives them the elbow room they need to shine.
People in the miniature painting world have known this for some time now. Since the mid-nineties or so, most of the top entries in any top-tier painting competition have been entered atop some sort of display stand. Now, there are many different itinerations of a good display stand, from the diorama base inset into some sort of picture frame (sample pic below is Jarrett Lee's Bronze Demon winning entry from Canada 2003):
To the simple solution of setting some models down on a wooden plaque of some sort (pic of Vincent Hudon's Gold 40K squad at 2008 Canadian Golden Demons):
And one of my favourites, setting a diorama inside a vertically hung picture frame (unknown artist):
Now, for something really simple but effective, I'm having a lot of success with these cheap wooden (pine?) plaques / stands I found at Michael's (a large chain of arts and crafts retail stores):
Now, they're less than $2 each, so I wasn't expecting high quality. They're made from some sort of fairly rough, soft, and somewhat porous pine (I think). However, with a little bit of work, I thought I could make it work.
A close-up of the roughest part of the stand:
Everything other part looked marginally better. It did look much better after some sanding though. After that, I went outside and hit it with GW Black Primer:
Now, it didn't look perfect by any means. There were still some rough patches, even after sanding and painting:
But I figured that I would just try and face the roughest side away from the viewer in my display case. I would attempt to do the same if I was going to use this in a painting competition.
Now, most of the time I simply leave these as is at this stage, but just out of curiousity, I did try departing from the matt finish by hitting one with a gloss coat finish:
Not bad. It seemed to make it look richer, somehow. However, the matt finish seemed to look better in person, in my opinion. That's just one person's opinion though.
They did come in all sizes and shapes, which is great if you've got a certain project in mind (the Sisters of Battle squad is a work in progress, while the Inquisition Rhino has been entered in two local painting competitions on this very base, and won both times):
And then there's this neat display case I found at a local hobby store (Magic Box Hobbies in the Kerrisdale area):
The great thing about these cases is that they keep the dust out, as well as the cats. Now, if you keep the bubble wrap and cardboard box that it came packaged in, it doubles as a carrying case for travel. I simply stuck the diorama to the bottom of this case with some double sided tape (which worked fine, although glue might have been more secure), put the clear lid back on, re-wrapped it in bubble wrap, then slid it back into it's original box. Then it was safe and sound in my suitcase during the long car ride and ferry trip to my destination. They also come in all kinds of configurations... long and short, small and short, tall and skinny, etc etc etc. They are a bit more expensive (this one was just under $20), but suitable for display in all sorts of places (just don't enter one in a competition... the judges don't like to have to open and close these to get a closer look, and they take up too much space in a crowded display).
And believe it or not, I found something similar in a dollar store (it was actually $2 plus tax):
Continuing the theme of cheap and easy (no jokes about anyone's mom, please), the following stand started off as a spray can cap, primered black and painted with meaningless freehand, and then topped with a small mirror:
Now, if cheap isn't your thing (and I wouldn't advise going cheap if you're entering the Crystal Brush or Golden Demon competitions), then there are a number of excellent commercially produced display stands made especially for miniatures. I own a really really nice resin one made by Secret Weapon Miniatures (Jeff Wilson's company, Dragon Forge, also offers resin stands), and it's perfect in every way. It needed only a tiny amount of cleaning, some primer, and sealant, and it was a flawless in every way... I can't say the same about the cheap pine pieces I showed you above. Other companies often refer to theirs as "plinths" or "sockets"... but those are usually geared towards displaying a single small model. I've seen some offered online, made in all sorts of exotic woods, stained and laquered as nicely as any fancy picture frame hung in a museum. Coolminiornot has a nice offering of those.
But if we're talking about some local painting competition, on the bookcase, atop the fireplace mantle, or just for the inside of your IKEA glass display case, the cheap display stands I've described above may just do the trick.