Hobby, Tutorials

Vanguard Hobby – Basing Models

So, for my first post to the Bristol Vanguard blog, I’m writing a hobby article! I’ve had a few queries from people as to how I’ve done my bases recently, so I thought I’d do a step-by-step guide. I’ve based these on some other nice bases I’ve seen around and other DIY articles online that I’ve probably forgotten about. If you think I’ve based this on one of yours, let me know and I’ll make sure you’re credited!

Many years ago, when I worked for Games Workshop in retail, painting armies for the shop, I was told, “Bases and faces make a model”. I’m not covering faces here, but good looking, unified bases really make the most a model or army. I’ve seen plenty of armies that have been painted nicely, but unbased look distinctly underwhelming. Equally, I’ve seen some averagely painted models that have been based well, make a great looking army. Even if you don’t consider yourself an expert painter, you can really make the most of your army by basing it nicely. This guide uses the ‘cork tile method’ – here’s a finished example below:


Obviously this is a Space Marine, but this guide works well for Age of Sigmar or any other historical or fantasy game.

For this guide you will need:

Bases! I’ve got a mix of 25mm, 32mmm and 40mm round here, but this guide works for any size.

Cork Tile. I used this from Homebase, but there are plenty of other brands around.


Sand. I use builder’s sand as it’s cheap and has a variety of grain sizes, but anything will do.

Static grass

Paints (I’ve used Mechanicus Standard Grey, Nuln Oil, Screaming Skull, Khemri Brown – an old Foundation Paint, but feel free to use whichever you prefer)

Black spray undercoat

Any other decoration you need. I’m using Citadel’s excellent skull set here.

PVA glue and super glue

Craft knife and scissors

Circle template or compass

I find it saves a bit of time doing these in batches. I’m doing a few different ones here, but enough for a squad of 10 would be ideal. Anyway – on with the DIY!

1)      Draw some circles using a compass or template on your cork tile. I find a 34mm circle is ideal for the top of a 40mm base, a 27mm circle is ideal for the top of a 32mm base and 18mm is ideal for the top of a 20mm base. For larger than 40mm, I wouldn’t bother drawing a circle – just break up the cork to rough sizes. Don’t worry about being neat or getting complete circles – these will all get cut up later!


2)      Cut the circles out with some scissors. Again, don’t worry about being neat!


3)      These all look a bit neat and regular. To make them look a bit more natural, simply break off the edges using your fingers. Some can be split into multiple parts to create a pleasing set of rocks for your base. At this point, it’s worth noting that if your tile is anything like mine, the two sides have different textures. One is smooth and glossy, the other is more matt. I like to use the matt side exposed and glue the glossy side. Bearing this in mind, make sure that when you’ve got some cork rocks crumbled, you make sure that there’s space to glue your model’s feet! Also, I like to keep the cork bits left over as they make good rubble and can be used later.


4)      Once you’ve got your cork rocks crumbled, put a bit of super glue on the base and stick down the glossy side of the cork, leaving the matt side on top.



5)      To make it look a bit more natural, you can use a sharp knife to cut some holes and depressions in the cork


6)      Next up you can stick some more decoration on. I’ve used some skulls from the Citadel Skull set. Note that if you’re going to glue anything onto the cork itself, put a small amount of glue onto the item to be mounted, NOT the cork. Super glue will ‘bleed’ around the surface of the cork if you put a blob there, changing the texture so that it looks different after painting.


7)      Once the super glue is dry (this is important!), you can brush some PVA glue onto the remainder of the base, taking care not to get any glue on those lovely skulls. If the super glue is still wet when you do this, you’ll stick your bristles together and ruin your brush. Please don’t ask me how I know this.


8)      Whilst the PVA glue is still wet, dip it into your sand and shake off the excess back into your tub.



9)      When the PVA glue is dry, give them a nice coat of black spray undercoat. I’ve used Halfords Matt Black, but there are plenty of others around.


10)   Once the undercoat is dry, paint the cork rocks with Mechanicus Standard Grey. Two thin coats (Copyright Duncan Rhodes) is best.


11)   Once the Grey is dry, add a liberal coat of Nuln Oil wash to shade the rocks.


12)   Once *that* is dry, drybrush the rocks with Mechanicus Standard Grey to restore the colour and start some highlighting.


13)   Then add a lighter drybrush on to the rocks with Screaming Skull.


14)   Tidy up the gravelled area with a coat of Dryad Bark (apologies – I appear to be missing the image for this).

15)   Then Drybrush the gravelled area with a brown. I’ve used the old Foundation Paint Khemri Brown, but I think Baneblade Brown is the closed current equivalent. I’ve also painted the edge of the base at this stage. I’ve not been too neat on the edge as I’ll be going back to this later.


16)   Add a lighter drybrush of Screaming Skull to the gravelled areas. It’s difficult to do this without getting some on the edges of the base, so tidy this up afterwards. This also acts as your second thin coat!


17)   I’ve now painted the details on the base – in this case the skulls. The painting is now finished – but we still need to attach our model!


18)   In order to attach the model with a decent amount of strength, I drill two holes in the feet of the model and glue some paperclip into them. Clip off the paperclip so that the protruding length is shorter than the thickness of the cork. Add some glue to the bottom of the feet and the paper clip, and the firmly press the paperclip into your cork base. The paperclips will pin the model to the base, adding additional strength.



19)   Finally add some static grass (I like tufts!) and your model is complete! Here are three Imperial Fists Primaris Marines I’ve done in this style.


Adding some nicely finished bases really adds to models, especially when done over a squad or army – let us know how you get on in the comments below or on our Facebook page!

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