• An Easy Guide to Advanced Basing Techniques

    I’ll start with showing a cluster of completed bases so you can see some examples of what can be done. Of course your imagination is the limit, but these show a few styles I typically create. These bases do not take very long to complete, as the drying time of the paint is the longest process, and they can be done in batches just like doing an entire squad of Marines a the same time.

    This tutorial is going to show two examples of base styles. One will be a “Lava” base and one will be a grassy outcropping of rocks. Steps 1-7 will be identical and is used to create all bases of this style. Then the tutorial will focus on each separately as each one under goes it’s final stages towards completion. This includes pinning the models to the bases so they do not fall off, come unglued, or break the basing materials.


    You do not need a lot of materials for this, and I’ll list them in a semblance of importance.

    Cork is the primary material you’ll be working with. You can get Cork Tiles or Cork Coasters. I prefer getting the tiles from a hobby store as they are coarser and cheaper as you buy those in (3) 1 ft tiles per package, which is enough to do many, many, bases.
    Tweezers of some type are required to pick and tear apart the cork to create crags and craters and a more natural feel.

    Glue: you’ll need PVA or Superglue (locktight etc.) or BOTH. The PVA can be used to glue the cork, but you’ll need the superglue to glue the pins into place when you base the model.

    Paint of your choice. I use Black and a Light Grey and blend them into eachother to get the desired shades as you can see in steps 4-7. Most stone is grey in appearance (not brown), but you can create and shade you desire. Notice the Goblins are based on a much lighter stone than most of my others, that is because my wife likes her rocks lighter and less “craggy” in appearance.

    Flock: Layering is often good when using flock on these bases, but don’t overdo it. I like to put a fine layer of sand in crevices and then put the grass over it. For Spring time bases (my favorite) I then add the yellow/red/orange flowers on top of the grass. The layered effect adds depth and makes it more realistic. You can also then add in tall grass and sticks or twigs or clump foliage to add even more dynamics to the bases.

    For pinning the model to the base to ensure it does not come off you’ll need a 3/64” (1-2mm) drill bit and a paper clip. (and something to snip the paperclip) 1/16” is WAY to big for this process. I strongly advice against trying that size bit.


    Step 1: Simply tear off a piece of cork about the size of your base. It does not have to be “perfect” just close to the size of the base or the amount of base you desire covered with rock. See the Jain Zar Base for an example of a partially covered base for dramatic affect. Then glue the cork onto the base with either PVA or Superglue. Both work fine.

    Step 2: Use the tweezers or some other utensil to tear little pieces of cork out of the piece of cork you have glued onto you base. If your multi-layering make sure you break up and straight edges and tweeze the cracks so that they’re nearly seamless.

    Step 3: Paint it black. This will need to be a watered down black and will be repeated a few times. Ensure the paint gets into the cracks and deep down inside. The cork will soak up the moisture as well, and you’ll have to go back over it. This is the longest part. Getting the base and all the little cracks completely black takes the most time.
    Of course if you’re going brown or blue or whatever your darkest shadows should be what you’re applying at this stage instead of black.

    This smaller base will be the grassy base while the larger base will be a Lava field for my Wraithlord

    Step 4: Using a color a wee bit lighter than your shadows, in this case Dark Grey, over brush the cork being careful not to fill in the deep crevices. In case your not aware, overbrushing is using a slightly dry, but still wet, paint on a brush and “dry-brushing”. A very simple technique as long as you do it lightly. This layer does need to cover most of the areas. See the picture for an example.

    Step 5: One shade lighter and less paint. This time when your applying this secondary highlight you should focus on a top down brush stroke or a light source (for specific lighting on your model) so you shaded areas agree with your model.

    Step 6-7: You can apply one shade lighter or apply two more shades progressively lighter until you get your final result. Just make sure that with each stage that you get lighter paint, you use less paint as well. Don’t destroy all the base color underneath by over highlighting.

    You can actually stop here is you desired. A Chaos army perhaps or Imperial Guard on broken Asphalt.

    The “Lava” base stops at step 7 and then I simply paint red – red orange – orange- orangeyellow in the cracks progressively. Then seal the base with a matt finish and then apply a Varnish on the Lava to make it slickery!

    For those of you wanting some grass etc., now is the time to apply the rest. Everyone else simply skip to the Pinning section.

    Adding Grass/Flowers or any extra flock/foliage to your base is a very easy process, but could be a bit messy.
    I'd advise using PVA glue for the first few steps as noted in the first picture you'll want to put the PVA directly on your finger instead of the base.

    This prevents the flock getting all clumped and difficult to dry. It also creates a bit of space and randomness. You can do this lightly or heavy, and if you have any exposed base with no cork then you can apply the PVA directly for a more thorough coverage or with your finger (as shown) for a more spacious feel that does not obscure your rocky terrain underneath.

    Once you have the glue on liberally dump your flock material on the base (as shown)

    Don't fear, if you did not slather the base in PVA and used a small amount with your finger you end up only a small amount adhering when you knock off the loose stuff. I was not satisfied with a simple grassy terrain and wanted to add some color so I did the same steps above adding yellow. When putting another layer on (as shown) you must be even more sparing on the adhesive or you'll completely cover the green underneath and ruin the laying effect. Don;t worry it's not hard, just use a small amount and if you want more do it again.

    That pic shows that I added some yellow flower flock for a Spring/Summer look.
    When the loose stuff is gently knocked off you get...

    Normally I would stop here, but for this tutorial I went a bit further to show how easy it is to (and addictive) to continue onward and add some more dimension. So I grabbed my bag of clump foliage (which I got on sale for $2.39) and added a bush. I used Superglue for the first time on this base to ensure the clump material stuck firmly.

    The repeating the yellow flower theme I added flowers to my bush, and ended up with a base with some personality to it to define my army and make whatever model I mount on it really stand out.


    Pinning is simple as you can see from the pics.

    Gather your 3/64" Drill bit and a paper clip.

    Drill shallow holes into the feet etc. of the model.

    Then cut a piece of paperclip to a length that will go into the holes on the model and be long enough to go through the base entirely. Place (do not glue) the pins in the foot hole and get a good estimate of where the pins will go through the base.

    Then drill through the base (carefully as you can destroy the cork and keep a firm grip if using a Dremel). Also be careful where you drill... try not doing it on your computer desk!

    Now you have two options. You can keep the pins on the bottom side straight and simply glue them in place allowing the base to sit flat, or you can bend them so that they provide even more support (especially for metal models). The following pictures provide both examples and progression of this sequence.

    And Viola! Your complete.

    Final Picture of my Warlock Based

    Examples of Banshees on bases already pinned. These are done with a little dynamic concepts. I green stuffed Jain Zar's foot and drilled into her leg creating a shaft to firmly support her and display her leaping off a small ledge, while the Exarch is on an outcropping about to spring into action. (Obviously Jain Zar is not completely painted yet)

    These are some Ideas for bases that I did quickly just for fun. Note the snow base and the one with grass tufts on it. The grass is easy to do with tweezers. My tip on grass like that is not to have it all equal in height as it will look to ... man-made...

    And for those of you who like a Fall Season

    Night Goblins on Fall Foliage.

    I hope this was helpful and that it inspires some of you to try out creating simple yet dynamic bases for your armies.
    Comments 14 Comments
    1. EcoTerrorist's Avatar
      EcoTerrorist -
      I've considered slate, but have never used it. It seems like it would be difficult due to it being brittle, but could provide an amazing platform.
      Railroad Ballast, I've used often. Yet, I personally feel it is not adequate if used alone. Just like simply using green flock. I feel that layering is ideal. you could use Ballast and then green flock, and then a bit of grass or (cork) or stone etc. and you would get something that stood out.

      As for snow... I like snow and icy bases.

      My Icy base. Produced like above but using white flock (snow) and varnish to create the slick icy look. Of course you must Varnish after you seal the flock on, or you will continually lose flock over time.

      A snowy base. It conceals the rocks beneath (which is what I warn of when applying too much "grass" (green flock). These are harder to seal as sometimes the sealant can ... flatten... the snow a bit.

      And my personal favorite style. Spring time snow. Some rocky terrain, some green grass with spring flowers and hints of snow.
      My Eldar army was done in this almost exclusively.

    1. Salag's Avatar
      Salag -
      Awesome work.
      I've been looking for some new ideas for some of my IC's that I've started work on and these look great.

    1. Grishnaar's Avatar
      Grishnaar -
      Luckiest Google search ever. Have been wanting to create my own Marine chapter and wanted to use a black and orange scheme with an elemental theme (specifically lava) and this will work out perfectly! Awesome work and thanks for the tips!

    1. Xander's Avatar
      Xander -
      This is awesome! I have never used cork (god knows why) for basing. This has given me loads more ideas for basing stuff. It's apeears allot easier than using "coal" from railway stock/ kits. Nice work, i'm away to expand on this. Thanks for the article.

    1. The Dark Pwner's Avatar
      The Dark Pwner -
      I like the idea of using old sprues for mine. I'll post a pic in a bit. but it came out really well. Nice article anyway

    1. Captain_Titus's Avatar
      Captain_Titus -
      V good article will have to try on ma marines

    1. Ann's Avatar
      Ann -
      Very useful and thank you. I'll definitely give this a try at some point in the near future.

    1. Servercat's Avatar
      Servercat -
      This a great guide, thank you!

    1. Chaos_Turtle's Avatar
      Chaos_Turtle -
      i hope you still pay attention to this!! The cork i'm using is hard to cover completely with the base coat, and i'm finding a few cork colored spots all over the piece after i think i'm done with it. any suggestions? also, do you use washes on the finished product to give it a natural dirty look?

    1. daddy4count's Avatar
      daddy4count -
      Treat it the same as any spot on the model that doesn't get base coated properly or completely... take a brush with some black (or whatever color your base coat is) and cover up the low spots.

    1. Zccbc's Avatar
      Zccbc -
      DANG! the only thing i don't like about this drilling holes in my models. other than that i love this idea.

    1. RFHolloway's Avatar
      RFHolloway -
      Quote Originally Posted by Zccbc View Post
      DANG! the only thing i don't like about this drilling holes in my models. other than that i love this idea.
      Could you use magnets?

    1. Zccbc's Avatar
      Zccbc -
      Quote Originally Posted by RFHolloway View Post
      Could you use magnets?
      Maybe.... I'm not for sure.

    1. EcoTerrorist's Avatar
      EcoTerrorist -
      I have magnets, but I've not tried to use them for basing. If you look at my Jain Zar... there is no way a magnet would work, but a STRONG magnet (to get through the cork) may be possible. Perhaps I'll test it out, but I'll need to order stronger (bigger) magnets first.

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