Wargaming Tradecraft: Water Effects: Bottomless and Animated

Water Effects: Bottomless and Animated


The next few posts of my Tin Can Tree project are some I've been wanting to tackle for a while - water!  Over 3 posts, I'm going to show you how to create bottomless and animated water, (today) clear water and waterfalls. Worth noting is that these techniques could also be used to create other liquids like ooze and blood.

There's been a bit of a delay on getting back on these terrain posts, mostly due to some charity work, bronchitis and an interview, but here we are!

As a starting point, we'll look at opaque water - that means water you can't see through, or bottomless. It's great for adding water effects to tall structures like this tree, where it would be impractical to fill it with water effects. You an also use this method on a thin base to simulate deep water or make it appear like something is submerged and disappearing into the depths!

When you're doing a lot of pouring glue and paper mache like this, buy bulk. It's crazy cheap.

I'm starting out using white glue to level and raise the water level since there's a lip at the spout of the tree. Pour it in and use a rough brush to spread it around. This is going to take a while to dry, so don't expect to work on this for a while. (Quite possibly the rest of the day, depending how thick you pour it)

Now, technically, if you didn't have any water effect stuff that I'll cover later, you could make your water just out of white glue. There's a few ways:

One way would be to mix some paint in with the white glue. I'd recommend a dark blue because as you can see below with the black paint, white glue mixes in like white paint and lightens everything. You also don't have to fully mix. Once again, look at the black paint and white glue mix below and see how natural it looks with all the swirls. It also takes a lot of paint for a large area like this - unless you're doing bases, buy a larger container of hobby paint.

The other way is to wait for the glue to dry and paint it. While this would work, it's probably the ugliest option unless you're really good at painting 2-dimensional surfaces. You'd actually have to paint on waves and ripples if you want the water to look realistic instead of just blue.


Now I take heavy gel like from my Fire Effects tutorial and spread it all over. Give the gel some movement and consider it's container. For the round trunk, I applied the gel to look swirling.

After the gel has dried enough to paint on, I gave a light wash of blue, but being the first layer decided to go darker. Instead, I painted a thick wash of blue on and wiped most of it off with a cloth. (You can see the white undried gel showing through in the bottom-right photo.

After this, just repeat it over and over. When you get near the surface of the water, start using less paint and apply it thinner. This way, the top layers will be more transparent.


After a bunch of layers, we get something looking like this.

Not only have I used lighter blues, but also threw in some turquoise and other similar colours for variety.



Gel layered this thick can take weeks to fully dry.

Until then, there's still white from the gel in these photos. For time reasons, I waited until the top of the gel was dry, painted, gel'd again.

As a final touch, I applied gloss varnish to the whole thing - BUT used it liberally and splotchy to create lots of little bubbles.


Once dry, the uneven bubbly varnish helped create a churning water look.


Here's the final image of the water in the tree trunk.


I'll have to get by the store with a good camera, but here's a shot a month later with the white gel dried and more layering visible.


Don't believe this is natural looking water? Too blue? Too turquoise? Take a look at these photos I took at Moraine Lake, Canada. No photoshop. Left is me infront of the lake and below are the Rocky Mountains reflected from the water surface.



Creating Animated Water

Another way you can apply this technique is to make it look like something large is sinking it water. Obviously I'm not pulling a rabbit out of a hat here - I've chopped off this Dreadnought's legs and glued it directly to the base. Water effects make it look like it's not only sinking, but thrashing around as it does.

A few main differences:

  • Simulated Thrashing
    • I've used a dentist pick and "teased" the gel up from the surface of the water to reach parts of the dreadnought like it's arm and ammo belt. This implies movement within the water. You can particularly tell how the hand appears to be moving backwards by the water it's displacing to the rear.
  • Water Movement
    • I've also teased the gel in such a way that it looks like the water has motion and is flowing around the dreadnought. You can also see splashing from random bits of gel where there's more dreadnought movement.


  • Frothing Water
    • At the upper layers of water effect, I've washed with varying strengths of white around any areas that might be moving about in the water.
  • Emphasized Waves and Ripples
    • One the last couple layers, I've also highlighted (with a mix of dry-brushing and painting) some of the waves. A model captures a scene, while terrain is much more static. I feel that adding these contrasts adds to the artistic quality of a model.
    • In the areas with lots of frothing, I've emphasized these waves and painted the white stronger which really helps to imply movement in the water.



(These are from my Harlequin Wraithlord model)

3 comments:

Please keep all comments civil and language appropriate for a child-safe environment.