Wargaming Tradecraft: Water Effects: Clear, Transparent and Tranquil

Water Effects: Clear, Transparent and Tranquil


Continuing the Tin Can Tree project, I'm looking at water effects. Last time I showed how to create Bottomless and Animated Water while today I'm going to look at nice calm transparent water. I'll be using Liquitex Pouring Medium and a couple examples of glue.

The pouring medium will get you the most bang for your buck on a large project, but takes 2-4 weeks to fully dry if it's thick. (You'll see in the following photos that the mediums and gels start foggy white, so be patient about dry times.) The photo on the left is a follow up from about a month after the tree was made.

Plastic and Super Glue you probably already have on hand, but it's really expensive to use a lot of. Try to stick to small projects like bases. Glue will dry clear right away though, something to consider if time's a factor.






First things first, I need a river bed.

This is easy - pour in a bunch of white glue and on that about a quarter to a half as much water, mix it up and use a junk brush to spread it all around.

Cover that with stones for your river bed. A mix of different types will look best and fish stores have a great selection.


You could get creative here:

Mix a little brown and/or green in with the glue or paint/wash it on after things have dried.. maybe even wipe the excess off the rocks with a cloth to get a smudged and dirty effect.

You could glue in some moss, larger rocks, twigs, reeds, small fish or turtles, etc...



For the clear riverbed I'm using Liquitex Pouring Medium. Lower down I'll show a method of creating clear water most of you already have.

I've mixed in a little Translucent Paint to add a tint of blue. You can see by the photo up top this didn't have much of an effect and I could have added more.

Pour the medium all over your river bed.

I'm only pouring layers about 1/8" thick at a time. Don't worry, once you've poured a bunch of layers on top of each other, it'll all look like one big pool.

BUT you HAVE to pour the whole layer at once. You can't do one side of the pond now and the other later - where the two sides meet will be an ugly visible line. (Like a stress line.)

Use a toothpick, stick or wire to help push the medium everywhere.

A trick to speed up this process is to pour a whole bunch of medium on one side of your pond and then hold your terrain sideways. This lets gravity spread the medium around.


You can see a mess of gel in the right side of this pond - that's where the water fall will land, but I'll go into that in another post.




Pouring medium is thicker than water and has a higher surface tension. You know how you can fill a glass with water and it bulges over without spilling? You have to worry about that here - SCIENCE!

Look for anywhere that water has "bulged" around something and use your tool to cover it.



After pouring a few layers of medium and the current one has dried, I've decided to add some minnows to the water.

Rather than create some fish out of green stuff, I've just taken silver and bronze paint and created little flecks nibbling at the moss.



A few layers after that, I've glued some stones to the top layer of medium before adding a final layer to submerge the stones a little.



I've teased some of the medium up on the shore and dipped some fake moss here and there to look like plants and twigs.



In some areas I've drizzled some medium over the riverbank where there might be a trickle seeping out of the pond.




I've also painted gloss varnish on the riverbank to make it appear damp and muddy.


Everything gets a final gloss varnish too. It strengthens the reflection and by leaving bubbles in the varnish, makes little ripples just slightly disturbing the water surface.



REMEMBER: Gels and Mediums can take a long time to dry. Right now it's all white and foggy and you might be freaking out that you've ruined your pond. You can see by the photo at the top of the page that everything cleared up, but it took about a month to fully dry.

Also watch out for stray hairs falling in your gels.. get them out quick because you don't want to be cutting them out later.


Alternative for Clear Water - Glue

Plastic Glue

Another option for clear water effects is to use plastic glue. I use Testors brand for all my plastics. This glue pours clear instantly. If you're in a time crunch for some kind of contest and don't have 2-4 weeks for gel or pouring medium to fully clear up, go this route.

Worth noting - there are downsides to this method. It's LOTS more expensive than using a bottle of medium and the fumes are not good for you. I don't recommend it for terrain sized projects. Plastic glue can also eat paint, so don't scratch anything submerged in it. Finally, plastic glue will eat Styrofoam, even through paint, so you'd have to create a thin gel "bowl" to contain it first.

* I haven't tried other plastic glues, like those from Games Workshop.

As above, create your scene first, then squeeze out a bunch of glue over it.

Use a toothpick or something to spread the glue out.

OR, don't. To make it look like liquid is in the process of flowing, leave areas where you haven't spread the glue around. Surface tension will leave it "bubbled" up.


Just be aware that some glues, like this one, contract as they dry. You can compare the photo on the left to the dried one below and see how more of the grass and leaves are sticking through the surface making a very shallow water feature.

Another benefit of Testors glue is that it's so thick, there's a little bit of magnification going on. This warps our perception of submerged items and the river bed, playing tricks on our eyes like real wavy water might.

There is one area that Testors glue is great - adding pools of paint. In my vignette "Victory", an elf lays deal in a pool of water, bleeding out. This could be applied to ooze seeping into water, sap, oil, etc... You could even do a thin first layer so the water looks muddy!

Before the glue has even dried, you can pour some paint on, use a toothpick to mix a little in, then before the paint has dried, just keep pouring more glue on top. The final effect is a really natural spillage of liquid.

Look close - the paint hasn't really mixed with the glue. It's just sitting there.. flowing.. oozing.. seeping..


Super Glue

Now, Super Glue doesn't mix well with others, but in my Dungeoneer tutorial, I used a little and mixed blue in for the first layer and some blue and green paint in for the final layer. It got weird and oily and tacky... but I managed to use a toothpick to spread some around the rocks on his base before it dried. The final look was a really nice looking pool of water.


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