Wargaming Tradecraft: Creating Vlagorescu's Black Water


Creating Vlagorescu's Black Water

When creating my black and white ghoul army display board, I wanted to have some water pools, but there was the question of "how?"

I decided to use some of my old techniques for water and try a few new things. I'm really happy with how the dark water turned out.

The following will detail just how I achieved this.

Mirrors in the Water

I've created water using mirrors before and to be honest, I think it turned out better then. The difference is, previously I used a mirror for the whole pool while this time I mixed mirrors into larger water features. But, we learn from the things we try. It was still unique to have reflective points within the water.

To start, I made sure the mirrors would fit in the water features.

Then, I used some sculpting gel to create some stalagmites within the water and painted them up. (You want to paint them at this stage because they're going to get covered in water after a while.)

FYI, the sculpting gel I'm using here has white flakes mixed in for texture. Painted with some black gesso (paintable primer) then painted normally.

To finish up, I've added some dark black shiny flock around the stalagmites, the same flock that will compose the base of my water features.

This is just a matter of watering down white glue and painting a little around the edges, then pouring the sand over it. (Good idea to pour this over a box / bowl so the extra sand can be cleaned up.)
Mounting the Mirrors

Glued on Top (Quick and Easy)

1. Pour some more of the glue on the surface.
2. Use a tool to spread it about.
3. Place the mirror on the glue.
4. Add flock.

The problem is that as everything settles, the flock lowers into the glue while the mirror stays raised above the surface. Once it dries, you'll need to add a few layers of glue and sand to level things out.

If you can't cut into your surface, you might be limited to this option. If you can...

Embedded (Looks Best)

Trace the mirrors out into your surface, then cut out a hole roughly the same depth as the mirrors are thick.

Once the hole's been tested and is the right depth, add glue and place the mirror in.

Once they're all in place, it starts to add up to an interesting effect.

Creating the Water's Border

To prevent the water medium from spilling out, I like to use clear plastic overhead transparency paper. (Available from many business supply stores like Staples.) It's the same as I used when pouring my Mountain King's river.

1. Cut strips of your transparency paper.
2. Use an old brush (or even your finger) and spread glue on the edge of your terrain.
3. Lay the strips across the edges.

If you have corners, super glue will work to seal it up.


Once again, thin a bunch of white glue with water, then spread it out. Try to cover the mirrors unevenly so you don't end up with fake looking circles and squares.


I used a plastic stringy placemat as a mask and airbrushed some black patterns over the mirrors. This again adds a level of inconsistency to the perfect mirrors.

This is another place where I think it could have been done better. In retrospect, I should have gone over the black with glue and sand to keep these areas more in line with the rest of the flock.

Pouring Water

Creating the Mountain King's River
Once again, using techniques from my Mountain King project, I'm using Woodland Scenics Realistic Water.

The recommended way to use it is to pour a few millimeters at a time with about a day of drying in between each layer.

Consider sprinkling some of the flock between each layer to add some depth.

Speeding Drying (Mistakes were Made)

Heat affects how fast gels will dry, hotter environments speeding up the process.

I was in a bit of a rush to get complete for Armies on Parade.

Turning up the heat in my small hobby room and letting the board sit sped up the drying process quite a bit, all that white turning clear. So I turned the heat up more.

The water cracked.

It ended up a neat effect and somewhat fixable with more layers of water.

Final Close Ups

What do you think? Does interspersing mirrors help water, or best to only use them when the mirror covers the entire bottom of the water?


After a year and a half, I pulled this out to use as a display board at a paint-and-take event I ran at our local Maker Expo.

I've got bubbles! I thought this might be related to the thin layers and heat over time, though after tweeting with Woodland Scenics, it sounds like it might be related to pink foam storing small amounts of air within it and releasing them slowly over time.

Either, way, I love the effect!

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