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very shallow water with rocks

Started by Bill Gill, March 26, 2016, 01:01:46 PM

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Bill Gill

This thread was started instead of hijacking Gordon Ferguson's thread where he created gently rippled water in a canal setting, and Peter_T1958 asked about a way to create rippled very shallow water with exposed rocks along the banks of a slow river  http://www.finescalerr.com/smf/index.php?topic=2435.45

Peter, This is not exactly the water you are modeling, but it may offer some ideas. Here is very shallow water in an unfinished stream bed that has some exposed rocks at the edge of the water (more rocks, vegetation and debris eventually will be added to the banks of the stream). During the spring run off stream becomes a rushing torrent through the narrow gorge, but many other times of the year - as modeled here - it is reduced to a depth of only a few inches in places.

Bill Gill

The smallest rocks here are clay cat littler that were painted with acrylics to match the surrounding area and then individually glued to the stream bed with small dabs of yellow carpenter glue added to the bottom of each piece. The larger rocks are Sculptamold, a paper mache/clay product by Amaco (American Art Clay Company, Inc.)  

After the glue dried, the water was created with several layers of full strength acrylic gloss medium that was brushed on with a soft natural hair watercolor brush. A small brush was used to work in between the rocks. The acrylic medium is thick enough to retain some tiny ripples after it sets. Because the medium loses some of its gloss over time, a couple different coatings were tried on top of it. One was a gloss water based urethane varnish and the other is what was formerly simply called "Future", but has since undergone a number of name and package changes, the latest seems to be: Pledge Floor Care Finish in the USA, but it has other names elsewhere. The "Future" coated gloss medium has held up well for several years.

You asked how to create a look of flowing water. The gloss medium can do that when built up over several layers. Also I have seen people successfully use thicker acrylic gels that come in a number of viscosities. Golden and Liquitex are two high quality artist brands. Neither require the extensive prep for pouring resin based water modeling materials, nor do they have the strong odor.

You mentioned the problem of resin creeping up the edges of materials immersed in it. The acrylics stay pretty much where applied. Your example of a river bank has a lot more, smaller rocks than my crude example. Painting around them would not be easy, but I think instead you could create and prepare a river bank out of your chosen materials and brush a matte medium acrylic onto the shore, sprinkle rocks onto it. It will glue them fairly well in place and they will look dry above the water level. Next try brushing a thick layer of thin acrylic gel where the water will be, creating a gently rippled surface and sprinkle more rocks onto that layer. They will be glued in place and you won't have to try to brush around them individually.

For the final layer you can gently pour the "Future" onto the water area. It is about the thickness of milk. You can help guide it with a brush. Some real rocks sitting in a shallow river will still be at least partially wet from the algae and muck growing on them, so if a few rocks look wet that should be fine. If too many rocks get wetted when adding the "Future" layer there is still the option of carefully touching them up with more of the colors used to color them originally.

One other technique I saw and liked for creating the look of tiny wind driven ripples on smooth water was to create the smooth water then when it has dried/cured, brush on a gloss medium where the wind ripples would be and then sift a tiny amount of baking soda onto the wet medium. It will look transparent and like extremely tiny ripples when done well (I have not had success with this technique yet, however).


Thanks for that mini-tutorial, Bill. Water modeling is a niche none of posts much about. But maybe, over time, this thread could become a "sticky". -- Russ


Hi Bill

Thank you for opening this new thread. Many thanks also for your different techniques to that subject. I especially like the idea of sprinkling rocks onto the water medium whether it will be epoxy resin or acrylic medium. Sounds simple but it could work indeed.
Your water with acrylic gloss medium looks great, and this could solve the problem, when I had to build very shallow water.

Another approach is that of Jean-Bernard André (JB Diorama). A very talented artist, although most of his dioramas have the same gloomy atmosphere; something I don't like as much.

Here how he created his Sokol diorama:

This is a very clever technique to prevent resin creeping up the edges of materials, but ...
... I'd like to have some ripples on the surface too.

So there are some ideas in my mind; I have to fit them together like a puzzle now.

Cheers, Peter

Bill Gill

Russ, Except for the idea that sticky water sounds icky, maybe having a sticky thread for water would be helpful. Someplace Flodberg, the modeler that Gordon & Peter referred to in Gordon's thread has a unique and surprisingly effective method of modeling ocean water starting with a base of oatmeal flakes!

Peter, another idea to consider: a lot of people pour resin for the base layers of water and then add acrylic medium and/or gel on top of that to create ripples and waves. I have not tried that. I tend to like to keep the same substance for all layers of water because I suspect (with no evidence one way or the other) that having only one material lessens the possibility of delamination or other problems over time.


Quote from: Bill Gill on March 27, 2016, 02:45:50 PM
A lot of people pour resin for the base layers of water and then add acrylic medium and/or gel on top of that to create ripples and waves. I have not tried that. I tend to like to keep the same substance for all layers of water because I suspect (with no evidence one way or the other) that having only one material lessens the possibility of delamination or other problems over time.

Bill, I share your fear, that's why I am looking for information on modelling water for quite some time now. Up to now, I've seen just one modeler, that could to handle a resin surface the way I imagined it: Aitor Azkue
Here a photo of his ramatic 1/32 Heinkel He 111 diorama.

Aitor Azkue's method:
The resin used is 'Solid Water' from Deluxe. He poured layers of 3-4 mm depth of resin. To colorise he added a mixture of acrylic turquoise. Once the resin was hardened enough to touch without sticking to a utensil, he started shaping it with his fingers, wearing gloves. Since the resin returned to its original shape, much like rubber, he had to work continuously for an hour or so until the shape maintained. Once dry, he brushed Vallejo's 'Water Effects' to simulate water flowing between rocks at different speeds.

But here again the problem: resin mixed with Vallejo ...

Ray Dunakin

The water in that diorama is amazingly lifelike. I especially like the rounded rocks protruding from the water.
Visit my website to see pics of the rugged and rocky In-ko-pah Railroad!

Ray Dunakin's World

Bill Gill

The water in that diorama is very believable.

But here again the problem: resin mixed with Vallejo ... Peter

Instead of resin, look at the characteristics of the Golden brand of acrylic gels. The products are very high grade and they offer a number of varieties, all compatible with one another. There is some detailed specific information about them here:

michael mott

Bill, thanks for the link to the Golden Products, a very informative read.


Bill Gill

Michael, Some of the Golden tutorial videos are informative and good for ideas on trying new techniques.

Liquitex also has high quality acrylic gels, mediums and varnishes as well as paints in different viscosities and gloss levels. They also have very good acrylic modeling pastes. Both Golden and Liquitex are in many art stores and also I've found some of both in A.C. Moore and Michael's.

Chuck Doan

Interesting read! Water is a real challenge.
"They're most important to me. Most important. All the little details." -Joseph Cotten, Shadow of a Doubt



Bill, thank you for the information on acrylic gels. I've never heard of that brand, but Pébéo (better known in Europe) seems to offer similar products.

May be these two tutorials are also of interest:

Interesting Chris Flodberg's comment:
It should be said that after I do all this stuff, I coat the whole thing very carefully with literally dozens of layers of Liquitex high gloss medium. I mention epoxy here, but I never use it...and if I do, It's to fill or create a surface that I will sand and paint.  Epoxy yellows like crazy and will wreck your water in a matter of weeks.

Bill Gill

Thanks, Peter, those videos are interesting to see how Flodberg works. Here's a link to his site with a compilation of his techniques for making ocean water under various conditions. What I like is that he seems to always be experimenting with new ways to create effects, and he tries to use simple, readily available materials - including Oatflakes and Cyanoacrylate among others. He also lets you know how the different experiments worked, or not.

Yes, expoxies yellow quickly. So do some varnishes and resins. Some acrylic mediums like Mod Podge stay soft and occasionally even tacky and collect dust. Some water model products shrink over time. Water definitely can be tricky to model.

One of the things I like about the link to Golden acrylics that I posted above is they describe in detail how some of their products can be use not only for painting but also for glues, glazes, etc. and also give cautions about potential problems. For example, this entry about acrylics getting discolored:
Common supports (e.g. cotton canvas, linen, masonite) contain water-extractable materials that can cause discoloration in transparent glazes. This manifests itself as a yellow or brown tone, and is especially of concern when the glazes are thickly applied (greater than 1/16 inch wet film thickness). To minimize Support Induced Discoloration (SID), seal support with GOLDEN GAC 100 or GAC 700, followed by gesso. Note that multiple coats of gesso alone will not be sufficient to protect from SID.

Below is a recent experiment my son, Will, tried to model a calm corner of the Hudson River with just the slightest hint of wind driven ripples. He had no way to accommodate any actual depth to the water. He painted the base black and coated that with several layers of clear glossy poly urethane varnish for a hard, shiny surface that reflects the color of his background "sky" or the surrounding landscape depending on the angle of his camera lens and lights.

Anybody got tried and true interesting methods they use for water, or conversely things they've tried that ought to be avoided?



I can vouch for the quality of Golden Acrylics. Mark Golden is dedicated to producing what artists need and does a ton of R&D. We use their paint all the time for inpainting, especially on Greek and Roman pots.
You may ask yourself: "Well, how did I get here?"