Born On The Bayou

By Klepto


Tutorial Date 1/29/06

My hunt for water effects started out with a desire for a Cryxian swamp themed table. I let my fellow PP forumites convince me that permanent, fixed terrain was not the way to go. Movable terrain pieces would keep the table fresh every game. I commissioned fellow Terrain Thrall, Nobody, to create some mining rigs for me and went to work on the pools of shallow water.

Techniques Used:
Water Effects

 

There are several different water effects on the market for the hobby enthusiast, but the two most popular are Woodland Scenics Realistic Water and Envirotex Lite. For the sake of comparison, I’ll be using both products in two separate pieces.

 

First thing needed was a base of some sort. Water should be filling depressions in the land, but using movable pieces of terrain required the effect to be above the gaming table. I wanted the thinnest board possible while still providing a good, solid surface. Luckily for me, Nobody came through like a champ and got some plasticard for me. He actually gets it for free from his job. It was used as packing material between sheets of metal. Score!

 

Just cut up the plasticard into your desired shape. A scroll saw was used to cut and a dremil was used to bevel the edges into a nice slope. I wanted to stay within the Escalation guidelines so nothing was bigger than 9” across.

 

Next, I needed something to be the banks of my little pool of water and hold in the water effects while they dried. For this I used Cel-u-clay. It’s sort of like a paper-mache. Just mix with water and slap it into the desired surface. Regular air-dry clay is too brittle when it dries. I just spread it along the edge of my plasticard and use my fingers to ‘pile’ it up into a slope. I wanted this water effect to be un-obtrusive as possible so I kept the shore below ½”.

 

You don’t want to leave any gaps in your shoreline. Otherwise, your water effects will seep over the sides and make a mess.

 

Let the clay dry. It’ll dry faster in a warm and dry place like your back porch on a sunny day. Indoors takes longer. Give the clay plenty of time to dry.

 

You may notice the clay showing large and unsightly cracks. Wet clay takes up more space than dry clay. As our mixture dried it shrank. Fortunately, this is not hard to fix. Do you best to flatten it out and apply some wood where needed. It’s ok if you make more cracks. Wood glue is pretty thick stuff and should be able to handle the job nicely. Give the glue time to dry.

 

Speaking of glue, I’m using something that came out of the damaged goods bin at my job. I use it quite liberally at this step and have watered it down a bit. I cover the entire piece with wood glue and immediately cover it with fine ballast. Other materials work like dirt. If there are any other features you would like to see on your piece, now’s the time to add it.

Once the glue is dry it is time to paint! Get out some black primer and cover every square inch of it.

 

When that was sufficiently dry I generiously dry-brushed Americana Burnt Umber from my local Micheal’s craft store. It’s fairly in-expensive.

 

Next, a normal dry brush of a flat earth tone.

 

Finally, do another very light dry brush of a warm grey like Vallejo stone. GW Bleached bone would also work well. During all this painting don’t worry too much about the center of the piece. It’s going to be covered with water effects and will hide any mistakes you make very well.

 

Now that our painting is done we are going to seal it with a gloss spray. The earth here is supposed to be wet, so regular flat matte will make it look dry.

 

 

Cat-tails

Cattails are common perennial herbs that grow anywhere from five to nine feet high. Making cattails takes several steps, but the process lends itself to making dozens at a time.

 

Get some this brass or plastic rod cut into approximately 2” lengths for the main stalks. Color the rods by dipping them into Camo Green with tweezers. Let the stalks dry thoroughly.

 

Cut out a small tab of card stock paper. This is going to be your paint brush for making the cattail’s brown seed pod. Find a good thick book and put the tab of paper in between the pages so it sticks out over your work area. Now go get into your wife’s/girlfriend’s/sister’s brown nail polish and put a fat drop of it on the end of your paper tab.

 

Give the nail polish a minute to thicken. Now, take your rod and drag about ½” of the tip through the polish, creating a blob. As you drag, roll the rod between your fingers to distribute the polish evenly. Poke the rod into something like foam to let it dry.

 

Be careful not to use too much nail polish, the cattail will be oversized. For fat cattails, it’s better to use two thinner coats and let the polish dry in between.

 

If you blob is too bulbous or poorly shaped, let it dry for a minute or two and reshape it by gently rolling it on the surface of your workbench or between your fingers.

 

Once the polish hardens, dip the top of the cattail into a brown paint.

 

The final step is to paint the top bit of the cattail by dunking one more time. The color on this could vary depending upon what time of year it is. In mid-summer it’s a vibrant orange, but as autum nears it changes to beige. You decide.

 

Grasses

 

Your shoreline and shallow water should contain an abundance of the tall grasses cattails grow in. I mix Woodland Scenics medium green, dark green, and gold tall grasses to achieve the effects of new, mature, and dead vegetation. Use white glue to secure bundles to the shore as well as a little bit into the water surface. It’s best to space the initial plantings apart. Once the glue dries, you can plant more, getting the vegetation as dense as you want.

 

It’s best to plant most of the grasses before pouring the water effects. Once they set, you can go back and attach a small amount of additional grass in front of that already planted. This will hide the areas where the water effects may have crept up the stems of the grass bunches.

 

Cut your cattails slightly shorter than the tallest grass, and use a drop of white glue to plant them among the grasses. If you are feeling really ambitious, use a hand drill and make a hole for them. A small dab of glue later make a secure cattail.

 

 

 

Water

Now we really get down to business! I’ve been creating 2 swamp pieces side-by-side so that I could experiment with 2 different water effect products

 

EnviroTex Lite is actually a two-part epoxy resin that was intended as a thick, high gloss finish for woods. I hope there is a place reserved in Urcaen for the guy who invented this stuff, ‘cause I love it! Just pour equal amounts into plastic cups and mix. It is pretty forgiving if you eyeball it. The directions say to take your time mixing and make it thorough. This is a good time to add a drop or two of green or brown ink into our mixtures. You can achieve all sorts of neat effects by experimenting with colors. Just remember to use very little, it goes a long way! I used just two drops of green paint. It makes the water look just a little bit soupy.

 

I had this little piece left over from some game I used to play years ago…

 

 

Woodland Scenic Realistic Water does not require any mixing. It just pours directly from the bottle. Nice!

 

Now, just pour and make sure it doesn’t seep over the edges of your swamp walls. Both of these products are thick and once they settle to a level surface you may find you actually poured too much and have a mess to clean up. Take your time. This stuff can take a full day or more to dry.

 

Pond scum

 

In summer, the combination of sunlight, heat, and humidity is perfect for the development of scum on small bodies of water. The green scum actually comes from one of two sources: duckweek and algae. It’s most common on smaller ponds, although it does accumulate on the shores of larger bodies of water.

 

If your water is already in place, sprinkle find ground foam (woodland scenics turf works well) along the shoreline and use diluted white glue or matte medium to secure it to your water.

 

 

If you have not poured your water yet, try this. After it has set for a few minutes, dab small droplets of green paint directly onto the surface, right next to the shore. Use an old brush to just smear the color around where you want it. Over the next hour the paint will spread an inch or so, turning from a solid green into a network of extremely fine green flecks. The result is a convincing scum that’s part of the surface and can’t be damaged. Here’s a shot of mine in Woodland Scenics while still wet.

 

 

When choosing your scum color, be sure to compensate for any tinting you added to your mixture, as this will affect the final color. If you space your initial paint dabs far enough apart, surface tension and drying will keep them from mixing together. This will form convincing “critter trails” to the shore.

 

Lily pads

 

The leaves of water lily plants flourish along the shallow shorelines and quiet inlets of larger bodies of fresh water. The 6” – 15” leaves are medium-green when young, dark green when mature, yellow while dying, and brown once dead. Many leaves contain several colors at once. Lily pads usually grow in great abundance, with the leaves often overlapping one another as the plants fight for sunlight.

 

The best way to make lily pads is to punch them out, literally, by the dozen. First, pour several drops of green, mold yellow, and brown onto a piece of plain white paper. Use a paintbrush to mix, overpaint, and push the colors around the paper at random. Then let the paint dry completely.

 

To make the lily pad punch, I chose several short lengths of brass tubing with inner diameters ranging from 1/16” to 1/8”. Use an awl or nail set to flare the end of each tube slightly and then chuck it into a electric drill. Run the drill at a slow speed while holding a round needle file in the open end of the tube. In a minute or so you’ll have a sharp cutting edge.

 

Put the painted paper on a soft surface such as a cutting mat, and punch out your lily pads. You may need to tap the back end of your tube with a hammer. If you’d like to give the lily pads the characteristic “dinner plate” shape, punch six to ten at a time, then poke them out of the tube from the back with a piece of stiff wire or a toothpick. The slight flaring at the end of the tube will cause the lily pads to become slightly concave as they stack up inside.

 

 

Cut the characteristic stem slot in each of the lily pads with a sharp hobby knife, then glue them to the surface of your pond, making sure to randomly overlap their edges. If your resin is still wet they’ll stick on their own.

 

 

The next day…

 

By now I’ve allowed the water effects to dry for a full day. The Woodland Scenics realistic water is still soft to the touch, but not wet. It feels like rubber. If I press down on it with my finger it makes an impression of my fingerprint which will fill back in over the course of time. The realistic water also has shrunk some. In another day shallow pool has become something of a mud puddle. Woodland Scenics requires a second application because of shrinkage. I want to give it some time before I add more. Before posting this article I’ve poured 3 layers of this stuff and it could still use one more.

 

 

The EnviroTex Lite has already hardened into a solid, transparent, and glossy surface. It is completely dry. I’m pretty pleased with the results, there was very little shrinkage.

 

Here are my finished pieces! They look quite fetching next to some thrall and my shiny new mining rigs.

 

 

You can see I’ve added some water effects to my models bases as well.

 

 

Now all I need are some swamp trees and maybe small pockets of exposed necrotite in the ground for a really cool Cryxian themed table.

 

Until next time,

May all your Seethers make their command rolls!