by Jon Paul "Klepto" Klepacz
Once you've experienced one swamp you have experienced them all. The stink that permeates every body cell, the damp heavy air that makes it hard to breathe and slowly wears you down to the point of collapse. The endless buzzing of bugs that swarm any warm blooded soul in an attempt to crawl their way into every tender nook and cranny to sink their mandibles into tender areas and drink your blood. But the all pale in comparison to the dead and metal monsters that inhabit the dark places...
My hunt for water effects started out with a desire for a Cryxian swamp-themed table. I let my fellow Privateer Press 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 Terrainthrall, Nobody, to create some storage tanks for me and went to work on the pools of shallow water.
Paper mache (Celluclay)
Woodland Scenic's Realistic Water or
Woodland Scenic's tall grass
A sheet of paper
Part 1: The Base
There are several different water effects on the market for the hobby enthusiast, but the two most popular are Woodland Scenic's 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 if 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 bigger than 9" across (1A).
Part 2: The Banks
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 Celluclay (2A). It's sort of like a paper mache. Just mix with water and slap it onto 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 as unobtrusive as possible so I put the shore below 1/2".
You don't want to leave any gaps in your shoreline. Otherwise, your water effects will seep over the sides and make a mess (2B).
Let the clay dry. It'll be faster in a warm, dry ventilated 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. The less water you use in your mix, the less the clay will shrink and/or crack. Fortunately, this is not hard to fix. Do your best to flatten it out and apply some wood glue 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 (2C).
Speaking of glue, I'm using something that came out of the damaged goods bit at my job. I use it quite literally 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 (2D). Other materials like dirt work. If there are any other features you would like to see on your piece, now is the time to add it.
Part 3: The Paint
Once the glue is dry it is time to paint! Get out some black primer and cover every square inch of it.
When that is sufficiently dry I generously dry brushed it with American Burnt Umber from my local Michael's craft store. It's fairly inexpensive and has good coverage.
Next, a normal dry brush of a flat earth tone.
Finally, do another very light dry brush of a warm gray 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 paining 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 (3A).
Part 4: The Cattails
Cattails are common perennial herbs that grow anywhere from 5 to 9 feet high. Making cattails takes sever steps, but the process lends itself to making dozens at a time.
Get some thin brass or plastic rod cut into approximately 2" lengths for the main stalks. Color the rods by dipping them into GW Cammo Green with tweezers. Let the stalks dry thoroughly.
Cut out a small tab of card stock paper. this is going to be your paintbrush for making the cattail's brown seed pod. Find a good thick book and put the tab of paper between the pages so it sticks out over your work area. Now go get into your wife'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 1/2" 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 (4A).
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 brown paint.
The final step is to paint the top bit of the cattail by dunking it in the paint one more time. The color could vary depending upon what time of year it is. In mid-summer it's a vibrant orange, but as autumn nears it changes to beige. You decide.
Part 5: The Grasses
Your shoreline and shallow water should contain an abundance of the tall grasses cattails grow in. I mix Woodland Scenic's medium green, dark green, and gold tall grasses to achieve the effects of the 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 ant.
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 (5A & 5B).
Part 6: The Water
Now we really get down to business! I've been creating two swamp pieces side-by-side so that I could experiment with two different water effect products.
EnviroTex Lite is actually a two-part epoxy resin that wa 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 to mix it thoroughly. This is a good time to add a drop or two of green or brown ink into the mixture. You can achieve all sorts of neat effects by experimenting with colors. Just remember to use very little because it goes a long way! I used just two drops of green paint. It makes the water look a little bit soupy (6A & 6B).
I had a little skeletal pony left over from a game I used to play years ago...(6C).
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.
Part 7: The 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—duck week and algae. It's most common in smaller ponds, although it does accumulate on the shores of larger bodies of water (7A).
If your water is already in place, sprinkle fine ground foam (Woodland Scenic's 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 tot he 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 green solid to 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 Scenic's while still wet.
Part 8: The Lily Pads
The leaves of water lily plants flourish along the shallow shorelines and quiet inlets of larger bodies of fresh water. The 6" to 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 plans 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, over paint and push the colors around the paper randomly. 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 to flair the end of each tube slightly and then chuck it into an electric drill. Run the drill at a slow speed while holding a round needle file against 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 (8A). You ay 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 (8B).
The next day...
By now I've allowed the water effects to dry for a full day. The Woodland Scenic's 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 back in over the course of time. The realistic water also has shrunk some. In another day the shallow pool has become something of a mud puddle. Woodland Scenic's requires a second application because of shrinkage. I want to give it some time before I add more. Before posting this article 1've poured three layers of this stuff and it could still use one more (8C).
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 thralls and my shiny new storage tanks (8D).
You can see I've added some water effects to my model's bases as well (8E).
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!