Sunday, 4 September 2011

The Dead Marshes: Part 3 – “Solid Water”

After painting the marshy terrain boards, I had to add the final component – water. I’ve used a variety of modelling water over the years. My preference is for water resin, which comes as a two-part mixture of resin and hardener and dries very hard as a permanent feature. You can find modelling water which is just poured into terrain and forms a slightly springy jelly on the surface and which can be peeled off, but for terrain boards the mixed water resin/ permanent variety is my strong preference.

I’ve purchased a product called “Solid Water” from Deluxe Materials in the UK for about eight years now. I can strongly recommend it (although I’m sure there are others which are very similar). It’s easy to mix and stains quite nicely with normal acrylic paints. You can pick “Solid Water” up from many craft suppliers in the smaller scaled packs (50, 90 and 180 ml), but as I wanted a fairly extensive amount of water on the terrain boards, I settled on a couple of the 350ml packs.

I find it a bit difficult to estimate exactly how much water resin you need in a model until you’re actually at the pouring stage. However, I think the trick is to over estimate slightly, especially if you are pouring into deep recesses in the terrain.

Mixing the resin is straightforward (2 parts resin to 1 part hardener). You’ll get quite a few air bubbles in the mixing process, but these never seem to have been a problem for me when the resin dries – they just seem to float to the surface and disappear (The note which comes with the Solid Water” packs says you should try and avoid getting a lot of air bubbles in the mixed water resin, but as I mentioned this hasn’t been a problem for me by the time the mixed water resin is dry).

I add in any stain at this point so that the mix is consistent – for this project, I stained with Vallejo Russian Green and Vallejo Black, although I’ve used a variety of acrylic paints in the past. You can also get some interesting “swirly” stain effects if you pour the mixed water resin onto a model and trace your stain (using a paintbrush) through the resin …

But that wasn’t the effect I was aiming for here. I was going for something less pleasant, less artistic, entirely more corrupted…. In fact, a ”dismal outlook, the waste of treeless, houseless, greenless landscape, destruction incarnate, the all-pervading smell of stagnant shellholes, with their frequently dreadful contents, and the ever-present expectation of a sudden “area shoot”, a storm of high explosive and shrapnel breaking out at a moment’s notice; and one marvels that any human being could live through such conditions and keep sane” (Major R L Bond, DSO, MC, 23rd Field Company, Royal Engineers).

I stained each of the cups of mixed resin with a faint green tinge. Enough to look suitably thick and viscous as it pooled in the deep hollows of the shell craters, but not too opaque to conceal all detail at the base of each of the craters.

Pouring the mixed resin can be done in a number of ways. I have found the easiest to be a syringe (for small, detailed applications) and a small plastic cup with a pouring lip (for larger applications).

It’s best to pour from, or inject into, the centre of the location where you want the resin. In addition to the obvious reason (that’s where the water pools) it also helps ensure that any drips of resin from the syringe or cup can be covered over with more mixed water resin later. I then steered the mixed water resin into the edges of the shell crater using an old paintbrush …

I try and keep the layers of resin thin – this helps drying. This is the reason why I carved out the shall craters fairly shallowly in the design stage of the terrain boards – I knew in advance that if the craters were authentically deep, this would result in needing a very high number of mixed water resin layers at the Solid Water” stage. I don’t think you really need the full authentic depth anyway as the resin is very good at creating an illusion that the craters (or any water feature) is deeper than it actually is.

It wasn’t always possible to keep the layers super-thin, however, partly because of the odd shapes in the terrain boards I ended up pouring and injecting the mixed resin into. But I aimed for a covering about a couple of millimetres in depth for each layer. This has worked fairly well in the past. You’ll see from the photos in this Blogpost that a number of small stones show through the water. This is because the first few pourings of the mixed water resin may not cover all the surface detail and surface undulations completely. By the end, though, they should all be submerged, but I’m anticipating that it will take quite a few return visits with fresh resin layers to finish the job. (I’ve probably got a couple more pourings before these terrain bases are fully finished, but to keep the Blogpost momentum, I thought you’d like seeing these pictures now).

After pouring the mixed water resin, I always double check that the terrain bases are completely level.

I try and leave them in a corner of the garage where no one’s going to touch them, and just keep a check on them from time to time just in case something like a stray fly or moth lands in them before they’re “set”. Oh yes, bitter experience there, folks!!

Any spare resin can be used to trace some puddles in appropriate places, such as down the sides of trenches.

Hardening takes about 24 hours, but I try not to wargame on water resin bases until at least 72 hours have passed. I also took extra time with the special features, such as the arm of the Fallen soldier entombed in the mud and slime….

Squire nagged and bullied till I went to fight,
(Under Lord Derby's scheme). I died in hell -
(They called it Passchendaele). My wound was slight,
And I was hobbling back; and then a shell
Burst slick upon the duck-boards; so I fell
Into the bottomless mud, and lost the light.
(“Memorial Tablet” : Siegfried Sassoon)

That’s it for this post. I’ve a very small amount of micro-details from the bases which I’ll post next time. After that, I’m not quite sure what I’ll cover next. Possibly some suggestions for rule adaptations for Third Ypres (along the lines of the “Rolling into Action” article I put in the TFL Christmas Magazine last year), or maybe some photos as I finish the German heavy weapons and artillery teams I started last month. Whatever it is, I hope you’ll join me then.


  1. That water effect just added another level of realism! Fantastic!!!


  2. Fantastic, truly a majestic piece of work. I'm actually planning on using a very similar style of water effects on my current project, so that tutorial was most appreciated!

  3. Amazing work !!!! Many tanks for share !!! Compliment !!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Thanks for another well explained modeling masterclass. Looks stunning. I use Deluxe products for snow and can recommend those as well. Cheers, Michael

  5. Excellent post Sidney. I haven't done anything like that yet but would like to. I will have to keep this post in mind.

  6. Amazing work and very realistic. I've tried several 'fake water' products and never seem to get the look I want. This walk-through has given me some new ideas. Excellent post!

  7. Again...excellent! A very nice result and a good explanatory tutorial. To stop flies etc...couldn´t you make a wire frame, big enought, wide enough and put a net curtain over it?? Being bigger and standing up higher than the dio base, It would also act as a warning.

  8. Outstanding walk-through, Sid. I tried in my shell craters with sating varnish mixed with brown and green paint, but the result is totally different and soooooo unnatural. Have you thought compiling all these terrain-making posts and putting them for sale in a pdf publication (may be through TFL)? I'm serious, they are great indeed and would pay to have all at hand and printed instead of browsing up and down your blog.

  9. Thanks very much for all the comments. As ever, I really appreciate them. I have one general post-script, which relates to air bubbles (which I will try and post a bit later this week).

    @Mr Saturday - thank you! Your comment, and the fact that you may be doing something sooner rather than later, made me want to add something about air bubbles (which I only found out last night). I'll try and post it over the next couple of days.

    @Carlo Antoni - very nice to hear from you, grazie!

    @MiniMike - thanks, mate. I shall bear the recommendation in mind about the snow product!

    @Rodger - you should give it a go, it's fun.

    @Big Lee - thanks so much. I can't wait to see what you come up with. Your Blog is a Big inspiration to me.

    @Paul - yes, having a mesh is a good idea. I may well try and give that a go.

    @Benito (Anibal) - Thanks, Benito. I'd not really thought about pulling the terrain ideas together, but I'll give that some thought. I do like the idea of putting all the terrain articles/ Blog posts together in one place and having a Great War terrain reference for players. I doubt I would charge for it, though - the Blog is really for me to give back to the Hobby. Maybe if people thought it was worth anything, they could make a donation to Henry Hyde's Combat Stress Appeal/ US Wounded Warrior project or some similar military charity wherever people live. Let me know what you think (either here or offline). Perhaps it's something for next year… I mention that only because next on the publishing front is the "Through the Mud & the Blood" Western Front Supplement which I'm still trying to finish!

  10. What a great article! I'm tired of using the woodland scenics quick water and this is a perfect tutorial on how to do it right. I'll see if I can purchase that stuff here in the states. Thanks for the tutorial!

  11. Brian, you are very welcome. I can't wait to see what you make of it!

  12. Amazing, simply amazing work, the effect is putrid, poisonous looking water that no one would wish to fall into.

  13. Wow! I have never seen trench terrain so amazing, better than the stuff in WHB's "The Great War".

    I hope I can find "Solid Water" in the States.

  14. Thanks guys.

    @Angry - yep, that's the result I was looking for!

    @Baconfat - That's very kind indeed. I don't think I'm at Dave Andrew's or Aly Morrison's standard. Maybe one day, possibly. In my opinion, they are right at the pinnacle of the hobby with people like the wonderful Dave Taylor. They represent the very best of standards to aim for, as modellers, wargamers and people. But I'm deeply chuffed about what you said anyway...thanks very much.

    @Captain Richard - thanks, mate!

  15. Great looking board, and fantastic tutorial. I know Aly and Dave would be very happy with it.


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