Simulating rippled water effects - comparing some products
particular text would not be made public at first, for it just
summarizes my analysis of a few products that I have lying around
my workbench for simulating water effects in dioramas. I wondered,
however, that it may be
useful to someone out there with the same concerns.
time I was working on a Italeri Autoblinda AB40 in 1/35 scale, I
decided to put the model on a vignette showing part of a bridge and
water running under it. I did most of the usual steps for simulating
water, poured tinted epoxy resin, etc. But this should be the bank of a
creek, not a pond. I wanted to add movement to the water. Having
read/watched lots of materials on the subject, I knew it would be
necessary to add something to the top of the water:
main interest was to compare these products to simulate rippled water
effects. Most modelers simulating rivers or seas resort to two basic
approaches: opaque (Celluclay, resin, etc) or transparent (gel, resin,
silicone, etc) water. I will not enter into the details of each one
here. But unless you are interested in modeling a pond in a day with no
wind at all, you probably will need to add some texture to the top of
the water to replicate the water movement/agitation. Sometimes all you
want is to avoid a perfectly flat water surface, other times you want
to add waves and foam:
on the technique you want to use, the waves can be simulated directly
with your clay or resin. But the smaller ripples are better and more
realistically simulated by adding special gels or putties on
the water surface. It is important to know if the product of your
choice will dry transparent, if it keeps its shape, how well the
ripples are simulated. For that, I chose to make a very simple
comparative test of the following products. There is no reason
for choosing this particular list of products except that I had them at hand, and that they are all soluble in water:
Cola Flex (a local brand of thick glue with caulk content)
Water Effects (Woodland Scenics)
Gloss Gel Medium (Liquitex)
Generic flat acrylic emulsion (used by artists to seal canvas)
Modge Podge gloss (Plaid)
Foam & Snow (Vallejo)
Gel Medium (Corfix)
Acrylic Water (MiG)
of these products are specifically made for modeling, others are
generic and can be found in craft/artist stores. Two of them (Cola Flex
and Foam & Snow) are used to simulate the white foaming on the
crest of waves and agitated waters.
My main objective was to
compare how transparent they are (except for the two used for foam) and
how they keep their shape. I was not interested in drying time. The
'testing protocol' was the simplest:
two blots of the product on a plastic plate. One by stippling a thick
brush over the plate and below it a single short brushstroke. The first
emulates what we do when shaping waves and ripples, while the second
shows what happens when we spread a thinner layer of the product over a
Check the samples after 2 hours of drying time. Take photos.
Check the samples after 48 hours of drying time. Take photos.
Analyze the results.
aware that it is possible to change the color of these products by
adding tints, as well as change their viscosity by thinning with water
or alcohol, what can change considerably the final
aspect of them on your model.
Here are the tests photographed 2 hours and 48 hours after application:
A better comparison is possible with a zoomed image of the products tested:
My humble verdict is the following. Regarding the products to simulate water foaming:
Both dry flat.
the case of MiG's Foam & Snow, powder or micro-ballons must be
added to add texture to the foam. It tends to smooth out when applied
in thicker layers.
Glue + white paint + caulk
can be found in hardware stores in several forms, commonly used to
cover imperfections in walls and doors. So you don't need to add
anything to it. Just stipple on the top of waves etc.
As for the other products, they are pretty much equivalent. I think the main conclusions are:
Modeling brands seem to be re-boxing arts products on and on, just more expensive. It is your money.
all will dry transparent. It is just that 48h is not enough to some of
them dry thoroughly, which explains the milky appearance of some of the tested samples.
If you need a non-smooth texture,
my vote goes to Water Effects, from Woodland Scenics, hands down. It is
already gloss, holds its shape perfectly and can be tinted if needed;
for Water Effects, all other products showed some degree of smoothing
right after application - it may well be what you want.
flat emulsion does not look much like water. It would require a gloss
coat after application but can find use in mud collected on vehicles
All gel mediums (including MiG's Acrylic
Water), acrylic emulsion and the well known Modge-Podge produced
bubbles during the stippling. Blowing with airbrush seems to be a must
to eliminate them, but it can destroy your texture pattern. On the
other hand, air blowing adds welcome randomness to the surface of
are always a good idea to be done by the modeler, as they show the
characteristics of products you have around but never used. Of course,
all of them have an application, but I would round up this comparison
with the following
a very rippled water effect, the use of Water Effects with caulk glue,
Foam & Snow or even drybrushing on top of waves seems to deliver
the most irregular surface.
For more smooth ripples, any of the gels tested can be used, as long as care is taken to avoid the bubbles.
I hope you find this article useful somehow in your next project.