Today we are going to show you lot a quick, simple technique for making great looking creepy swamp terrain or bases with realistic water effects. A lot of people seem to struggle with getting a look of depth with their water effects and in this tutorial we will be showing you just how to achieve this.
Enough rambling… on with the show…
Materials you will need:
- A Swamp… or something to make look like a swamp. We’ve used one of our resin swamp bases but the techniques shown here can be applied to other items as well such as home made swamp scenery, ponds, rivers, craters… basically anything with a raised edge which can hold the water-effects medium.
- Spray Primer – Use black… for the love of [insert appropriate deity here] use black.
- Paints – Unsurprisingly, you will need some paints. We use mostly Vallejo Game Colour paints but you can use whatever you have. Here’s a list of the colours you will need:
- Black (Any black paint)
- Dark Brown (Vallejo Charred Brown / Old GW Scorched Brown / New GW Rhinox Hide)
- Dark Olive Green (Vallejo Cayman Green / Old GW Catachan Green / New GW Castellan Green)
- Light Beige (Old GW Dheneb Stone / New GW Rakarth Flesh / 2:1 Vallejo Khaki & White Mix)
- Washes – Brown, Black, Green (optional), Sepia (optional)
- Inks – To tint the water effects. We used Black-Green and Brown Vallejo Inks.
- Grey (Vallejo Cold Grey / Old GW Codex Grey / New GW Dawnstone) – Only if there are rocks in your swamp.
- Bone (Vallejo Bonewhite / Old GW Bleached Bone / New GW Ushabti Bone) – Only if there are skulls in your swamp.
- Medium Brown (Vallejo Beasty Brown / Old GW Bestial Brown / New GW Mournfang Brown or Skrag Brown) – Only if there are logs in your swamp.
- Still Water Effects Medium – Please don’t get one of the crappy 1-part water products such as those made by GW, Javis, Woodland Scenics etc (usually a polyurethane dispersion.. i.e. water based). They are fine in very thin layers but are awful for deeper water and will peel away from the sides of your swamp as they dry.
We use a 2-part resin called Envirotex Lite. Many serious model makers swear by this stuff and so do we. It takes a while to dry fully but sets super hard and super shiny and doesn’t shrink like the 1-part products.
- Stir Stick – Something to mix the Envirotex Lite. A lollipop stick is ideal.
- Disposable cup – A plastic or paper cup to mix the Envirotex Lite.
- Detritus – Some small twigs, leaves, dried herbs, tea leaves. Anything that would look good floating in a swamp. This is optional but recommended.
- Static Grass – A little static grass to add some vegetation (again optional).
Step 1 – Spray that Mutha!
Grab your chosen swamp (go make one if you don’t have one). Prime the whole piece with black primer.
Step 2 – Drybrush Heaven
Grab a nice big brush and get drybrushing. We’ve got a few colours to do here so hop to it!
First a heavy drybrush (overbrush) of dark brown. No need to be neat. Just hit the banks and raised areas of the swamp and any logs etc. Leave most of the deep parts of the swamp black.
Next a heavy drybush of dark olive green. Get it on there. Again try to stay off the deep areas but don’t worry about being too neat.
Finally a lighter drybrush with the beige colour. Use the same brush so that the green colour mixes with the beige. This gives a nice easy green tone that looks pretty spooky.
Step 3 – Add Some Details
Now is the time to paint in any details such as rocks, logs, skulls etc. Just paint them up in their appropriate colours. We’ll treat them to some washes in the next step to make them look better.
Step 4 – Washes
Grab your washes and splash them about where required. Logs get a brown wash, rocks get a black wash (feel free to add some other colours too – see our painting rocks tutorial), skulls get sepia and brown washes. Give the deep areas a wash of black to make them look darker.
Step 5 – Adding Realism
Take your chosen detritus materials and break them up into small pieces. We used tea leaves, dried parsley, leaves from the garden and bits of bark. Glue these bits in the swamp using a tiny dab of pva glue. Don’t go too crazy with this as it’s very easy to ruin the effect if you go too far.
The only painting left to do is simply finishing off the base. Paint the rim black (if you’re doing a base and not a piece of scenery), tidy up any washes if required and add a little static grass if you like.
If you are making a base and have painted your miniature separately, now is the time to glue it to the base. Placing the miniature before adding the water means you can cover the feet in water for greater realism.
Step 6 – Water Water Everywhere…
Time for the scary bit. This is where it can go really well or really badly so take your time, and be careful.
Take your water medium (we’re going to assume you’ve been sensible and used a 2-part resin like Envirotex Lite) and read the usage instructions and safety data sheet. If you don’t you will probably make a mistake and can cause yourself harm. You have been warned.
Mix up a small amount according to the manufacturer’s instructions in a disposable cup. Don’t mix up too much as that’s pretty wasteful. You can always add more once the first layer is dry.
Once mixed, mix in a few drops of your chosen ink to tint the resin to a swamp water like colour. We went for a greeny brown made using 2 drops of Vallejo Black-Green Ink and 1 drop of Vallejo Brown Ink. Try out a few different colours if you’re not sure.
Place your swamp on a completely level surface. This is important or the resin will set deeper in one area and will look odd. Very slowly pour the mixed resin into your swamp until it reaches the desired level.
If you like, you can throw in a few more bits of leaf litter to look like it is floating on the surface of the water.
Leave the resin to set for at least 48 hours in a dust-free area. Place a cardboard box over the swamp to keep dust off if required.
There are so many ways you can add detail to your swamp to really make it your own. You could add parts of model kits such as barrels half sunk in the water. You can add reeds made from paper or brush bristles or plants / weeds made from flock or lichen.
Thanks for reading. We hope you will try this technique yourselves. Feel free to drop a comment below if you have any questions or feedback.