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"Adding gloss to the "water" in flexible latex rivers" Topic

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Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP25 Nov 2017 12:59 a.m. PST

I have a bunch of flexible latex rivers that I'd like to improve. My biggest complaint about them has ever been that the water has no shine to it – it's as dull as the banks.

I'm looking for a gloss coat that will stick to latex, flex without flaking off, and preferably won't yellow.

I tried a coat of Future on a test piece, and that was both really easy to apply and seemed to work really well. However, I'm really not sure how flexible it will remain, and what happens to Future over time. Does it yellow? Get brittle? flake or crack or dull? Attack the latex?

I also have a few acrylic gel mediums I can try, which definitely dry flexible, but so far none of these have been very easy to work with (in any project, this one included), so I'm reluctant to commit to one of them.

Any advice appreciated.

- Ix

nevinsrip25 Nov 2017 2:18 a.m. PST

Modge Podge gloss

Golgoloth25 Nov 2017 4:10 a.m. PST

I've used Future on flexible materials a lot – but not latex – and have experienced cracking later on when bent / creased, so perhaps not really suitable, depending on "how" flexible your river sections are.

freerangeegg25 Nov 2017 7:24 a.m. PST

You could try painting it with a coat of PVA glue, that will stay flexible when it dries and leave a shine on the surface.

Personal logo Grelber Supporting Member of TMP25 Nov 2017 10:45 a.m. PST

I have two swamp pieces. Since, like you, I wanted the water to shine, but not the logs floating there, I used several coats of a brush on varnish--I think it was Americana DuraClear Gloss Varnish. Several years later, one of the two swamps is fine. The other has a network of lines. These don't seem to be cracks and they add some interest to the surface (are they currents, something floating in the swamp water, or perhaps something growing on the bottom of the swamp?)


Zephyr125 Nov 2017 3:41 p.m. PST

Maybe attach clear plastic food wrap to the water sections, so you'd get both a shiny and a protective surface. Aleen's Flex-Stretch fabric glue would probably work (dries clear/bluish), a thin film to glue the wrap down (might take a while to dry, though.) It also works great for basing minis… ;-)

Baranovich25 Nov 2017 4:44 p.m. PST

Nevinsrip said it!

Mod Podge Gloss Sealer!!

No disrespect meant to other ideas, but in my experience there's no need to fuss with PVA glue or with any kind of wrapping or covering.

Mod Podge looks like REAL water. If you dab it back and forth over a surface you'd swear after it dries that you're looking at moving water. It's super high gloss. It's water-based, no toxic resin. Cleans up with water, brushes clean up with water. Dries just like clear Elmers school glue but it's better at setting up. Sets up as stiff as glue, you don't have to seal off the ends of a river channel like you would with resin. And it's meant to seal puzzle and picture craft projects so it dries as tough as iron.

Best thing out there for water, hands down.

Here some of my rivers, it is applied right over an MDF surface painted with a dark color:


Golgoloth25 Nov 2017 5:41 p.m. PST

@ Baranovich … Looks utter crap …

Yeah …. obviously it doesn't :)
Looks pretty amazing, actually. But what is it really? PVA + water?

Baranovich25 Nov 2017 5:57 p.m. PST


Lol…. :)

Well, I'm not sure what the exact composition of Mod Podge is, but you're probably right in that it's a similar thing to PVA glue mixed with water. It doesn't quite smell like PVA glue, it's got like a sweeter kind of scent to it.

It probably has PVA glue elements in it but also something extra in it that helps it set up as a sealer, some kind of acrylic element that dries to a state that's similar to clear plastic:


Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP25 Nov 2017 8:01 p.m. PST

Uh… wow. The Baranovich River is gorgeous. Those are some impressive water effects.

What I want to know is: how did you get that color? I've tried to do that, and simply failed. If I can get the colors right, you may have just sold me on using Mod Podge as my naval basing top coat.

Unfortunately, I don't think Mod Podge is the right clear coat for my latex rivers. It says right on the can that Mod Podge dries tacky, and the recommended fix for that is acrylic clearcoat, which is a non-starter. First, I must be able to brush on the gloss (the banks aren't going to be glossy) and dried acrylic is too inflexible, so it's just about certain to craze and crackle on latex.

- Ix

Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP25 Nov 2017 10:45 p.m. PST

I tried a topcoat of Future. It was easy to apply, dried a to a very nice shine, and a day later it seems to be holding on without flaws. It's possible that it's as cracked as a windshield in a meteor storm, but the crackling is hidden by the rippling surface texture. The coat I applied to the flat back of the piece didn't crackle when stretched.

On the back of another latex river piece, I tried a few experiments with acrylic mediums (media?). The gel medium was too hard to apply, and thinning it to improve flow reduced the gloss too much. The acrylic gloss varnish looked perfect, but now that it's dry it becomes noticeably crackly when stretched and distorted.

- Ix

Golgoloth26 Nov 2017 5:53 a.m. PST

Congrats Admiral :)

And thanks for the update, too!
Something a lot of people unfortunately forget.

Baranovich26 Nov 2017 7:05 a.m. PST

@Yellow Admiral,

That is a good point, I hadn't thought about the flexibility part. That is true, with Mod Podge it would make the sections stiff which would defeat the purpose of them being flexible in the first place.

Mod Podge works best when applied to a solid surface like MDF or plywood or insulation foam. Diorama builders use it a lot water effects on military scenes.

However, I'm puzzled by what you said about Mod Podge drying tacky. Maybe initially, but I found that after about two days of drying it was completely dry and smooth, and didn't any sort of varnish or acrylic finish put over the top of it. I can run my fingers all over the surface of the boards I made, they're totally smooth. Best way I can describe Mod Podge is that it ends up feeling like a really thick layer of poured resin.

***About the color of my river sections. This is something that I've done some tutorials about. I learned this trick from railroad and military diorama modelers.

The secret of the color is that you paint the river bed in a dark color first, and you let the "depth" be achieved by the dark color, you don't try to actually create real depth with multiple layers of clear resin or clear water effect.

If you look at my photos, you can see that the rivers look very deep when in reality they are actually only about 1/16" deep if that. The illusion of depth comes from the opaqueness of the water, NOT it's transparency.

The problem that I see a lot of terrain makers have is that they try to achieve a deep color by actually adding paint to the resin itself. This is a big mistake because you end up having a river that looks like the water is actually colored blue or colored brown. Doesn't look right. And, with a couple layers of clear resin, you can't achieve any real depth. All your resin rivers end up looking like little dribbly, shallow streams.

This is all avoided as I said when you let the dark color of the paint be your "depth". I only use one layer of Mod Podge over the MDF surface because that's all that's needed.

With very, very few exceptions in nature, the vast majority of rivers in the daylight are nearly or totally opaque. Even rivers that are only five or six feet deep in most places of the world will look opaque in the daylight. You can't tell how deep or shallow they are until you get up very close to them and then the depth begins to show a little at the edges.

It seems like a really obvious thing when you think about it, but modelers often forget this and are fixated that their rivers have to be clear to the bottom which is a mistake.

This is what I'm talking about:





Baranovich26 Nov 2017 7:20 a.m. PST

One actual terrain example. This is from Terranscapes, a fellow that professionally builds and sells terrain for customers.

Here's one of his rivers where he uses a lighter base color than I did, but it's the same principal. This isn't poured resin. It's a painted surface with one thin layer of clear Mod Podge or clear acrylic paste over it.

This river looks deep because of the paint, not the water effects. The water effects merely provide the wet surface. And the water effects themselves aren't colored, they're clear.


Personal logo War Artisan Sponsoring Member of TMP26 Nov 2017 8:49 a.m. PST

Since I roll or fold up my terrain cloths for storage and transport, flexibility is a primary consideration. I've always used a thin layer of clear silicone caulk over the painted watercourses on my cloths. The effect looks like this:


Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP26 Nov 2017 3:24 p.m. PST

Clear silicone! Well, duh. I should have tried that already.

I think I even have a tube of it in the garage, probably about 3 years old now, waiting for me to get around to making water features. I'll see if I can get it to spread thin enough on the latex.

- Ix

Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP26 Nov 2017 3:40 p.m. PST

Baranovich said:

However, I'm puzzled by what you said about Mod Podge drying tacky. Maybe initially, but I found that after about two days of drying it was completely dry and smooth, and didn't any sort of varnish or acrylic finish put over the top of it. I can run my fingers all over the surface of the boards I made, they're totally smooth. Best way I can describe Mod Podge is that it ends up feeling like a really thick layer of poured resin.
Okay, that's good news. I have no experience with Mod Podge, so I have to depend on the descriptions of others. My fear of tackiness comes from comments on line and the jar of Mod Podge itself. However, my girlfriend uses Mod Podge for some of her craft projects, and she's as mystified by this "tacky" story as you are. Even in our 90% humid house, she showed me Mod Podge projects dried to a hard, smooth surface. I'll definitely give it a try for projects where flexibility aren't a requirement.

The secret of the color is that you paint the river bed in a dark color first, and you let the "depth" be achieved by the dark color, you don't try to actually create real depth with multiple layers of clear resin or clear water effect.
Thanks for all the advice. Do you know what paint color you used for the base of your first set of pictures? It looks almost black, with a bit of blue tint to it, like a midnight blue. Is the hint of color just reflecting from surrounding terrain?

- Ix

Baranovich26 Nov 2017 5:40 p.m. PST

@Yellow Admiral,

The paint was a mix of black, forest green, and medium blue. When I mixed it it almost looked like a very dark,murky gray which was the perfect shade for a deep river.

Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP26 Nov 2017 7:30 p.m. PST


- Ix

Baranovich26 Nov 2017 10:10 p.m. PST

No problem, happy to help!

Borderguy19026 Nov 2017 10:28 p.m. PST

@ Yellow Admiral

I used clear silicone on a beach board, and it is soft and somewhat tacky years later… I'd say there is a flex to it for sure, but if I leave a model on it for a few days it will stick. Might have been the brand I used (don't remember which) or that its lived in a basement since curing. Just my experience.

Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP28 Nov 2017 1:57 p.m. PST

More updates:

I put another coat of Future on the back of a piece and let it dry for a few days. When I tried stretching the piece, no cracking, no crinkling. Pretty impressive.

I also found a gloss clear coat for latex called Flex Gloss, for sale from The Monster Makers and ordered a bottle. I'll see how that works when it arrives.

I didn't manage to find my tube of clear silicone, so that experiment will wait until I get another. I probably used the first one on a window or something. :-)

- Ix

Personal logo Bowman Supporting Member of TMP30 Nov 2017 1:59 p.m. PST

Hmmm……and I bought a small bottle of Mod-Podge Gloss to coat my rivers, because of this thread.

Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP04 Dec 2017 3:15 p.m. PST

New update:

The Flex Gloss from The Monster Makers appears to work perfectly. It goes on easily, dries glossy and clear, sticks tenaciously, and flexes like latex (because, well, it *is* latex). It has one potential drawback – applied to a smooth surface, it retains some of the brush strokes after it dries. It thins with water, which will probably fix this issue. For my purposes, I'm coating a "rippled" surface, so the brush strokes will be invisible in any case. Unless I find a "gotcha" on my way through glossing my rivers, I'll use this product.

I still haven't been able to craze, crackle or split the Future gloss coat, so that's probably a perfectly acceptable solution, with the added advantages of being cheaper and easier to acquire. It also dissolves in ammonia, so mistakes can be fixed quickly and easily with nearly any window cleaner already lying around the house. Caveat: the latex piece I "cleaned" of the Future coat became very tacky; either latex is attacked by ammonia, or I cleaned off whatever coating was making the cured latex not tacky (Mold release? Dust? Dirt? A special de-tacking finishing coat? Dunno.)

- Ix

Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP04 Dec 2017 3:21 p.m. PST

Unrelated update:

I experimented with gloss Mod Podge on some Age of Sail ship bases I'm creating. It's easy to apply, dries to the touch quickly, makes a wonderfully "liquid" gloss coat, and is easy to raise into very small mounds for a very watery surface texture. Thanks for the recommendation, this is a great product to add to my crafting arsenal.

The only real downside I can find so far is that it will take quite some practice to make Mod Podge look like proper waves. My first attempt is sorta okay, but I think this is one of those projects where my skills will improve with practice so much that I'll decide to throw out my first batch of bases around the time I make the fourth or fifth batch. :-)

- Ix

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