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"Best product for water with depth? " Topic

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576 hits since 29 Jan 2018
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whitejamest29 Jan 2018 7:13 p.m. PST

Hi folks. I was wondering what product you guys would recommend for artificial water with some depth to it. That is, I don't want to just achieve the depth effect with paint, I want to actually fill up a hollow space with clear or semi-translucent water. It would end up being a couple centimeters thick.

Thoughts? Thanks!

Rod MacArthur29 Jan 2018 11:19 p.m. PST

Lots of layers of clear varnish.


steamingdave47 Inactive Member30 Jan 2018 1:49 a.m. PST


Ideas from a railway modeller – those chaps produce some brilliant scenic effects, so some good ideas on their forums or in books. This one sems to favour two part epoxy.

Rich Bliss30 Jan 2018 11:08 a.m. PST

Really dark paint with ModgePodge over the top.

Anthropicus30 Jan 2018 1:03 p.m. PST

Vallejo has a very good water effects line.

Yellow Admiral30 Jan 2018 3:25 p.m. PST

For an example of what Rich Bliss is talking about see the rivers by Baranovich in this thread. I don't know if dark paint overcoated with Mod Podge is the best solution, but it looks really good and it's as easy as falling off a log. However, it's meant for adding the illusion of depth to flat surfaces, and would not (easily) fill a deep space.

If you really have centimeters of depth to fill, you almost certainly need a pour-in solution, not a paint-on one.

- Ix

whitejamest31 Jan 2018 6:13 a.m. PST

Thanks very much for the recommendations guys.

Yes, as Yellow Admiral says, I think it will certainly have to be a pour-in product. I'll keep looking, but if anyone has experiences with pour-ins to share I'd love to hear it.

Mad Guru Supporting Member of TMP31 Jan 2018 9:55 a.m. PST

If you want to use a "pour-in" I would recommend EnviroTex Lite, two-part clear resin. One coat equals about 50 coats of varnish. Of course using it is a much more elaborate and labor-intensive process than using varnish or ModgePodge, both of which can also give very good results. Based on quality of results balanced with time and effort required, I would rate ModgePodge among the very best choices, and IMHO Baranovich's work shown in the links above is truly excellent… but if you want the particular look and feel of a pour-in product, then EnviroTex Lite may be worth the added effort.

The curing/drying process for a single 1/8" deep pour will be about 6 to 8 hours, and depending on the depth of your water channel, you may need to do multiple such pours. If you want to add a tint of color to the resin, you will probably want to do at least one and possibly multiple test pours on small test pieces prepared just for that purpose, in order to work out the exact ratio of paint or ink drops to add to measured cups full of resin.

Then there is what I think is the most challenging aspect of the process: exactly when in the curing process to agitate the resin (usually by drawing a popsicle stick or similar through it at irregular intervals) in order for it to dry with a "rippling" or "flowing wave" effect, rather than a flush flat surface. The combined resin has a standard curing time, but this can be effected by the quantity being used and even the temperature and humidity at your location.

In my experience, figuring out exactly how long to wait (3 hours? 4-1/2 hours? 5 hours?) before you drag the stick through the surface, and then it mostly BUT NOT COMPLETELY returns to its undisturbed state, so the agitation is soft and flowing, rather than jagged and angular, and nothing like the movement of real water… will be a challenge.

I have found the timing difficult to predict in a truly exact manner, which can make it a bit of a nerve-wracking process, considering how much time and effort you will have already put into preparing the terrain piece before getting to the point where you add the actual resin/water. This was the case for me when making river terrain boards, but it might be less daunting if you are pouring resin into river sections meant to be set down atop the rest of your terrain… but then the channel may not be deep enough to merit using resin to begin with, at least IMHO. My own insulation foam terrain boards are 2" thick and have rivers that were poured into 1" deep channels.

Here are a few sample pics of a couple of my river boards. The lighting makes the color of the water look a bit more garishly green than in real life, but I think you get a sense of the wavy "flowing" surface.




Here's another view with the river in the background…


Some people (including myself) like the "glassy" effect of resin water features, as well as the sense of depth multiple pours can bring… but whether or not they're worth the tremendous amount of time and effort required when compared to other methods is a subjective question each terrain maker must answer for themselves.

whitejamest31 Jan 2018 4:53 p.m. PST

Mad Guru, that is absolutely gorgeous work, and a great example of how nice the depth effect of poured resin is.

Thank you for the recommendation, I think I will give EnviroTex Lite a try.

Yellow Admiral01 Feb 2018 9:01 a.m. PST

Those are really nice terrain boards. All my attempts to make anything that nice have been failures (and, later, storage debacles…).

Somehow that EnviroTex resin is poured to a precise vertical cutoff at the edge of each panel. How did you do that?

I'm also wondering if the whole guessing game around stirring the resin could be avoided by using a layer of Mod Podge over the top. Pour resin, let it set, layer on Mod Podge to add texture…?

- Ix

Baranovich01 Feb 2018 10:13 a.m. PST

I second what Mad Guru says about Envirotex clear resin. Probably one of the best products out there for achieving water depth where you actually want water where you can see down to the bottom of the river bed.

For me the whole Mod Podge technique came about because I am simply not good at using clear resins. There's always issues for me with the curing, unexpected sagging, drooping, spilling, etc. No matter what I try to do it just never seems to come out the way I'm envisioning.

Those terrain boards look awesome by the way! The green rivers with the reeds are most excellent.

For me personally the reason I ultimately chose Mod Podge was also because I wanted a non-toxic, water cleanup way to reproduce river and lake ripples and waves. Mod Podge over dark paint for me was clearly the easiest way to achieve it.

Of course with Mod Podge you sacrifice the transparent effect, all your rivers and lakes have to be either dark-colored (deep), or very, very shallow ponds or streams. Can't do that several centimeter-deep clear water effect.

Mad Guru Supporting Member of TMP02 Feb 2018 10:49 p.m. PST

@whitejamest: Happy to hear my above comment and pics were of use to you, and I wish you the best with your resin river making!

@Yellow Admiral: Thanks for the compliment! EnviroTex Lite is SELF-LEVELING, so once you pour it, it will always dry along what I believe you mean by, "a precise vertical cutoff." The only question is how DEEP you want it to be. The answer involves how many added LAYERS of mixed resin you will need to pour. It is possible to pour very thin layers, say only 1/16" or maybe even 1/32", but I always went with 1/8", which is the maximum recommended depth for a single pour. Deeper than that and there may be problems with the curing process.

Your other question/comment about avoiding having to "agitate" the drying resin by simply letting it dry flat and then using a different material to add current or waves to the surface is a great idea. I looked into it for some time and made a few tests, but was not able to get a satisfying result. But by the time I got to that point I had been building those river boards on and off for months and months (maybe a year?) and the combination of wanting to get them finished, and also not wanting to risk a less than satifactory final result on pieces I had already invested so much time and effort on, may have kept me from finding a perfect solution such as you describe.

On the other hand, there is a very "natural" feel to the undulations in the water surface when they were made from the same material at the same time. The ultimate version might include both agitating the resin (as I did) and also some added "chop" with white water using a supplementary materiel such as ModPodge or acrylic Extra Heavy Gloss Gel, which I have used to pretty good effect on MDF river and canal boards made to lay down as added terrain pieces atop tabletop ground cover.

@Baranovich: Thanks very much for your compliment as well! I am a longtime admirer of your terrain-building work here on TMP. I also struggled through the mixing, pouring, and curing process with clear resin. It smells pretty bad while it dries, and it has to sit out undisturbed for the better part of 8-10 hours. I would describe it as an unforgiving material, which is why I highly recommend doing tests on small sample pieces before actually attempting to use it on a river terrain board which someone has already invested a great deal of time and effort into.

Another challenge is building your "dams" at the far ends of the boards, to keep the resin from simply flowing out onto your table or your floor. This is usually done with a small piece of plastic and a bead of hot-glue laid around the outside edge of the river channel on the wood-frame board. Hopefully it will create a perfect seal so none of the resin will leak out during the curing process. Sometimes it does, other times the seal will not be so perfect, and you have have one or more tiny leak lines of resin. After the final resin pour dries and you remove the plastic card dam -- which also can be a bit of a pain, as it doesn't always "pop" off intact like it's supposed to -- if there's any problem with dried resin streaks or bits of plastic card, I've found the simple solution is to use a sanding block with some sandpaper, which should remove any unwanted remnants of either material and clean the wood frame so that it will match up flush with any other river boards you build.

I'm sure, especially in the model RR world, there are people who are true resin water feature experts, who understand the material inside and out and have used it so many times they are masters. I tried looking at online tutorials, but never found one that satisfactorily addressed the issues of adding surface current or waves, or gave a specific formula for adding color tint while keeping a translucent effect, which is why I did lots of tests.

For me the most challenging thing about using resin for water features is that I felt less in control of the process than with materials like ModPodge or Extra Heavy Gloss Gel.

Oh… one other potential "down side" to resin rivers: unless you keep SUPER METICULOUS RECORDS… if at a later date you decide you want to expand your river(s) by building more river boards… you may have difficulty matching the color of the "water", especially if you mixed different inks or paints to get the result you wanted the first time. I tried to keep accurate records, but having recently built 3 more river board frames and cut and glued insulation foam into them… I am a bit worried about having to perfectly match that "green" water, which was created using a mix of several different artists inks. Though inks have a certain advantage over paint when used in clear resin, looking back I kind of wish I had simply found an off-the-shelf brownish green shade of paint, so I'd have an advantage in getting the color of my river water to match.

All of that being said, I am still happy with the results I got on those rivers, and hopefully when I get around to completing the new boards I'll get them to match.

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