Creating Simple but Believable Water Effects with Matty Pearce

Creating Simple but Believable Water Effects – PRELUDE


Hard at work

Hi everyone, welcome to, my name is Matty Pearce and some of you will know me as one of the admins of the Eavier Metal Facebook group. I recently joined the team here and this will be my first ever article, hopefully the first of many!

I was really excited when Jay (Redrum) asked me to be part of this community website, I totally believe in what he is trying to do for the hobby and I share his passion for all things figure painting.

I have jumped in at the deep-end for my first article as I will be taking on the challenge of water effects, again another first for me. I have tried to explain as clearly as possible with the aid of images the process I went through, I hope you may find it of some use!


Creating realistic water effects has a reputation of being a slow and painstaking trick to pull off on your miniature projects, but in reality, with a little knowledge and patience, the effect can look very impressive and really add to a project’s story and atmosphere .

With this tutorial I’m hoping to give you a clear insight of what to do, what not to do and things to consider when trying to get your water effects to look believable. I will be doing this for a fantasy piece I have recently been working on but hopefully, once you have practised these simple steps I have laid out, you will be able to apply them to many different projects. The scene depicts a hobbit (Spirit of Adventure sculpted by Jonatan Monerris), standing in a stream under a blossom tree contemplating his next adventure, or meal , who knows, he’s a hobbit…

The water effects we will be creating in this tutorial will be based on a slow moving, clear stream with a small cascade and some fish nibbling our hobbits toes. With that in mind there will be several factors we will have to take in to account whilst trying to create your own effects.

Some of those factors being : strength of water flow, colour of water and water bed (this can change dependant on time of year, surrounding areas and pollution among other things), surrounding environment, how the cascade will affect the water it falls into, how moving water reacts when it hits the part of our hobbit’s legs that are submerged in the stream, debris falling from vegetation and of course the water’s inhabitants (such as fish and small amphibians)…. sound like fun ? Then let’s do this !



acetate for the barrier

– Resin (I use Pebeo crystal clear resin)
– Vallejo extra heavy gel (to create the small cascade and any surface movement on our stream)
– x2 small measuring pots (to measure the amounts of the 2 part resin)
– x2 shot glasses (to pour the resin from)
– Something to Stir (to mix the two part resin)
– Thin Plasticard or Acetate (to create a barrier so the resin doesn’t over flow or leak all over your project)
– Super glue (to seal our barrier)
– Hot glue gun
– Vaseline (to act as a release agent on the barrier)
– Elastic bands (to strengthen the barrier)
– Blu Tack (to bolster the barrier further still)
– Patience  (because it can take awhile)
– Paint brush and selection of Metallic paints (for our streams inhabitants)
– Sand paper and glass paper (for sanding away any residue from our barriers)


There are two possible ways of doing this.


paint your river bed in anticipation of the water effects

1) You can tint the resin to make the actual water coloured (you will need to be super careful what you choose to stain your water as some paints don’t work very well as they separate within the resin).

Inks work particularly well, working in this way, you can paint the bottom of the stream, without having to consider the effect of the colours reflected in the water, as the resin itself is tinted. Doing it this way we will add the colour to resin later on.

2) You can paint the stream bottom so that it would look like water and then do a clear resin pour over the top . This way it gives the illusion that the water has colour . Doing it this way is great if you want to include fish or amphibians in the stream as it makes them clearer to see. This will be the option I will take on this project. The painted river bed should look a little like this photo.


By now we should have painted the stream bed. Which means we need to start making our barrier so that the resin doesn’t leak from the edges of our project all over the table. (Resin is not an easy clean. But if it does leak, keep soap and water on hand to clean it up quickly).


barrier glued into place

Our barrier should be made from clear Acetate. If you are unable to find this, then the plastic from a blister pack will also be effective. It’s better that our barrier is transparent as it allows you a clearer vision of the level of the resin pour. Your barrier will look something like the photo on the right.

If your water will cover the entire base it will need to stretch around the whole of the plinth. It’s also important that your barrier sits higher than the level you are planning for your waters’ surface.


Our first layer of defence! We will need to super glue along the edge where our water will be. Once we have done this we need to place the barrier on the area and apply pressure all along where the super glue is and hold in place until dry. After it should look like this.

Second layer of defence against the vile resin leak !! For this we will need a hot glue gun. This may seem a tad extreme but we don’t want to take chances with a leak when we have spent hours painting our precious project.


hot glue seals the edge of the acetate on the outside

It’s easy to remove after as well ! Place the glue all along the edges of the barrier and be careful not to burn yourself or burn your fingers. You can see the result of the hot glue gun in the picture on the left.

Once the glue is dry it is time for third layer of defence which is the simple elastic band. Place this around your plinth and over the area where the barrier is.

This helps stop the resin pushing out the centre of the barrier and misshaping all your hard work thus far. For the fourth layer of defence place Blu Tack around edges that you may be worried about. I tend to place this at the top corners of the barrier in case there is an over flow.


Now our barrier is in place and secured we will need to smear or “paint”  Vaseline along the inside of the barrier. This acts as a release agent and allows the acetate to be easily removed once the resin has cured without leaving unsightly marks or damaging the smooth surface of our “water”.



accurate measuring and mixing is vital

The resin that we are using is called Pebeo crystal clear resin, this is a 2 part resin which means for it to set we need to mix the 2 separate liquids together. This creates a chemical reaction allowing the resin to harden. (If you are using any other resin types please read and follow the instructions that should be included).

Follow the instructions that come with crystal clear resin measuring out and mixing the 2 parts at the specified amounts. Once mixed pour from one shot glass to the other with as thin a stream as you can and try and pull any bubbles to the surface using your mixing stick (if you are tinting your resin with colour now is the time to do so).

Once done we are ready to do the pour.


This is the part that we all dread but stay focused and all will be o.k! We will need to make the pour directly into the deepest part of the stream, that way it fills from the bottom up and will be easier to see and control the amount needed to pour, this will give us the best possible chance of preventing an over pour.


begin the pour, carefully, starting at the deepest point

The deepest pour I have done so far is about an inch deep. I wouldn’t recommend doing anything deeper than this in one go, any bubbles at this point can be brought to the surface using a folded out paper clip.

You will need to place your project upon a flat tray or container, that if god forbid, you do have a leak somewhere, then the resin can be contained. Place under a container or something similar so as to prevent unwanted dust and particles (even flies) from landing upon the surface of the resin whilst still wet.

Next, you must wait a pain staking 24 hours until our first pour is set. You can see that we haven’t filled it to the top and that’s for a good reason; our stream will need some fishy inhabitants and these can be painted directly on top of the cured resin from an above angle as you won’t be able to see them from the side.

To create depth, repeat this action as many times as you like but leave the required setting time between each layer. ( This can be quite difficult if you are feeling impatient) For the sake of this tutorial I have done 2 layers of fish, which mean 3 layers of resin. You will need to mix a fresh batch of resin each time you do this.


additional effects can be created such as morning dew

An idea I had whilst using the last amount of resin I mixed, was to place droplets of it upon the grass around the little cascade. This gives the illusion of water splashing, as the cascade hits the lower part of our stream. It can also be used to look like morning dew.


Our resin should be fully set by now, which means it is time to remove the first barrier holding our stream back. The glue from the glue gun should peel away easily. Pull off the plastic barrier which even though we used super glue shouldn’t be too hard either. It should look similar to the picture below .

As you can see this has left quite a clean area as we haven’t had any leaks, this means we have very little clean up. If you have had a leak at this point it is fine as we will be sanding the area to remove all marks/blemishes left by the super glue a bit later on.


the vaseline has done a great job protecting the plinth and the smooth water

You will notice there is a little lip of resin along the edge where it’s raised up the side of our barrier. This can be scraped down with a scalpel and then just painted with gloss varnish over the top. This will return it to being clear.


For the movement on our water we will use Vallejo extra heavy gel. This will be applied to the top layer of our resin with a paint brush. It should be applied in the areas where the water would make contact, whether it be against his feet, rocks, hiking stick, vegetation or indeed along the edge of the stream.

Looking at reference material online or observing this interaction in the great outdoors will allow you to determine how to recreate this effect in a believable manner. We will also need to paint this over the ledge that will create our small water fall.


the finished effects including the small cascade

It may take a few layers before it creates a noticeable difference and each layer will take about 30 minutes to an hour to set. Just repeat the process until you are happy.


Remove second barrier on the higher level of our base and sand down any spillage. Brush any excess sanded resin off the base and repaint black.

I hope this tutorial has been of use to the reader , unfortunately the effects, due to their reflective nature and shine, do not photograph too well however, if you give this technique a go, take your time, plan, be organised and patient I am sure you will see for yourself how effective this can be. Thanks for taking time to read this, my first article here at Hopefully you will be back for my next.

I would also like to thank Jay for inviting me to join him and the team on this project, I am very excited to be involved and we have so much great content lined up for you all!