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River Basing Tutorial




River Basing Tutorial

I've put up several pics of my slow hobby progress, and the one thing everyone wants to know is how I did the water effects. I'm no pro-painter, so I feel a little weird making a tutorial, but people are curious and it's an easy technique so why not?

Here's what you'll need (aside from paintbrushes and a pointed sculpting tool of some kind):


  • Water Texture (transparent is best)
  • Course texture gel
  • Gloss Varnish ('Ardcoat)
  • Incubi Darkness
  • Coelia Greenshade
  • Jade Green (Kabalite Green is GW alternative) 
  • Foul Green (ditto, Sybarite Green)
  • Gauss Blaster Green
  • White

Shaping the Waves

Figuring out what waves 'look' like took me a little while. My army's theme is Hysh, and I wanted it to look like they are crossing an alpine river, glistening in the sunlight. The nature of your body of water will dictate how the waves behave. Below is a good picture of the chaotic pattern of a river's surface. You don't need to see the bank to sense a certain direction, and a more roiling stream will have even more dynamic splashes. 

Image result for river surface

The sculpting process requires trial and error, but it's not too difficult once you apply yourself. Below are three Slaaneshi Marauders, about to leap into the river. Using my pointed sculpting tool (silicone ones are good because they have a little give), I slap some texture on the bare base and start sculpting. You'll want to have an elevated riverbank,  else the lack of height difference will make the river look unnatural. 


That's a few minutes of work. You need to pick a direction of the current and sculpt it with that in mind, sketching out a messy, crisscrossing hex pattern and pushing the waves around until you deem it to look natural.

The above seems good to me. It'll take a little while to dry but when it does it'll be transparent, and so the shape might be a little difficult to make out on the black base. Once you undercoat it, you'll have a better idea of whether it needs any tidying up. 


 Painting the Surface

As I'm painting up Chaos Warriors at the moment, you'll forgive me if I demonstrate the water effect on a different trio of models (the technique is identical). I didn't include painting the turf in the tutorial because it's a fairly standard technique (Dryad Bark for soil, Mechanicus Grey for rock, washed with Agrax and drybrushed with Celestra) and most of it will be covered up by foliage anyway. Onto the main event:


Step 1

Base the water surface with incubi darkness. At this stage, the wave's 'shape' becomes more obvious, and you might decide to soften the sharpness with 'Ardcoat. 


Step 2

Wash the surface with Coelia Greenshade. 


Step 3

Drybrush with a 50/50 mix of Incubi Darkness and Jade Green. 


Step 4

Drybrush with Jade Green, leaving some of the previous mix visible below. 


Step 5

Drybrush with Foul Green (again, lighter than the previous step).


Step 6

Light Drybrush of Gaus Blaster. 


Step 7

Add the Coarse Texture Gel as if it's water foam. This is also a great opportunity to mask any paint blemishes on the river bank or rocks from drybrushing, so this step is doubly beneficial.   

The gel is very bright when applied, but it dries into a dimmer hue as you can see below.  




Step 8

A light drybrush of white, picking out the wave's "glisten" as well as the texture of the water foam. It really brings out the, well, texture of the texture gel.  I did this a little heavier than would be realistic, but I want it to feel like a sunny day. 


Step 9

The final steps are applying a gloss varnish to get that wet look (Slaanesh approves), to tidy up the black of the base (you certainly don't want to paint your base rim an earth tone, it'll seem incongruous) and finally adding static grass and foliage. 

As this will all be done after I spray the completed model matt varnish, here are some Chaos Warriors I prepared earlier:



Here is another pic, this time with an additional "splash effect". This is pretty self-explanatory: cut thin strips of transparent plastic, stick it where you want a jet of "splash", slather water texture over it, and repeat the foam technique from steps 7 & 8. I did overdo it with my first few attempts, so I'd recommend a "less is more" approach. 


Well, I hope this tutorial was useful. Now, if you'll excuse me, I want to throw up some more pics of my Chaos Warriors. It's a project I've been planning for a while and I finally have finished my first three and am very happy with the result :D The NMM gold came out better than expected, and even the dreaded chainmail turned out okay. I've commented where I'll be putting certain light hotspots on future models, especially the swords, but we live and learn.  




Now I've officially got at least one of every variety of Chaos Warrior dedicated to a specific god. A true coalition of chaos (well, other than the current UK parliament, badum-tish). 



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