Take me to the river

W Neal May 10, 2012

  1. W Neal

    W Neal TrainBoard Member

    Mmmm Marshy...


    Just getting started here...
  2. oldrk

    oldrk TrainBoard Supporter


    Pick up a flat rock and skip it across green River.....
  3. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Any bass or perch in there?
  4. W Neal

    W Neal TrainBoard Member

    Well in a related vein, if N scale pigeons are made, there are N scale herons right?
  5. robert3985

    robert3985 TrainBoard Member

    Nice effort Dubya! However, your water needs a little help. I remember the first time I decided to do water...I kept putting it off because I didn't know how to do it (like some have said on this thread), then, I decided that I would just go take a bunch of photos of the river I was modeling...and some videos...and attempt to replicate it as accurately as I could. I learned a few things about techniques and materials, and now, I have a formula for streams and bigger rivers that works pretty well for me.

    First thing is that rivers are seldom "blue". They're mostly green, and not crystal clear (unless they are a pristine mountain stream). It's a good idea to take your reference photos and set them up alongside your river's course as you're painting your river bottom.

    If it's a muddy river, you won't see much difference between the shallows and the channel, but I paint a distinct "channel" into my riverbeds...which is usually pretty narrow, and doesn't extend across the majority of the width of the river.

    All that being said, the most important parts of making "water" look realistic are the gloss, the texture, and the perceived depth.

    I've hit upon a method that is nearly infallible to achieve all of the above. It starts by painting the river bottom (I'm not going to get into it in depth...pun intended!). Just make sure your transitions from the color of the shallows to the darker depths is smooth. Abrupt changes don't look realistic. You'll have to decide what colors you want...just don't make it BLUE. Remember, there are shallows in the middle of rivers too. Just because it's in the middle of the river doesn't mean the channel is in the middle.

    Next, for added depth, I use Envirotex...a single pour usually...which, when it cures, is perfectly flat and creeps up on to everything. To get the bubbles out, get some long straws (the longer the better) or Vinyl tubing and blow on it. The CO2 in your breath will make the bubbles come to the surface. Don't worry about the spit that will slosh on the surface of your "water"...it won't affect the cure.

    After your Envirotex is hard (at least 24 hours) I like to take a bottle of flat finish and paint over the shorelines where the resin has crept up onto details to more sharply define the shorelines. Sometimes the logs and assorted detritus will get darker when impregnated with Envirotex. I paint them a lighter, "dry" color.

    Next, I start brushing on at least one thick coat of Acrylic gloss medium. It goes on milky white, then dries to a spectacular gloss. For big, broad slow-moving rivers, there are areas on the surface of the prototypes that are glass smooth...and areas that have little waves and ripples. Very seldom is the surface all the same. There are ripples along the shorelines that indicate which way the water is flowing. You can "build up" your ripples by adding several coats.

    For rivers that are faster moving, shallower, or smaller (including streams) I use "Gloss Super Heavy Gel", and build much bigger ripples, waves and rapids.

    For whitecaps, I brush on whitecap "patterns" with Titanium White acrylic. They are never random because they're caused by wind or obstacles such as rocks, abutments, trees etc., in the water. After the white has dried, I touch it all up with another thin coat of Gloss Medium to make all the water shiny.

    I've attached a couple of photos of larger and smaller rivers I've done this way. As you can see, they're pretty convincing.

    On streams, I don't usually use Envirotex, but I make a "flat" stream surface, paint it, then brush on the acrylic gloss (both thin and thick). There are a couple of ways to make a "flat" stream surface. I use either Styrofoam, or I'll build a river bottom with rocks and stones...sock 'em down with my dilute white glue ballast cement...let it dry, then mix up a watery thin mix of Durhams Water Putty and pour it into the riverbed. After it hardens up, I'll paint it my "river bottom" colors...then proceed with the Gloss Medium applications.

    Also, I noticed there's a big black shadow under your bridge...which wouldn't be there prototypically. You can help get rid of that by placing a mirror behind the bridge, up against the skyboard...with will catch light and reflect it under the bridge. Should make a big difference.

    Hope this assists you and anybody else who is hesitant to "do water"!

    Bob Gilmore

    Resize of Evening F Units001.jpg Ntrak 2000 Mod Resized002.jpg
  6. Jim Wiggin

    Jim Wiggin Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Bingo, from John Fogerty himself. I love CCR so yes, that was my first thought when I saw Neil's post.

    Neil, it looks a lot like the area I went to school in, shooting Wisconsin Central SD45's. Nice work!
  7. OC Engineer JD

    OC Engineer JD Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Outstanding job on the marsh! :)
  8. W Neal

    W Neal TrainBoard Member

    Great modeling Bob! Thanks for posting your techniques.

    You are right. In the first photo, it looks way too dark behind the bridge. Here is another bad picture that more accurately shows how it looks on the layout:

    I am modeling a bright, sunny, fall day. For me, the shadows look right. On such days there is quite a contrast between the light and dark, especially in such a case.

    The coloring of the river should be very dark in this locale. At least that is what it looks like in the pictures I have from there. Did I do the best job? Heck no. But it works for me. Any blue you are seeing is the reflection of the sky, as it is in nature. Thats the look I was after.

    Envirotex was not the right medium for me in this scene. I went with gloss medium. The brushstrokes help to simulate the slightly swirling surface of the medium - speed moving river I wanted.

    Thanks for posting your techniques! I could learn a thing or two. I am glad you did for people, like Candy, who have never tried it before.

    It sure is wonderful how we can each capture the look of the places we are modeling: you the west, me the north woods. (at least I hope I do). I really enjoy that aspect about modeling!
  9. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    If you were railfanning a prototype and positioned with sun coming over your shoulder, it might indeed look dark behind a bridge. There could be a fair sized shadow, plus anything else blocking the light such as trees... To me, especially in this second view, it is a rather natural scene.
  10. upguy

    upguy TrainBoard Member

    One of my "water" modules.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited by a moderator: May 13, 2012

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