Guest Tutorial: "Sea Effects" by Ted Martin May 8, 2015 19:34

I was so impressed with Ted's sea effect from the pictures he submitted for the customer gallery,  that I just had to ask how it was done. Ted kindly offered to do a step by step tutorial as he kept the pictures as he went along. Even if you have no immediate plans to do a beach landing, you really have to admire the skill and end result ...feast your eyes on this:

Colin produces some of the best war-games buildings available on the market today. I recently submitted some photographs for the customer gallery. Colin was interested in finding out how I had produced the beach landing scene and has asked me to provide a short tutorial. I have broken the process down into the following steps:-
In my opinion this is the key aspect to our hobby. We have all seen fantastically detailed war-game armies displayed on the table. Large amounts of research has been undertaken to get the kit and uniform details absolutely spot on before the first dob of paint hits the figure. If we are going to put all this effort into painting our miniature warriors and the buildings that they fight over, then it is only fitting that we deploy them in correspondingly accurate terrain.
The Sea is a dynamic environment and is subject to a multitude of variables such as time, weather, sunlight etc. A beach on a spring morning will be remarkably different from an Autumn afternoon. Just like a photograph our war game terrain will be a snapshot in time. Its important that you study the environment that you wish to recreate. The sea is not always blue. It can range from various greys and greens. The colour varies with depth and wave heights vary with the wind. Its important that you pick a moment in time to model your masterpiece. If you don't have the sea nearby then the internet holds thousands of photos that can be used for inspiration. Follow the advice of Leonardo Da Vinci “Let nature be your teacher”
Our war game club uses a modular system so that different tiles can be fitted together on our nine foot by five foot table. Construction is on MDF or ply board with polystyrene insulation board, hot wire cut, to represent hills and gullies etc.
I used acrylic tube paint available from art stores. Four basic colours white, blue, green and black. Darken the blue to start painting the sea furthest from the beach. Then in blended bands start lightening the colour as it nears the beach. Add in stippled shades of green into the mid band to add depth and variation.


The contact point between the water and the land will have the largest amount of turbulence. So this needs to represent foam and churning bubbles. Later on in the process we will be using PVA. This dries clear and the underlying colours will show through into the solid PVA. Waves are formed by a combination of wind and the rising level of the beach. You will see that I have stippled light blue onto the flat board to represent the waves. This will show through the PVA to give an impression of depth.
As the Military say “ Prior Planning and Preparation Prevents Pretty Poor Performance”. Get some small ply or mdf off cuts and practice the above technique until you get the impression that you want. These practice boards can be used again when we practice the PVA overlay techniques.
1.Thick PVA such as Liquitex or Mod Podge.
2.Palette Knife.
3.Flat one inch paint brush
4.Cut down round stipple brush or an old round paint brush that you are about to throw away
5.Medium spoon. Kitchen desert spoon works well but don't tell the wife!
6. Tube of clear silicon sealer that is normally used as a bathroom caulking. Ensure that it is the type that says clear or translucent. I have tried different types they all do a similar job so go for the cheapest.

Use the thick PVA for this part. I tried both Liquitex and Mod Podge and they did a similar job. Liquitex is slightly better as it drys gloss. Both are available from art shops or on line. Use the palate knife to spread a thin layer ( 2 to 4 mm) across a section of your sea base board. Its best to do this in small sections say 20cm by 20 cm. Then take the spoon and tap it up and down on the spread PVA in a stippling motion. This will raise the PVA into small peaks. Experiment on your practice boards first before moving onto the main board
Start out at sea and move towards the beach. You need to let this dry for a couple of days. It will be white when you first lay it down but will slowly dry clear. Some thicker parts may remain white if the atmosphere is damp. If you are really impatient then the wife's hair dryer can be put to good use but this normally requires a clandestine operation to obtain it.

Use the bathroom caulking best applied in lines with a caulking gun. place the lines of silicon over the white stippled pre painted sections of the baseboard. Use the one inch broad brush and drag the top of the silicon line backwards from the direction of the beach. This will give you a wave front with a trailing edge. Don't worry if you get brush stroke marks as when dry this adds to the illusion of movement. gently stipple the top of the wave with the cut down stipple brush. Once again use your practice boards until you get the desired effect. Vary your brush application to test out different techniques.
Use the one inch flat brush and with a very small amount of white paint dry brush the top of the waves. This is best done after the board gas dried for at least a week. The Silicone will be naturally white until it finally dries clear. Dont over do the highlight. At the waters edge use the stippling brush and white highlight to give the foam and bubbles effect.
The PVA becomes clear by evaporation of the carrier medium. Observe the board over a number of days. The deeper whiteness gradually disappears however there comes a time when the balance between clear and white PVE gives a good impression of depth. If you want to stop the evaporation at that critical stage then spray the whole seascape with an acrylic gloss varnish. Once again available at good art stores or on line. Dont use enamel spray as you may get a reaction between the PVA and the varnish. Once again use your practice boards as a tester.
The acrylic has proved to be remarkably robust. We have had no cracking or lifting. It only requires a wipe over with a damp cloth now and again to prevent dust from dulling the varnish. Many of our mini warriors have got their feet wet over this particular game tile and it has stood the test of time. If you have any specific questions on this technique then please contact me at Happy gaming.

Ted, thank you for sharing this with Charlie Foxtrot blog readers.