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Creating Water From Foil

This tutorial shows how to create a water effect using aluminum foil. I use this method for a few reasons including low price of materials involved, ease of use, and scalability. This last aspect is something that I think differentiates this method from others consisting of pre-established "waves" such as pieces of textured plastic. With those methods, the builder is locked into a certain type of wave height and choppiness depending on the piece of plastic. With aluminum foil, the builder can vary his wave height and choppiness with a few simple crumples of the foil and manipulation with the back of a finger nail. Let’s take a look:


Aluminum Foil-- found in rolls in any supermarket
A Base-- this can be anything from a stained piece of wood to a piece of plastic
Primer-- Tamiya spray primer works fine; if you have some metal primer, that's fine too
Putty-- to fix small mistakes if the foil tears
Base Color-- this can be a spray can of any color that will make a suitable base for your water. Darker blues for deep ocean, lighter for shallow, etc.
Offset Color-- this color is usually in a brush paint format; acrylics such as Vallejo and Reaper work well because you'll want to be able to apply the paint in washes and water based paints do this easily. The color is generally lighter than the base color and works in conjunction such as a greenish blue, etc.
White Paint-- another brush paint as this will be dry brushed.
White Glue-- basic glue like Elmer's, etc.

Before you begin this process, there has to be a small bit of preplanning. Make sure to have the hull you intend to use nearby. Build the hull pieces so that you have a solid waterline to work with **and nothing more**. In other words, don't finish your model and then start this process. If you're building a kit where the hull comes in one piece and ready to go, you're all set to start. If not, build up the hull enough so that you have a waterline to work from and stop there. Note: This process uses white glue to secure the hull to the base. White glue is very strong and should take care of securing most 1/700 scale injection molded subjects. However, if the model is very large or heavy (solid resin hull, etc.), you may want to drill a couple of holes in your base. Drill corresponding points in the hull's bottom, and attach pins to fit in the holes of the base (see the Note in Step 12 also...).

About the Author

About Dade W. Bell (Karybdis)

I'm a third generation modeler who builds a little of everything (mostly Japanese)- all while being a 45 year old hermit who lives a happy, simple life, with my fiancée (author Jaclyn Dolamore) and three cats. My father was an MM3 aboard the USS Saratoga (CVA-60), my grandfather was in one of the...


FEB 22, 2009 - 03:13 AM
Looks a heck of a lot easier, safer, and cheaper than resin. I may have to try that with the pibber build I'm doing. Thanks for the heads up Jim!!
FEB 22, 2009 - 05:24 AM
Nice technique and nicely presented. I think I might just ahve to give this a try! (after about a bazallion models on the ways already)
FEB 27, 2009 - 11:59 AM
If anyone knows, does the foil keep its shape better after all the paint, glue, and clearcoats are applied or will you just have to be very gentle with the display from that point onward?
DEC 18, 2011 - 09:34 AM
What a great idea Jim, As Ed said,looks a lot easier than the resin and everything else I've tried. Thanks Tom
DEC 19, 2011 - 11:07 AM