How to Make Water for a Diorama – With and Without Resin

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I personally love making creative dioramas especially if the dioramas depict a scene with water. Water in dioramas always looks amazing and you would be surprised how easy it actually is to add amazing-looking water to your diorama. In this article, I will show you exactly how to make water for a diorama with and without epoxy resin.

As a whole, to make water for a diorama the best approach is to use a liquid resin that is colored with inks for the body of the water and either Mod Podge, a mixture of Elmer’s glue and water, or Vallejo water effects paint for ripples and waves on the water surface.

In the following sections, I will show you exactly what you need for making fake water and how to make the water for your diorama in easy-to-follow steps.

There are a few things to keep in mind when working with epoxy resin like the temperature when it cures, how tall the epoxy can be poured, and how to properly mix the two epoxy components.

Materials and Tools for Making Fake Water for a Diorama With Resin

There are quite a few tools that you need for making fake water.

To make fake water for a diorama use liquid epoxy resin for the body of the water, clear drying Mod Podge for ripples and waves, a straw for shaping the ripples, ink for coloring the epoxy resin, acrylic sheets, and hot glue.

Here is a detailed list of everything you will need including links to where you can buy them.

MaterialWhat it’s used forWhere to get it
Epoxy Resin for Deep PouringFor the body of the WaterHere on Amazon
Mod Podge, Elmer´s glue, or Vallejo water effectFor ripples and wavesArts and crafts store or on Amazon
A strawTo shape the water ripples
InkTo color the epoxy resinArts and crafts store or on Amazon
Acrylic sheetsTo create a barrier for containing the resinHome depot or on Amazon
Hot glueTo glue the acrylic sheetsHome depot or on Amazon
Steering sticksFor mixing the resinOn Amazon
Mixing cupsTo mix the resinOn Amazon
Mold release sprayTo make sure the epoxy doesn´t stick to the acrylic sheetsOn Amazon

Most of these materials can also be bought in your local hardware or crafts store except for the epoxy resin which is usually only available online or in some hobby stores.

How to Make Fake Water for a Diorama

The following steps will show you exactly how to make fake water for a diorama and what you have to be careful about when using this method.

1. Seal the Area Where the Body of the Water Will be

This first step is very important. Epoxy resin will harden in an exothermic reaction meaning the resin will get quite hot while it hardens.

It is also liquid and hardens quite slowly so you have to make sure that the area where you want the water to be is airtight and the epoxy doesn´t go anywhere.

You can use transparent drying crafts glue like Mod Podge, wood glue like Elmer’s glue, or varnish to seal the area and ensure that the resin can´t go anywhere and the material underneath is safe.

Simply apply the glue or the varnish to the area with an old brush and let it dry before you pour the resin.

2. Create a Barrier to Keep the Epoxy From Spilling

This step is only important if your water is running to the edge of your diorama.

It is a very good-looking effect when you can look underneath the water from the outside but if you want your water to go all the way to the edge of your diorama then you have to create a barrier that will keep the resin inside the bounds of the diorama.

You should use something that has very little texture to it to create this barrier because you will see any texture that is on the barrier after removing it on the surface of the hardened epoxy.

You need to spray the side that will have contact with the epoxy with some mold release spray. This will make sure that the resin doesn´t stick to the acrylic sheet.

Even though resin won´t adhere well to acrylic plastic it sometimes still adheres a little bit and using a mold release spray will make your life just so much easier.

I highly recommend using acrylic sheets for this as they have a very smooth surface that won´t leave any texture on the hardened resin.

You can cut acrylic sheets to size by using a box knife. Simply score the surface of the acrylic sheet where you want to cut it multiple times.

Then align the scorched line with the edge of a table and gently press down on the overhanging side.

The acrylic sheet should snap in half right along the line.

Glue the barrier in place with lots of hot glue. Make sure to apply an ample amount of hot glue on every edge of the acrylic sheet to keep any resin from spilling.

Glue the acrylic sheets directly to the sides of the diorama and make sure that the resin has no way of running past your barrier.

The resin should never have direct contact with the hot glue as it might melt the glue during the hardening process. So make sure to only apply the hot glue in areas where the resin will never have direct contact!

3. Mix and Color the Epoxy Resin

I have written a whole guide on how to color epoxy resin with acrylic paint but I still recommend using inks if you never colored resin before as it is much easier and your results will be much better too.

Mix the epoxy according to the instructions and make sure that both parts are mixed thoroughly.

I highly recommend using a digital scale to accurately measure the two parts of the epoxy.

It is very important to mix the resin in the correct ratio as accurately as possible! If you add too much hardener or too much resin then the resin won´t cure properly and remain sticky. As you can see in the image below.

Then add the color you want one drop at a time. Depending on the type of inks that you are using and the color you will need different amounts to color the resin.

Usually, three to four drops per 500 ml (about 16 oz) are enough to tint the resin and around ten drops to color it fully.

Make sure to mix the color in properly before you pour the resin.

A very important thing to note here is that most epoxy resins can only be poured in very thin layers. So if you want to deep pour resin then you have to use a special deep pour resin like this one.

Or you have to pour your fake water in multiple thin layers.

4. Pour the Resin

You might think that this step is relatively straightforward but there are some things you have to watch out for when pouring the resin.

First of all, resin tends to have some bubbles in it after you mix it so try to pour the resin in a very thin stream to get rid of some of the bubbles.

Try to cover the whole surface where the fake water will be in a thin layer of resin first to make sure that no air pockets are created. You can also use an old brush to push the resin in areas where it would not reach on its own.

Resin has a very different viscosity than water so you have to gently push the resin in its place, especially where the shore will be.

You don´t have to hurry when pouring epoxy resin as it has a very long working time and will only harden after a couple of hours. I usually leave it to harden overnight just to be sure.

You can use a blow torch to get rid of any bubbles that might form on the surface of the resin. You can also use a toothpick to pop the bubbles by hand if you don´t have a blowtorch.

I highly recommend setting the diorama in a container to harden just in case you didn´t seal the area properly and the resin spills out.

5. Remove the Barrier After the Epoxy has Hardened

Once the resin has hardened simply remove the acrylic sheet barrier from the diorama.

You will need quite some force to separate the barrier from the sites of the diorama.

Once the barrier has been removed simply use a craft knife or box knife to remove any thin epoxy residue from the edges of the fake water.

You might also have to sand the surface of the epoxy to remove any bubbles that might not have popped properly.

Use some rough grit sandpaper to remove most of the bubbles.

Then finally use some very fine grit sandpaper and water to wet sand the surface.

6. Apply Some Mod Podge or Water Effect Paint to the Surface of the Hardened Epoxy

Now it is finally time for the waves and ripples.

To create ripples you can use a lot of different methods but my favorite is using transparent drying crafts glue like Mod Podge and a straw.

In this instance, I used water effect paint from Vallejo that I applied with an old paint brush.

Simply apply the Mod Podge to the surface of the epoxy in thick chunks. Then use the straw to blow the Mod Podge in place.

This will create a realistic and natural-looking wave pattern.

The glue will dry transparently and create a realistic water ripple texture on the top of the fake water.

You can also use transparent drying Elmer´s glue and mix it with water in a 50/50 ratio instead of Modpodge. Or simply use a product that is specifically made for creating waves and ripple textures like Vallejo water effects paint.

Its what I used for this diorama.

7. Paint some Highlights on the Waves and Shore

Finally, you can also paint some highlights on the waves to get an even better effect.

The most important thing when doing this is to not overdo it. Apply white highlights only to some waves and focus on adding some white on the shore to show small waves breaking.

Try to keep the highlights uneven and natural and don´t use too many different colored highlights. Simplicity is key here!

Abd with that you are done!

How to Make Fake Water Without Resin

If you don´t like using epoxy resin for making water, which I can absolutely understand as it can be a little daunting to work with and it is quite expensive, then you can also use toilet paper, Mod Podge, and some high gloss varnish to achieve a similar result.

As a whole, to make fake water without resin simply cover the whole area at sea level with toilet paper and use a brush to soak the paper with Mod Podge. Use the brush to move the toilet paper in the desired shape. Let it dry, paint it, and apply a layer of high gloss varnish to the fake water.

This is the cheapest way I know of to create fake water for your diorama and the result will look amazing. I will cover each step to making fake water without resin in detail in the following sections.

There is another really cool way to make deep water without resin and that is using transparent silicone from the hardware store. It won´t harden rock solid but will have a rubber-like consistency once it has dried but it will look like water. You can shape it and it is very cheap.

Silicone will also adhere very well and last for a long time.

What You Need for Making Fake Water Without Resin

You will need a couple of things to create this water effect but most of these materials can be bought at your local hardware store or home depot.

MaterialWhat it’s used forWhere to get it
Toilet paperFor making the wavesLocal Supermarket
Old paintbrushFor shaping the waves
Good paintbrushesFor painting the waterArts and crafts store or on Amazon
Mod Podge or Elmer’s glue that dries transparentFor making the wavesArts and crafts store or on Amazon
Acrylic paintFor painting the waterArts and crafts store or on Amazon
High Gloss VarnishFor adding a glossy sheen to the water surfaceHome Depot or on Amazon

This video will show you the whole process of making fake water without resin.

1. Lay a Thick Layer of Toilet Paper on The Area Where the Water Will be

First, lay a layer of toilet paper in the area where the water will be. Make sure to cover the whole area and don´t worry if it isn´t perfect yet, you will be able to move everything in shape later.

You don´t need to use expensive toilet paper either. Any toilet paper will do just fine.

2. Soak the Toilet Paper With Mod Podge

No carefully apply a thick layer of Mod Podge (make sure that it is regular transparent drying Mod Podge) to the toilet paper.

Use an old brush to spread the Mod Podge on the toilet paper until everything is covered in a medium layer of Mod Podge.

3. Use a Brush to Shape the Surface of the Water

Now you will be able to shape the toilet paper however you like.

I usually use an old brush that I don´t need anymore and start shaping the surface into ripples and waves.

Take your time here but don´t work too slowly. If you have a large area then consider working on it in smaller increments.

4. Let the Paper Dry and Paint it With Acrylic Paint

Once you are done, let the paper dry overnight and then paint it.

You can use any paint you want for this but I highly recommend acrylic paint.

Paint the deeper areas of your water darker and the shallow areas with a lighter color. This will give the illusion of depth.

Finally, paint some white highlights on the top of your waves and on the shore to give the illusion of water foam and a shoreline.

Let the paint dry for a few hours and then move on to the last step.

5. Appy a Layer of High Gloss Varnish to the Surface of the Water

This final step will make your water look like actual water!

Water reflects light in real life so we have to make our fake water surface do the same.

Apply some high gloss varnish either with a brush or with a spray can to the whole water surface. You can even put some varnish on the shore to make it look like the shore was wet a couple of minutes ago.

This effect also works well on the stone that is partially submerged in water.

Let the varnish dry for a few hours and you are left with a pretty convincing water surface without ever using resin.

How to Make Fake Water for Miniatures

You can also make fake water for your miniatures to create awesome-looking bases. There are several ways you can achieve a good water effect and which one you choose depends on your personal preferences and the miniature.

As a whole, to make fake water for miniatures water effects paint from Vallejo, Mod Podge, or epoxy resin can be used. The best choice for small miniatures would be Mod Podge or water effects paint and for bigger miniatures or dioramas epoxy resin. UV resin is also a solid choice for both.

The process is almost exactly like the examples I shared in the sections above just on a smaller scale.

This smaller scale will allow you to use slightly different materials like UV resin instead of two-part resin for the water body and you could also use Mod Podge directly on the painted base of the model.

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