Using Water Effects to Modify Miniatures

If you liked my article “Dungeon Accessories: The Well and The Pool,” you may have run out to buy some Water Effects to make your own pool and well. Chances are, you also got a little sticker shock when you saw how much the stuff costs. And maybe, just maybe, you decided not to get it because you thought you would never find another use for it. We get that, and we’re here for you.

The idea for this project came to me when I was going through my miniatures, and found this mini I had started painting to be a Hexblade back in the v3.5 days. I thought it would make a perfect 4th edition Swordmage. For those of you not in the know, Swordmage is a defender that uses magic alongside their melee weapon. You can find them in the Forgotten Realms Player’s Guide.

Courtesy Reaper Miniatures. Click to view the image at their store.

The mini already looks like a mage (she’s lightly armored) and obviously has a sword, but what else could I do to really make that connection between the mini and the character? What I really wanted to do was make a threatening ball of magical energy surrounding the outstretched fist. That’s when I thought of Water Effects, and the idea grew from “magical ball of energy” to “magic connecting hand to sword.”

There was a bit of other modification that the mini required before I could start painting. I won’t go into too much detail about that since the focus of the discussion is how I used the Water Effects to make the thread of magical energy:

  • I got rid of the dragonette (pseudodragon?) on her arm. I used wire cutters to clip off the bulk of it, and then used model files to file down whatever was left.
    The original (unfinished) paint job with dragonette filed off.
  • I stripped the old paint job off because the character is a Water Genasi, and I had a different color scheme in mind. I used some spray stripper I found at the hardware store, and a toothbrush.
  • The sculptor intended the miniature to be a necromancer, so she’s standing atop a pile of skulls. I used the Water Effects to cover this up as well, as pictured below:

Protip: Glue your mini to a tongue depressor with Elmers so you can manipulate it without touching.

Now, on to the real fun. Before I started painting, I needed to prep the mini by drilling a tiny hole through the end of the sword (front to back), and another about halfway through her fist (straight up from the bottom). You can kind of see the hole in the end of the sword on the left there. I did this because the “magical energy” is basically Water Effects wrapped around a piece of wire, and the holes helped support the modification when I attached it to the mini. While I believe this would work without the holes, having them makes the job much easier. I used this pin vise to drill the holes.  As an aside, a pin vise is a great investment if you work with modifying minis a lot or if you ever make multi-part minis; pinning pieces together makes the bond stronger.  A jeweler’s drill would do the trick too.

Then, I painted the mini. I would highly recommend completing the paint job before you attach the wire because working around the wire would be cumbersome.

When the mini was ready, I took a piece of 26 gauge wire (check your craft store, I’m going to guess the Jewelry & Beading aisle) and painted it purple. Because the Water Effects dries clear, the color of the wire really glows through the finished product. Then, I applied the Water Effects to the wire. I used a straightened paperclip to apply it, and as I did that, I kind of pulled it outward to create “peaks” for the “licks of flame” effect. If you’ve played with this stuff at all, you know what I’m talking about. I kept adding and pulling until I was happy with what it looked like, and then let it dry overnight.

To attach it to the miniature, I simply inserted the wire into the hole at the end of the sword, and covered it all with a generous amount of Water Effects. I also added some along the top edge of the blade for effect. I propped the wire in place, and let it dry for a couple of hours. Then, I repeated the process at the other end, around the fist. Finally, once everything was dry, I drybrushed it white.

A few notes about the final mini:

  • Don’t judge the paint job too harshly; I was experimenting with new paints, blacklining, and a different washing technique.  With all that experimentation, something was bound to go wrong.  There was also a bit of finishing work I did that didn’t get photographed.
  • I normally spray my finished minis with Testors Dull Coat.  When I sprayed this one, it “frosted” the Water Effects.  The end result was something not quite as crystal clear as what you see in the pictures.  Had I known that was going to happen, I would have dull coated it before attaching the wire.  If you want a frosted effect, however, that’s a great way to go.
  • This was really easy to do.  If you’re thinking about getting into mini modification, start with something like this.

Does this have your creative wheels spinning?  How would you use the stuff?

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4 Responses to Using Water Effects to Modify Miniatures

  1. Captain Spud says:

    For an even better “magic arc” on the sword swoosh, use fishing line instead of wire for the armature. Fishing line has the same index of refraction as water, so it’s invisible inside the dried goop. Get a spool of thick line and one of thin line for different applications (here I’d use thick because it needs to support a long arc).

    I use it as the core of any linear Water Effect– icicles, waterfalls, lightning arcs, and so on.

    • Benoit says:

      Very cool, I didn’t even think of fishing line. A couple of questions come to mind: I found that the stiffness of the wire was of great help when applying the water effects to it, and when attaching the arc to the mini. Would the relative “floppiness” of fishing line be a problem for this project?

  2. Alphastream says:

    This is really sweet and something of which few of us would think.

    I really like the idea of quick modifications to minis. For example, basing a D&D plastic mini is a super-easy thing to do with just a bit of sand and minor paint use. You need no skills (I am proof). This blog entry captures my efforts.
    I would like to see more about basing. I never used static grass nor experimented much with actually removing minis and putting them on new bases. Any advice on simple modifications would be helpful to me. For example, the best steps to quickly improve the paint of a large DDM. Some of these minis have just one solid color on muscles or clothing and some highlights or shadows would be really effective. I’m curious if certain techniques are better, steps like washing the mini to remove oils are an example of a tip I learned way too late.

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