Scenics: Creating Relistic Mud

Mud and water are two scenic elements that, when well applied, can add an incredible level of realism to your models. For the 60mm base I'm using in this example, shown above, I'm going for a nice wet looking mud. The same techniques can be applied to create old, dried mud on tanks and infantry models as well. By varying the pigments, and layering the application, you can create finished weathering on your models that looks exactly like real, honest-to-goodness mud.

I'm making use of the materials that are included in the "Instant Scenery Kit: Mud & Water". The kit includes:

Weathering Pigment: Dark Earth
Weathering Pigment: Terracotta Earth
Weathering Pigment: Clay Brown
Fine Grain Sand
2 oz. "Realistic Water" *(not shown in photo)

You will also need an old brush and a cup or palette for mixing.

NOTE: Before you start it is important to remember that whatever you're putting mud over will show through in places - often even when you're going for 100% coverage - so remember to get all of your painting finished before you start in on mud. As with most pigment applications this will generally be the last thing you apply.

NOTE: The mud is a combination of plaster, pigment and sand... which means it can break and chip. Not easily, mind you, but it's important to consider this when applying it to you model if you're going to game with it. Think ahead and try to avoid high traffic spots.

I recommend using a disposable cup when you're making mud. In mine I have added a small amount of "Dark Earth" weathering pigment and plaster. The pigments you add at this point will decide the colour of the mud. For a dark, fresh mud you'll want to use more "Dark Earth." For older, dried mud - such as you'd find on wheel wells and embedded on tank tracks, use more "Clay Brown." If you're going to layer the mud spend some time at this point deciding whether it's going to be dry at the base, closest to the model, or at the surface.

On vehicles mud weathering will generally be dry, and thus lighter in color, closer to the hull as the warmth from the engine evaporates the water quickly. On infantry models there is generally very little dry mud except at extremities away from the boots. On bases and dioramas mud will be darker closer to points of water, obviously, and lighter closer to cement or tarmac where the radiant heat would dry it more quickly.

I've added some "Terracotta Earth" and "Clay Brown" weathering pigments and mixed everything together. The plaster is going to lighten the overall look of my mixture so it's important to mix it thoroughly to make sure you're happy with the color before you move on.

I have now added just a tiny bit of the Fine Grain Sand that is included with the kit. This is a much finer sand than you'll find in your garden shop and makes a more realistic mud for scale models. This adds texture to the mud and will have very little effect on the finished colour. The little white specs you see in the photo are the sand grains.

Some people add a small amount of static grass at this stage - but I recommend doing that later and will cover it in the tutorial even though it's not shown in the photos.

I have now added a small amount of "Realistic Water." It is also possible to create mud weathering for your scale models using acrylic resin but I prefer the finished look when using "Realistic Water" instead. You can also use the "Realistic Water" to add small puddles and seepage to the model as I'll demonstrate in a later step.

I've stirred my mixture together and added a tiny (TINY!) amount of actual water. Your goal is to have a mixture that looks something like cake frosting. If you add to much water add a bit more plaster to help soak some of it up. Remember that adding more plaster might lighten the colour a bit too.

Using an old brush apply it to the base or model that you're weathering. You can apply this weathering technique effectively on tanks, infantry, bases, terrain... anything that might wind up with mud on it. By stippling the brush you can also create a quick, rough texture.

I have completely coated the 60mm base in a rough layer of the mud weathering. I created an uneven texture to make it look like churned up mud because I'm going to add some foot prints and vehicle tracks next.

This is the point where I would add static grass. Although you can put it into your mixture I prefer to dip my mud covered brush into some clean static grass and then press it in place against my model. This keeps some of the original colour of the grass and better represents the rough, torn look of grass trapped in mud.

I used a tank to press in track marks in the middle of the base. I used an infantry model and the end of a paint brush to add divots for puddles and footprints. If you let the mixture dry slightly you can press in the model of your choice to create a realistic impression. If you're going to apply the same mud to that model keep the mixture covered with plastic wrap until you use it again. It won't keep long though so have your model ready before you start.

I've used the 2 ounce dropper bottle of "Realistic Water" (not shown) to add a small puddles in the tank tread marks and other depressions. When it dries this will add a dark sheen to the mud and clear, glossy pools in the recesses to simulate seepage from the water below the surface.

And here we are back at the finished product. In this one you can more clearly see the tank tread marks and other prints left in the mud thanks to the "Realistic Water." If you look at the depressions, particularly the one in the upper right, the water effect is especially visible.

You can also use the "Realistic Water" to add... you guessed it, WATER! Simply squeeze out a small amount into the depression of your choice and allow it to dry. You can apply it in layers of up to 1/8" if you allow it to dry completely between layers. Remove bubbles immediately with a toothpick.

I had so much material left over from creating this part of the tutorial that I used it to cover - and I do mean COMPLETELY COVER - the 90x120mm Trench Works oval I painted for the store. Each of the pools and impact craters also received a generous new dose of "Realistic Water" which I pulled out onto the mud to help show the natural runoff effect.

NOTE: You do not need to use matte sealer to hold this pigment effect in place. Using a sealer will change the finish of your mud and I do not recommend it.

Now I'll move on to adding some dry mud to the base to help create additional depth. While you can come back and drybrush over the sections of the model you want to dry out this has two limitations:

1) It won't look as realistic.
2) On vehicles the mud is dry closer to the hull where the warmth of the engine is going to dry it more quickly.

And that's why I'm here to talk about layering your mud weathering. Because this is a base, representing wet ground, I started with the darker colour. For a vehicle I would start with this light tone and add layers of darker earth. It's the same process and only the colours are reversed.

Because I only need a small amount of mud this time I'm going to use very little of the materials. Here you can see my mix of "Terracotta Earth" and "Clay Brown" pigments alongside the plaster.

I added a small amount of "Realistic Water" (not shown) and a couple of drops of actual water and stirred until I had the consistency of frosting. This time I also added a healthy dose of the fine grain sand so that the dry mud had a slightly more porous quality.

Next I applied the dry mud in several layers. I started by using the more liquid of the mud mixture so that it would blend in with the layer below it. As I worked across the model I paid attention to where I wanted to represent dry mud.

Because I had modeled a section of churned earth, complete with puddles and seepage, I made sure to stay away from this area.

In the finished example you can see how the extra sand really helps to make the model look gritty. If I really wanted to kick it up a notch I could even go one layer further and use only "Clay Brown" for my mud mixture. A little bit of pigment and a lot of plaster would give me a good, brittle, cracked mud appearance. However as it is this already had the realistic look and feel of proper mud.

And of course I had to apply the last of my mixture to the 90x120 Trench Works base I had muddied up previously.

I used the "dry" mud mixture to really frame in some of the smaller puddles. This creates a strong, sharp contrast between the wet and dry areas of the model. Although difficult to see I also applied a thick layer of the "dry" mud to the duckboards at the top of the model. This also works to help separate the more static section of the model from the churned up, cratered areas in the middle.

It's really that easy. Of course on your first couple of attempts you'll probably mix up 2-3 times the amount of mud you need so I recommend having more than one model handy.

If you have a question about basing, weathering or other detailing please email misterjustin at secret weapon miniatures dot com.

* "Realistic Water" is copyright Woodland Scenics, Inc. Used with permission.