Tuesday 1 November 2011

Know your Snow!

Once I’d decided to give my diorama a winter theme I searched online to see what information was available on materials and techniques. There seems to be a general consensus on the best materials to create a realistic snow effect and this was a huge help in narrowing down my options.  I decided to test out Micro balloons, Bicarbonate of Soda and Crushed Glass to see for myself how they compared.
All these materials come in a powder form and proper safety precautions need to be followed to avoid getting then in your eyes or inhaling then.
For the purpose of this test all three materials were mixed with Games Workshop’s water effects and applied to a plain black plastic base with a small paintbrush. All three of these initial tests were mixed to a relatively fluid paste and a drier mix would give a bulkier more textured finish.
My initial reaction is that all three are perfectly good solutions and give an excellent snow effect. They each have characteristics that give distinct finishes.

Micro Balloons form a lightweight white powder that could easily get very messy as the slightest breath can send it flying. Once mixed with the water effects I found this one the easiest of the three to apply as it flowed very easily. This also meant that it had a tendency to settle and smooth itself out. There was also quite a bit of shrinkage as it dried. It dried to a bright white, fine-grained, matt finish.

Bicarbonate of Soda is far the cheapest solution. Once mixed with the water effects this looked the least promising as it formed a translucent gloopy sludge! However appearances can deceive as it became much more opaque when it dried out and developed a slightly shiny/sparkly finish. 

Crushed Glass had the largest particles and was trickiest of the three to apply. The crushed glass dried to a translucent sparkly finish and has a distinctly icy look to it.
Next it was decision time and that was fairly easy! The crushed glass had exactly the cold icy look to it that I wanted. I further experimented with different mixes of water effects and crushed glass to compare the finishes.  A is the driest and D the most fluid.

Finally I tried applying a little water effects to the base around the edges of the crushed glass before it had fully dried.

This isn’t intended to be a comprehensive ‘how to’ guide but rather an account of my own experiments as I explored several possible solutions. One thing that became swiftly apparent was that the permutations were many and I have in no way explored them all.

For more info on using crushed glass take a look at this tutorial from Secret Weapon Miniatures

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