Venetian Canal Build Along: Creating “Stone”

When last we spoke, we’d just reached–what I consider to be, at least–the fun stage. We’d dry fitted our components, gessoed what was supposed to be brick, and…let’s talk about creating a stone texture. We’ll get into the how’s and why’s of painting, later, but no amount of artistry can compensate for a shit canvas. To create that, you’ll need:

  • Gesso (I use gray, but it doesn’t really matter)
  • AK Interactive (Diorama Series) “concrete”
  • Sandpaper or, better yet, sanding sponges (I use 400 grit)
  • Liquitex matte varnish

I used two different substrates, under my “stone”: balsa, for the steps, and MDF, for the windows and etc. I began by priming it all with gesso, same as the brick, then–and don’t bother to sand, here, you want a rough surface for better adhesion–applying the texture medium. A palette knife or old brush is best; the artistry comes later. Right now, we’re simply looking for “not super obviously something else.” So, in a sense, this is a similar process to working with real stone in that we start with rough hewn and go from there.

So here we are. Should you want to, at this point, keep a rougher texture–go for it! There’s no “right” way to do this, and stone takes on a lot of forms. The rougher the texture, the more “hiding spots” you have, later on, for things like lichen. I, though, was and am going for a different effect so this is when I brought out the sanding sponges (and blocks). Brand doesn’t really matter; I pick up whatever’s on hand at Home Depot, usually. Sanding BLOCKS are great for maintaining angles–I used them to smooth down the steps. Sanding SPONGES are great for creating worn spots, like the dips and curves one often finds in extremely old steps.

I used a sanding sponge, or rather part of one, to create this worn look.

I also sanded the other “stone” surfaces the same way. Although, I should. point out here, my goal is realism rather than perfection. When I found interesting dips and bumps, I mostly kept them. These kinds of, to quote Bob Ross, “happy little accidents” replicate the kind of pitting and scarring. found in nature.

Remember: texture now allows for character later. The surface of this window casing. is smoothish, thanks to sanding, but the. interesting elements (where all the dirt, grime, and moss will live) are preserved. Letting things “just happen” is hard for most miniaturists, including me, but can yield real magic.

Now, about those grout lines….

Drag that cursor back and forth and…they’re still there. How? Easily! First, while the texture medium was still wet, I redrew the lines with a stylus. Then, after it’d dried, I went over them with a jeweler’s file. That’s what’s given them that truly “cut” look.

The next step, after this, is…VARNISH! Everything (except the shutters, we’re dealing with those separately) got two coats of Liquitex matte varnish. Do you have to use Liquitex? No, but–for my money–it’s the best. Typical craft store varnishes are often extremely difficult to work with, and I personally find that I’m always left with brush strokes. I used to work with them, I used to work with all kinds of materials I’ve since rejected. Onward and upward!

Another alternative, of course, is to airbrush on varnish and in that case I recommend using something from either the AK Interactive or Vallejo lines.

If, at this point, you want to give your bricks a little more texture you can wait until the second coat of varnish is almost dry and then stipple over it with a sea sponge. Then…DRY TIME. Where I live, we’re suffering through almost 100% humidity with–sadly–no rain. It’s the worst. In cases of dire emergency I break out my heat gun but, usually, I get the best results from “forgetting” about my current project for a while and watching my son in the pool.

I also highly recommend creating some test pieces, to experiment on.

This guy, at least, knows how to relax.

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