Making miniature muddy swamp water bases

how to make wargame miniature swamp base with water effect

Here’s a quick tutorial and guide to making muddy swamp water-themed miniature bases.

These are some of my favourite scenic bases to create,  not only do they look great and make the miniatures — especially Orks and Plaguebearers— standout, they’re fun and easy to make requiring no special brush techniques or skills.

Materials used

  • Army Painter Leather brown primer
  • Citadel Rhinox Hide or Vallejo Charred Brown / Burnt Umber (941)
  • AK mud pigments – ABTP033 Dark Mud
  • Vellejo Black Lava textured acrylic paint or Citadel Stirland Mud
  • Vellejo Olive Green (967) or Citadel Elysian Green
  • Vellejo Deep Green (970) or Citadel Caliban Green.
  • Twigs from the garden or park
  • 2mm and 4mm static grass
  • Clear acrylic gloss varnish
  • Mig Slimy Grime Dark Enamel Effects
  • Superglue and Poly Cement glue
  • Assorted paint brushes
  • Pin vice with 1mm drill bit.

My technique for creating swamp terrain

First, prime and then give the base a foundation colour. As these are for swamp areas, I use Army Painter Leather brown. This gives a good underlying mud colour.

Although I didn’t do it for this example, the sides of the base could be masked off before spraying. This leaves a black edge to the base which sets off the browns and greens.  For your health, remember to wear a mask when spray painting.

Once this has dried, add soil effects with AK powders and/or Vallejo Black Lava (you can also use GW Stirland Mud). Just dab this on across the base, building up a few millimetres while leaving a recessed channel or flat space where you want the water will go.

I’m a big fan of Vellejo Black Lava for this kind of uneven mud surface. It’s black but can be mixed with brown acrylics to match the surrounding colouring or dusted with AK mud pigments to get a credible muddy brown colour.

The base of the water channel is painted with a variety of dark greens, Vellejo Olive and Deep green work well. I use a rough, well-used, brush, place it in the paint, wipe off most of it and then gently dab the base with the end of the bristles rather than brushing it on. This creates more varied natural patterning and avoids any hard edges from appearing. You don’t need much, just enough to add a hint of weed and to tiny the colour of the water that’ll be added shortly.

Next up, add the fallen and decaying trees. These are just twigs I found in the garden, cut to size, and roughed up at the ends with a scalpel. Depending on the context I want, I might also hold a naked flame to the twigs to create blast damage.

For vertically standing branches, drill a small hole in the base of the twig and the base itself, insert a pin into the wood and then push this into the hole in the base with a dab of Superglue to secure it.

miniature bases dead trees

At this point, I also place a few strands of longer static grass, 4mm or 6mm into the river bed so they will seem to grow out of the water that’s added next. Normal, poly cement will hold these in place and once all set an Army Painter brown and green washes put on the wood.

making a swamp miniature base

With the trees and longer grasses firmly fixed in place, it’s time to add water.

For this, I use a water-based clear gloss varnish, with a pipette to dribble it in place. If the water will run off the side of the base, build a small dam with green stuff at the edges to stop the gloss from escaping.

Once deposited, push some of the gloss under and onto the lower areas of the twigs and around the longer grasses with a brush. You only need a tiny amount, enough to cover the area, no more.

For the impression of depth, the first layer of gloss is allowed to set and a few streaks of lighter Olive green are painted on it, repeating a second or maybe a third time. In doing so, a much greater depth can be implied than actually exists.

miniature bases dead trees

To this, 2mm static grass is fixed in and along the waterline, on a small area like this, I don’t use one of the normal static grass applicators but instead get the grass to stand up using my alternative technique for bases. Hanging vines around the trees are simply cotton-painted browns and greens.

Finally, a wet moss effect is added to the downward faces of the twigs by applying MIG Slimy Grime Dark. This is an enamel so make sure the other paints and gloss are completely dry before applying.

The finished result can be seen here and in the first photo above. making swamp bases for miniatures

Hope this helps, I’d love to know how you get on with it so give it a go and add your thoughts in a comment below.



Founder of ModelRailwayEngineer, Andy Leaning

Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about Andy.

Afflliate disclosure:The links on this page may take you to carefully selected businesses, such as Hornby, Amazon, eBay and Scale Model Scenery, where you can purchase the product under affiliate programmes. This means I receive a small commission on any orders placed although the price you pay does not change. You can read my full affiliate policy here. I also sell my my own ready to use, pre-made and painted buildings and terrain features. browse the range.

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