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Ocean and Gesso

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  • Member since
    January, 2015
Ocean and Gesso
Posted by TheMongoose on Tuesday, October 10, 2017 9:49 PM

i'm working on my first try at a diorama for a ship model. I'm using the 1/700 USS New York. I picked up some insulating board at Home Depot and am coating it with Gesso. I'm getting air bubbles in it and having surface cracking problems. At first I thought I put it on too thick but even after going very thin on the last 2 coats (6 so far) i have the same problems. I'm working fromFSM weathering rough seas. Any advice on the details of how to apply Gesso or any other advice for that matter would be heful

Having a pasting problem (smugmug link has % signs instead of brackets []) so will put up pic later.

On the bench - 1/35 F-35A Lightning II, 1/72 Sptfire MkVb & for a change of pace a 1/700 USS New York


  • Member since
    November, 2009
  • From: Twin Cities of Minnesota
Posted by Don Stauffer on Wednesday, October 11, 2017 8:53 AM

I have had problems getting gesso to be transparent too.  Some friends say it is the brand or type, others just say it is the art of application.  Anyway, I now use the stuff just as a thick molding substance to shape waves (at 700 scale you do not have to get too much vertical buildup unless you are simulating hurricane.

Anyway, I get the surface looking the right shape and relief, then I paint it to get the colors I want, then apply several coats of a glossing medium such as Testors Glosscoat or a Gloss polyurethane varnish.


Don Stauffer in Minnesota

  • Member since
    December, 2003
  • From: 37deg 40.13' N 95deg 29.10'W
Posted by scottrc on Wednesday, October 11, 2017 11:29 AM

The type and brands do lay on differently and the foam doesn't help in that it traps air.  I prefer to use the medium acrylic gels now instead of traditional Gesso.  


  • Member since
    August, 2014
  • From: Willamette Valley, Oregon
Posted by goldhammer on Wednesday, October 11, 2017 2:14 PM

I'll second the acrylic gells.  Modelcrazy has done several sea scenes and they came out great.  Available in thick, medium, and thin varities.  Not the most inexpensive....I get mine at Hobby Lobby, usually in the larger sizes with the 40% off coupon.

  • Member since
    November, 2005
  • From: Formerly Bryan, now Arlington, Texas
Posted by CapnMac82 on Saturday, October 14, 2017 7:20 PM

My best results with gesso have been as an underlayment (and over a fully sealed base), and then, only at large scales--like 1/144 or more.

That's because a 3' wave at 1/700 is 0.05" high--ripples in aluminum foil really suffice.
A 20' sea (Beaufort 8, Fresh Gale 35-40kt winds) would be 0.342" high, a mere 5/16"

For comparison, at 1/72, a Beaufort 6 10' sea is 1 5/8" tall.  Building that up with fillers and smoothing with gesso maes sense.  Being able to blend acrylic paint into the gesso even more sense.

But, for the top coat, tansparent gel medium is your friend.  At 70 & 350 scale, putting over finished paint gives depth, a plus.

  • Member since
    March, 2005
  • From: West Virginia, USA
Posted by mfsob on Monday, October 16, 2017 12:53 PM
What CapnMac82 said - in 1/700 scale, waves just aren't that big, even if you're modeling the North Atlantic in winter. I've been using acrylic gel medium with good results for awhile now, and gotten good results by applying it over a painted base. If you need big waves, build the gel up slowly in layers (but the stuff dries pretty quick). Below are photos of two different dioramas, both using a base painted in a mix of shades of phthalocyanine green and phthalocyanine blue (use ACRYLIC paints for this). The first one shows a Liberty ship in the stormy North Atlantic in winter, hence the large waves. I mixed a little gray into this water base to tone down the colors. The second shows a Japanese seaplane tender in calm waters:


  • Member since
    September, 2006
  • From: Bethlehem PA
Posted by the Baron on Thursday, October 19, 2017 4:11 PM

I use acrylic gel, too, rather than gesso.  So far, I've applied it right on the bases I use, but I want to try the trick Chris Flodberg has shown in his build articles, to put a layer down on the base, and then to put paper towel into that later, to help get a more even layer.

The bigger the government, the smaller the citizen.


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