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Thread: My Overkill Terrarium with Custom Rock Face & Waterfall

  1. #25
    rcl27's Avatar
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    So ran into an odd discovery with the silicone. First off, if you want to see why I have been discouraged with the bloody silicone here's a quick video showing how easy it is to peel off. The only counter pressure being applied to my finger is the weight of the piece (maybe 2-3lbs?). If you can imagine a little bit of dirt on your arm and you brush it off with your hand, that is how hard I am scraping.



    Because this has been such a ***** I figured I should at least do some test strips of the three different types of silicone I have to see if one works better than the others. I made quick lines with the different silicone then let them cure for 24 hours. I didn't take a before shot but the after shot gives you a pretty good idea of the results. Basically, the more line you can see the better the silicone (i.e. the paint ripped off before the silicone).




    Top horizontal: GE Silicone 1 W/D/A/B - Rubbed in
    Left vertical: GE Silicone 1 W/D/A/B - Left alone
    Center vertical: DAP Aquarium Silicone - Rubbed in
    Right vertical: GE Silicone for Acrylics - Rubbed in

    For all intensive purposes, the top horizontal GE Silicone 1 and the center vertical DAP Aquarium performed equally the same. Both peeled off with relative ease and only took a minor portion of the paint. The GE Silicone for Acrylics on the right demolished all of hte others. I really had to scrape just to get it started and even then I was just ripping paint instead of the silicone. This appears to be my winner assuming it can do well under water.

    Now for the weird part. I made the vertical line on the left first without touching it. I then had to go find my other two bottles of silicone so about 5-10 minutes passed. It dawned on me that I did not rub in the first line so I gave it a few little presses with my finger but it had already began to cure so I stopped. I layed out the other two lines with a quick massage into the material and started to finish. I then thought I was giving the GE silicone 1 an unfair start since it didn't get rubbed in like the others so I made another quick horizontal line to make sure it was fair. The strange thing was the vertical strip actually held on pretty well even though it was the exact same silicone as the crappy top strip. Even stranger was the fact I only tried rubbing in the top portion of the line, which as you can tell performed worse then the bottom.

    At this point I pulled back the piece and began looking at it as a whole. The light managed to catch it just right and this was what I saw:





    See that big silicone wave/curvy line going down the length of the piece? That is the silicone I had trouble removing so I just left it on there. When I originally applied that first layer of silicone I always started with a broad wave pattern and used that to massage into all of the bumps and ridges. For some bloody reason if you do not touch the silicone it adheres better than rubbing it into place. That was the exact opposite I expected to find. Hell the whole reason I literally massaged the stuff was to make sure it came into contact with the surface instead of risking air pockets. The only downfall to this is you have to touch the stuff to put on an even layer. Basically you are just screwed either way. Here's to hoping the silicone for acrylics doesn't have any crazy fungicide in it and can hold up under water!

    Anyway, it is way too late so I am going to bed. I wanted to get this update posted to see if you guys had any ideas. It definitely is the opposite of what I assumed about silicone. On the other hand it's kind of cool too. Alright, night guys!

  2. #26
    Enthusiastic Enthusiast Zath's Avatar
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    I'm glad you posted what you did, though you seem to have found part of the answer yourself. I had been questioning how you were applying the silicone, and how many coats.

    In my reading and observing of many dart-frog vivarium setups, most people just use a large paintbrush to cover the terrain with silicone, and it doesn't usually stop at one coat. More like 3. Have patience and let them cure between, as well.

    Also, you're not going to want to hear this, but applying the silicone over the paint could be a large part of the problem as well. That paint is weak, and depending on what you used, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that chemicals from the wet silicone are weakening the paint further.

    Generally if you want to paint and use silicone, you do it after it's fully cured, then seal it again (not sure with what, exactly. I never quite got that far). Most setups weren't painted at all, and used the last layer of silicone as glue for "natural debris".

    Perhaps for yours some well rinsed fine grey gravel would work to give you the color you're going for.

    Just my suggestions. You're quite a ways into it already. I'm sure you're going to try and make this one work anyway, lol.
    Last edited by Zath; 06-05-2014 at 07:19 AM.

  3. #27
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    Yea I actually tried a brush and a trowel but both were a bit cumbersome and would leave streaks. I actually got quite good with just using my hands and massaging it in but apparently the silicone was curing too fast and every time I spread it out with my fingers it had more trouble adhering to the paint. At least that is my theory, I have no idea? I am hoping this silicone for acrylics will work out.

    As for the paint being too weak I am not necessarily concerned with that. As long I don't throw any of the pieces around I shouldn't have to worry about that causing the silicone to break. What I am concerned about is getting the silicone to adhere to the paint. What screwed me were those tiny little holes in the silicone that allowed the water to get inside. Once it breaches the silicone everything is water-based so it all just starts dissolving.

    My current plan is to re-silicone my little wall divider (it's the smallest piece) with the silicone for acrylics doing my old hand massage method. Seeing as it held on even after rubbing it in I hope that will alleviate that problem. I am going to put a second thin layer over that after a few days of curing. Let that cure a week and test it in water. I would just do three coats of silicone but I only allotted enough room for one coat in my design and there's not a lot of room in there to significantly add in any dimension.

    I do plan on obtaining some dark grey/light grey aquarium gravel to mix into the environment. Not quite sure how I am going to do it yet but will play around with it once I reach that stage. It will be more of a partial substrate layer rather than replacement for painting. I would love to do another terrarium down the line though like the large tree trunk/root setups you find on those sites.

    I also started to go into how I painted it but it turned out really long. So I just turned it into a little tutorial/primer on painting terrariums. I'll post it afterwards in case anyone is interested.

  4. #28
    rcl27's Avatar
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    Painting

    Haha yea I am committed to this. As far as paints I used:

    Golden Fluid Acrylics
    Golden or Liquidtex Heavy Body Artist Acrylics
    Speed Ball Black and White Caligraphy Ink
    Pledge Multi-Surface Acrylic Sealer (yes pledge lol, a couple drops can make your washes really fill in the tiny crevices)
    Distilled water for dilution purposes
    Hy-Tech Shield's All #50 Non-Toxic Sealant

    I had actually never painted before this so I spent a few weeks scouring the internet for tutorials. As you said with the vivarium scene it is almost all "natural debris" but I wanted a cliff face instead of a tree/above ground root system. Most of my construction techniques came from Lizard Landscapes. That guy makes some great how-to videos on YouTube (as long as you can tolerate the random OMG I love Christianity interludes haha). If you want to know how to sculpt styrofoam and use Foam Coat/mortar he is your guy. His painting style on the other hand focused a bit too much on stippling so I found some awesome tutorials from the model train groups and the role-playing, miniature army, board game guys.

    I bought a cheap air brush from Walmart back in their "air tools" section. As long as you have a decent air compressor it works fine even though they say you need a much larger one. Just spray in bursts so it has time to refill.

    I made a batch of dark grey paint using I believe the heavy body white and mars black fluid. Always add dark to the light, you'll save paint that way. Once you find color you like make a **** ton of it. Since it is your base coat you will mess up down the line and it is a ***** having to try and match colors again from scratch lol. For the air gun just slowly dilute it distilled water until it feels right to go through the air gun. My consistency was pretty close to about 2% milk. An acrylic thinning medium would have been better to use as it contains the bonding agents but Michael's was out both times I actually remembered to try and buy some. Seeing some of the bonding issues I am having I would have to recommend it is worth it. It is kind of expensive and hard to find so I would still be sparing with it.

    I would put down a coat one piece at a time. Once I made it through all of the pieces I went back with another light coat. The next day, about at the same time, I flipped it over and got the other side the same double spray way. Next day I would come back and hit all of the misc spots.

    After everything dried for a day or two I threw on a quick black wash. This allows you to add some shading to all of the crevices while keeping the main surface area the same color. This first mix was rather thin at a ratio of about 2 drop calligraphy ink, 2 drop Pledge Multi-Surface; and 25-30 drops of distilled water. If you can find some 1 ml syringes it actually makes measuring quite easy as each syringe holds right around 25 drops. I mixed everything in a red solo cup and used a 2" sponge brush to apply the wash. Just fill up the brush and dab it on the surface until you have thoroughly coated the entire piece. It you have any major pooling areas you can roll up the tip of a paper towel and dry the crevices out. Remember you are trying to only shade the crevices so the more there is the better that will work, just don't let the water start dissolving old paint. Afterwards, let it dry for a couple days. If it still isn't dark enough don't do anything yet. You can darken it up slightly in between drybrush layers and the main shading wash actually doesn't take place until the end so there is plenty of time. Plus quick, in succession washes can damage the texture of your model.

    Once dry you can release your army of dry brush coats lol. Really you can get away with just one coat of white but it is much more fun to add some depth. In the end I did roughly three shades of dry brushing, making sure to use considerably less paint with each lighter coat. Dry brushing allows you to only hit the upper surfaces of your model. The more paint you load on the brush or the harder/higher number of strokes in one area increase the amount of color you let down. So for the first coat dry the majority of the paint off on a paper towel (to the point that maybe 15% is left on the brush) and start randomly painting. If you have never done it before TEST FIRST! The purpose of this is to just barely get the surface, you will leave more paint the first few times you do it and let out an "Oh ****!" haha. Try and get the majority of the rock face and let dry. Come back around with a lighter shade and do the exact same thing but with less paint and less force. You can do this as many times as you want getting lighter and lighter. On your last coat use pure white and really dry that brush out. Be a bit more meticulous with your strokes and try to highlight only major protuberances.

    If you want to add any color to your model the drybrushing stage is where to do it. I added some iron/rust colored layers in my cliff just so I wasn't completely grey-scale. Try to keep your layers synchronized so you aren't unnecessarily covering up previous work. Just a heads up, a "rust" color can be obtained using red (pyrrole), yellow (hansa), and black (carbon). Start with yellow, add red until you get a decent orange, then slowly add black to bring the color down to a bright brown rust color. It makes life easier using named pigments since you will always get the same results (generic colors simply called "red" can vary significantly in the types and concentrations of the pigments used). Plus you will get to sound like Bob Ross and that's just freaking awesome.

    Another quick tip, using washes on the "rust" sections helps tremendously. Use roughly the same color as before, maybe a little less black, and dilute it to a ratio of about 1:10 or 1:15 (color:water, you can add pledge too if you only want to focus on crevices). After your last coat is dry, put some paper towels around the rust zone (so you only stain that area and you don't have long brown streaks down your model) and put a few dabs on with the sponge brush. The wash allows everything to blend together and keeps spots from looking out of place. Feel free to add more paint afterwards and wash again anytime something is too jarring or too dulled. Remember to ask other people how it looks as well. You can very easily get caught in paint/repaint loop if you are not careful.

    Simple black washes can be used over the entire model if things start becoming too light. Just try not to be overzealous with them since there is a couple day wait time. Also remember you can always add color but you can't take it away. The wash cannot save you if you want to lighten things up.

    Once you are happy with the color it is time to do the final shading black wash. For this you actually make a 1:1 mixture of Elmer's Glue All Multi-Purpose Glue and distilled water. Evenly spray across the face of your model and let dry for a day. Once dry, use the 1:1:15 black wash mix and do the same as the first black wash. The sealant coat helps to keep it off the upper surfaces even more while still allowing it to soak into the crevices. If you need darker add more pigment, but a 1:1:10-1:1:15 should get you pretty well. This is the video that gave me that idea:



    For the final sealant I used the Hy-Tech Shields-All #50. I feel this is the portion I am the most weary of. The sealant is actually quite good. It is one of the only non-toxic ones you can find out there and it is super easy to spray with just a basic spray bottle. On the other hand this is the last layer before I started siliconing so it might also be the culprit that screwed me. That aside, I did basically the exact same procedure as the original base coats of paint but without the same day second light coat. Hit one side, go to next piece, repeat. Next day flip over and do the other side. I let it sit a couple days to finish curing before I started siliconing. One big piece of advice, take a couple pots or whatever you can find to set the model up on. As the sealant runs off the side of the model it will adhere to whatever it touches. So if you leave your model on the table it will seal itself to the table as well. At least with the pots you can create a drip edge so that any excess sealant simply falls off. I think I put on three coats all together.

    As far as silicone goes, well I basically described that in my other posts but I can go into more detail if anyone wants. I will mention I only siliconed the parts of the rockface that would fully come into contact with water (i.e. submerged parts, areas near the pots, etc.). The Shields-All is designed to work in 99% humidity, just not to be submerged in water. I also siliconed most of the backs and sides just to add a little protection when I assembled and disassembled the waterfall. This actually proved to be quite fortuitous as I really could have messed up my heavily painted areas if I had siliconed them and they took on water.

    Hopefully this helps other people out. I meant to write a bunch of primers on all of this stuff as I was doing it but was always too lazy. At least these after the fact tutorials are better than nothing
    Last edited by rcl27; 06-06-2014 at 03:32 PM.

  5. #29
    Enthusiastic Enthusiast Zath's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rcl27 View Post
    the role-playing, miniature army, board game guys.
    That's me. :P

    I don't know about some of your recipes, but overall, a decent tutorial.

    If I had one piece of advice to give it would be to skip the extra sealants over the paint. (First recommendation is paint on the silicone, of course) Since you're airbrushing it, the paint is getting a pretty good grip on the styro, so the silicone will be an excellent sealer. Using the other stuff may be affecting the bond of the silicone, would be my guess.

  6. #30
    rcl27's Avatar
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    Exactly what I was thinking. I was even unsure when I applied the different sealers but when I reviewed the videos from lizard landscapes it seemed as if he did both. My thinking at the time was the more barriers the better. If I remember in time tomorrow I will give Hytech a call to see if they know anything about using silicone on top of their sealer.

    As I mentioned before at least the majority of my heavily painted surfaces were only sealed with the glue/water (which is all the Woodland Scenics Scenic Cement is after some diligent googling lol) & Shields All so very little of it was damaged. I didn't take pictures but doing the glue/water sealant first did make that final black wash pop out a bit more. I did a small side by side before I fully committed.

    Using Pledge as a flow additive came from Abaroth's World at GameDecor.com. Hell his Basic Brushwork section under Tips and Tricks basically taught me how to paint lol. There are step-by-step instructions with pictures on their and a few experiments that show how different recipes affect your model. Just a heads up, they changed the label on the Pledge sealant since he uploaded that picture. I spent forever online making sure I got the correct one until I found a spot where someone actually called the company and they confirmed it still contained the "Future Shine". The product you want is Pledge FloorCare Multi-Surface Finish with a picture of white tile and blue rubber boots. They sell it at Walmart so it is something you can use in a pinch.

    As for the lower concentrations in my washes you can always boost it. In fact many times I did. I always started out low and went higher if I need it. I didn't want to risk over darkening something. It also helps out a lot writing down your mixes and making some in bulk. That base coat was a big one, but it also was handy just having a "black wash" or "light rust" pre-made that I could grab when needed. I took this photo at the early stages of doing color washes. Unfortunately this was also when I discovered my phone's camera does not like standard room lighting and complex colors. It just goes, "Uhhh, is all of that grey? Sure why not!" I had at least two dry brush coats on there that looked cool in person lol.



    Something I didn't mention before that I wish I would have known (I will probably make a write up on this too) is after carving the styrofoam you only need at max two thin coats of Foam Coat. I had this phobia that I had to make it as hard and thick as possible so some areas got 4-5 relatively thin coats. You slowly lose all of your original detail and and sharp cliff like edges begin to round off and almost become bulbous. For example look at the center piece between the two pots:




    Here is roughly the same angle, just moved back and to the left a little.




    Can you see how much rounder the lower portion of the center piece is? I lost a lot of the stratified layers and sharp edges that you often see in slate cliffs. The stream reservoir in the upper left did manage to keep a lot of those features and has always been my favorite piece. The vertical cracks really make it pop out but it was designed after the other pieces.

    For ***** and giggles these were the two waterfalls I used as inspiration. This was one of the waterfalls back in Ithaca. I lived there for 4 and a half years so this grey slate is how all waterfalls look in my head haha.




    This other one gives you the basic shape. You have to use your imagination a little to picture the stream running left to right with a sharp turn since that's all there is room to do in a terrarium but other than that it's a nice fit. I also got the idea for putting a pot behind the waterfall from this photo. I think it will look cool having some utrics growing right behind the waterfall as it rages.




    For a more positive update, 4 of the 7 acrylic pieces of the conduit base are welded together. It was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. I have to finish figuring out the revised pipe routing before I weld on the two front pieces. I don't want to risk cracking the acrylic trying to drill after everything is assembled. I got it all done in my head just not enough to know precisely where to drill. At least the acrylic won't be a ***** and start dissolving once I put it in the water lol.



    Here's a pic of the seam. The solvent is applied with a needle and is absorbed into the seam by capillary action. You have to make really straight cuts in order for this to work (I had to outsource it since my table saw sucks). The dry areas and bubbles are small gaps where the solvent was too thin to reach. The top inch to inch and a half are a good example of this. You can also see a few of my mistakes where the needle dragged against the acrylic as I pulled away to readjust. Considering this will be covered by media and the other cliff pieces this is a little OCD but meh.


  7. #31

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    Looks really good I like what you've done. Any update? Get everything done? Plant any plants yet?

  8. #32
    Millipede's Avatar
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    yeah man, you just left us all hanging

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