Making Water Base for Waterline Ship Models

Many times ship models come with a waterline hull. This is a hull cut at the water line so the ship can be displayed “At Sea”. There are many different ways to create a base. Below is how I make mine.

First you need a base. This can be done on any base. In this case due to the size of the ship I chose to use a sheet of 1/8” styrene sheet. The materials you will need are:

  • Liquitex Acrylic Gel Medium – Gloss (Available at most art supply stores)
  • A set of large round eye shadow make up brush
  • Milliput epoxy putty. I used the silver gray color
  • Latex or plastic gloves
  • Paint colors used are:
  • Dark sea blue
  • Bright blue
  • Intermediate blue
  • Tamiya X-23 Clear Blue
  • Tamiya XF-2 Flat white
  • Tamiya X-20 thinner
  • Pledge floor polish (also known as Future Floor Wax)
  • Fiber Filler (used in stuffed animals or small pillows)

The next step is to locate where you want the ship placed. I used the lower hull for the model to locate where it will sit on the base. Using a pencil draw out where the wakes will be. I recommend looking at photos of real ships of the class of ship you are building. Different ships leave different wakes. Also the wakes change between calm seas and heavy seas. Once the wake pattern is drawn, don the gloves and mix the 2-part Milliput putty. Roll it out and place them on the wake lines. Using your fingers form the wakes. The waves are typically cresting at the point the wave breaks and as it trails away it flattens out.

For the aft wake the rolled putty goes from edge of stern straight back. This will be your guide later for the prop wash and trailing wake.

Placement of ship

Ready for putty

Bow wake formed


 For the third step it is time to paint the base. Starting with the dark sea blue paint the edges and open areas not part of the ship or its wakes. After it dries paint the bright blue around where the ship is and just outside the wakes. The last step is to paint the wake areas with the intermediate blue.

After the base coats of paint have dried grab the large round brush and begin applying the first layer of acrylic gel. It goes on thick and white. The gel will be clear when fully dried. Apply by using strokes horizontal to the hull. Make sure you get a good thick coat along the wake sides. The gel takes a few hours to dry. Once the first coat is dry you can now attach the ship to the base. The second layer of acrylic gel is then applied along the hull and blended to the wake. For the trailing wake I use vertical dabs to apply the gel. This better simulates the prop wash effect. Once the second coat has dried it is time for the final coat. Use the dabbing method around the wake breaks to simulate the splashing at the breaks. This will be relevant later when the fiber fill is placed.

Once all the gel has dried the entire water surface is then painted with Tamiya X-23 clear blue paint. I recommend using a brush, with all the little waves and such brushing allows the clear paint to pool in areas and highlights the uneven surface. Allow the paint to dry fully. Next paint all the wake crests using Tamiya XF-2 flat white in a dry brush method. For the splash areas and the trailing wake use the vertical dabbing and dry brushing. When the paint has dried fully, dip the brush in the Tamiya thinner and lightly brush across all the wakes and splashes. This will blend the white and the clear blue paints and form a wide variety of color hues. The base will need to then dry out very well. The final step in the painting process is to give the water a high gloss shine. This is accomplished by painting the entire surface with the Pledge floor shine.

Base colors painted

Bow wake and base with acrylic gel

Stern wake

Close up of stern wake

Painting the clear blue

Clear blue pant completed

Wake highlighted with white


The final step if to take a small batch of the fiber fill and form the splashes around the water breaks. You can use a thin coat of the acrylic gel to attach them. Let the gel dry and then very lightly spray some Pledge onto the fibers. This will create “drops of water” along the fibers replicating the splashing.

The ship is now ready for display.

Fiber Fill on bow

Bow completed

Completed Model View 1

Completed Model View 2


Some options that can be done are instead of using the bright blue just use the dark sea blue and the intermediate blue for heavy seas or for North Atlantic Ocean. For Caribbean or south pacific use more bright blue and less dark sea blue. You can also use medium or dark green to simulate bays and coves that may have algae in the water. 

Samples of previously completed bases:

1/350 USS Hornet

1/700 USS Dale




1/720 USS Carl Vinson

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Happy Modeling!

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