How to Make a 3D Tide Pool

Tide Pool with Blue Crab and Sculpins

I’m currently obsessed with making tide pools, part of my “see through” philosophy maybe. I’ve dreaded the day someone asked how to make one, so if that ever happens, I’ll just refer them to this.

Maybe something here can help you in your projects.

I start with a piece of styrofoam and hot glue styro “rocks” around the edge. You can sculpt the styro with a knife, but it’s a mess, so I bought a hot knife set which is fun and makes nice facets. Then I coat the whole ugly thing with a goopy mixture of plaster and papier mache. I have some real sand for the bottom-which is never white enough for some reason, so I wash it with white.

I wash the rocks with at least three colors of rock color. What color is that? Depends. Go get some rocks and study them and decide. Then I coat them with diluted Elmer’s and sprinkle on moss/barnacles/ whatever. Where do I get those?

I bought pine cat litter, and soaked it with water until it mushed up like oatmeal. Then I paint the colored batches of mush with acrylic-light to dark greyed green, etc. Dry. I keep those colored crumbles in zip lock bags, sometimes sifting for different sizes. Makes great tree foliage too, but that’s a different subject.

What goes in the tide pool? So many possibilities! This one has a blue crab, three tiny sculpins, a starfish, snails (I bought craft shells (cheap)…The seaweed is fake fur painted with grayed green . This is obtained by mixing yellow ochre with a tiny dab of black. Black has a bit of blue so it comes out a naturalistic green. I find lichens on dead logs beside the road and use grass roots (colored as well.) This is only about 12 inches long-a miniscape.

Fish fins are translucent, so I cut up a clear plastic cup, color them and glue them on with a dab of jeweler’s glue. Serious stuff, that glue-don’t get it on your hands. When dry, I pour resin for water. Don’t ask me the fool-proof resin method. I hold my breath in fear every time I use it. If it screws up, I just destroyed a lot of work.

Ah, but that’s the chance we take. A friend told me kids would LOVE these. I like to look at them and find all the live things, (where’s Waldo?) so I guess I’m sort of a kid, too.

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