Synthetic solutions that emulate the major ion compositions of natural waters are useful in experiments aimed at understanding biogeochemical processes. Standard recipes exist for preparing synthetic analogues of seawater, with its relatively constant composition, but, due to the diversity of freshwaters, a range of compositions and recipes is required. Generic protocols are developed for preparing synthetic freshwaters of any desired composition. The major problems encountered in preparing hard and soft waters include dissolving sparingly soluble calcium carbonate, ensuring that the ionic components of each concentrated stock solution cannot form an insoluble salt and dealing with the supersaturation of calcium carbonate in many hard waters. For acidic waters the poor solubility of aluminium salts requires attention. These problems are overcome by preparing concentrated stock solutions according to carefully designed reaction paths that were tested using a combination of experiment and equilibrium modeling. These stock solutions must then be added in a prescribed order to prepare a final solution that is brought into equilibrium with the atmosphere. The example calculations for preparing hard, soft and acidic freshwater surrogates with major ion compositions the same as published analyses, are presented in a generalized fashion that should allow preparation of any synthetic freshwater according to its known analysis.