Detailing and weathering for model railways | Railwayscenics

Detail and Weathering

Adding detail

Our models are made from either card or paper, therefore adding finer detail is very hard, but not impossible. There are lots of manufacturers that supply detailing items, many of which are suitable for our models. There are lots of things that can be used as additional items. Small drinking straws can be cut in half and used as guttering. Various sized wire or plastic rod can be used as down pipes and other pipe work on the outside of a building.

All buildings are built into the ground. When compete, our models should be placed onto a bare baseboard, and any scatter material used should come right up to the model. This will cover any join between model and board. Clutter can be added around the model. There are numerous plastic and metal accessories for this job available from a range of suppliers.


All of our models are designed in as new condition. They all require some form of weathering. There are many products available, all of which are suitable. Taking any new model, especially an expensive locomotive right out of the box and weathering it up to make it look old, is not an easy decision to take. The best way to weather any model is to do it gradually. Do not rush in and paint a metal surface with solid rust. It will never happen in real life, so why should it happen on your model.


Paint colours will vary depending on what effect you are going for, but good colours will be rust, orange, yellows, browns, black, earth tones, white, greens; you can mix and match, or combine colours to get the colours or effects you have in mind. Even if you use a colour called rust, remember that there is a wide range of rust, so you might want to have it darker in one place, and lighter in another.

Dry brushing

For best results you should use an old stiff bristled brush. If you do not have an old worn brush, we have had good results using a cheap new brush. The cheaper the better as these are a lower quality brush.

Place several small quantities of the paint you wish to use onto an old saucer or tin lid, so that you can mix the colours on several areas. Dip the bush in the paint, then brush off most of the paint on a paper towel so the brush is very dry. Now you are ready to apply the paint to the model using a vertical downward motion so that it gives a streaked appearance. This can be very subtle if you make sure not to use too much paint on the brush. Practice on a piece of cardboard or old scrap piece of plastic first. Remember several light coats are better than one heavy one.

This can be used to create streaks of rust, oil loads that have spilled, weather marks on roofs and walls or black/grey exhaust stains using the appropriate colour for the effect you are trying to achieve.

Weathering with washes

Washes are a great easy way of creating a dirty look.

First, make a thin wash by mixing 1 part paint to 10 parts suitable thinners for your paint. Use a wide brush to apply the thinned mixture to the model. Brush in the direction of the wood grain or direction of whatever you are trying to weather. It is best to use this method if the model has an irregular or textured surface. If the surface is too smooth, you may not like the effect as much. Sometimes the brush strokes will show on smooth surfaces, for example. As usual with model painting applications, it is always best to apply very thin coats 2 or 3 times than try to do it all with one coat. That way, you have much more control over the result. You may find that a very thin washing with one coat is all you need to create a subtle but realistic effect that you will be happy with.

Weathering with an airbrush

This is a great way to add stains to simulate exhaust, dirt and dust for the bottoms of wagons, coaches.

Use a wash thinned the same way as mentioned above. Experiment with your airbrush on a piece of cardboard first to get the right effect that you want, then apply a light spray on the model - mostly to the areas where you would expect most of the dirt or exhaust to be. Use black for the exhaust stains, earth colours for dust and dirt along the bottoms and rust for trucks and couplers, etc.

You can even use a combination of effects on your models. For example, you could put on some dry brushing here and there, brush on some wash, use chalk dust and then use an overspray with an airbrush, all depending on the kind of result you are looking for. Allow for drying in between each step.

If you use an airbrush a lot, make sure you use a facemask for safety, especially for solvent-based paints. It is also important to consider a spray booth, either purchased or homemade to ventilate the spray to the outside. This helps keep the paint from getting into your lungs, all over your layout, backdrop, carpet, and other models.

Using oil paints

These are good for applying patches or streaks of rust. Mostly, you would use burnt sienna or burnt umber for dark rust spots and raw umber for larger streaked areas. Once you have applied the full-strength colours where you want them, you can take a brush with mineral spirits to streak the rust colour down the side of the model. Again, you can either be very subtle with this effect or as strong as you wish. Remember that it will take about 2 days for this to dry before you can do anything else with the model.

Weathering with chalks or powders

Create a powder from your artists pastel chalk stick by scraping it with a knife onto a piece of paper.

Use a brush to apply the chalk to the model using quick short brush strokes. Start light and add more if you wish. Artists pastel chalks are probably the easiest to work with, but you can use oil pastel chalks if you like for a more prominent or darker effect. You have to use sandpaper to create the powder with oil pastels.

After you have applied the chalk powder you need to seal the dust onto the model otherwise they may disappear or become smeared and create an effect that you did not want. Apply a thin spray of clear matt lacquer using a spray can. Do not get the can too close to the model while spraying or you may blow away all the chalk. When that dries, apply a second coat.

Weathering with crayons or coloured pencils

You can also use artists crayons or coloured pencils for streaking effects, but they are especially useful for highlighting ridges, rivets, door handles and other details that are raised or textured.