Painting-Weathering Tips - 97-07-30

tt77 Painting Tips

dot Painting Tips dot Weathering Tips dot SP Color Chart dot

The major magazines are constantly running articles on how to paint models in prototypical colors and the problem is that it is somewhere I can't find when I need it. Over the years, many modelers have found easy ways to paint these schemes, and I decided to start collecting useful tips and put them in one place. This page is in its infancy, but as time goes on I hope it will fill up with good information.

The SP color reference chart is a collection of paint schemes specific to one railroad. I plan to do other major railroads that run here in the west as the information is gathered.

Some paint related links:

Bill Havrilla's color matches for railroad paint schemes [A-CHA] [CHE-I] [J-Q] [R-Z] is at John Shaw's web site.

Robert Sloan's list of DRGW colors is there too.

Testor's web site, with other painting tips.

Tamiya's web site.

dot Painting Tips dot
Don't be afraid to try. Test out your skills on plain sheets of styrene to see what you will get, and if your paint is too thick or thin. Test out new paints this way too for color matches to your old paint schemes. Keep a chip around for a good color reference.

Use good brushes for detail work and cheap brushes for washes. Keep brushes for water based paint and for lacquer or thinner based paints separate. Don't use one brush for both types of paint.

Look at military colors for use as weathered or aged paint, and for painting figures. Magazines, books, and web sites devoted to other types of modeling often have great tips for color use and detailing.

Thin coats of paint are better than thick ones. Let the model dry before applying the next coat. You can speed up the drying on water based paints with a hair dryer set on low heat, but it also blows on the surroundings, so put your model in a clean area first to keep dust and workbench debris off. An alternative is to dry in the oven, at low heat for 20 minutes (for Model-Flex) to 2 hours (Floquil on a brass model). Better to undercook than overcook! Try this on an older model you can use for a test, in case it starts to melt, before going into full serious production.

For two color paint schemes, paint the first color over the entire model and let dry. Mask the second color using thin flexible tape for curves and wider pieces for straight lines. The wider pieces can be attached to a piece of paper for rigidity, with only 1/8" to attach to the model. Spray a little of the first color over the tape to seal the edges and prevent 'run unders'. Let this dry and then spray on the second color.

When spraying on a clear gloss coating for decal preparation, spray the entire area. If you just paint where the decal is to go, it will look different, even after overcoating with a dull coating.

Accu-Flex and Model-Flex paints can be sprayed with a regular tip on an airbrush with 15 to 25 pounds of pressure. Thin the paint with a little bit of distilled water for thinner applications.

If you are getting 'grainy' results from airbrushing, thin down the paint, and use more air (in the mix of paint/air) as you paint.

More to come....
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dot Weathering Tips dot

The first thing I do to a model when I am ready to weather it is to apply an ink-alcohol wash: a couple of drops of ink in an old paint bottle full of rubbing alcohol. This basic mix can be increased or decreased by drop or two for different amounts of the 'effect', so it is hard to give an exact ratio. Start with a dilluted mix and add ink until it looks good. Keep it subtle, though, it only needs to get in the cracks. I use a brand of ink called "FW", available in art supply stores or drafting supplies stores. I used to do a lot of ink drafting (before the CAD revolution) and found this ink to be finer in grain and 'blacker' than others. Brushing this mix on the entire model fills in all the cracks, grills, knuckle busters, and other fine detail with a darker line that really pops out the detail. As the mix dries, (fast, as the alcohol dries up) the mix can be brushed into streaking patterns. If you use a non-permanent ink, you can recoat an area until it looks right to you. Add a little sepia colored ink and you get rusty streaks or cracks. Lay a car side flat and pool the mix on, and you get yet another effect. This works especially well on trucks that are silver, popping out the springs, axle ends, frame holes, and many other tiny details.

I have seen articles on using makeup for weathering, and seen some great examples at Cliff Springmeieir's 'MY'RR in Los Angeles. I went to the local drug store chain and found two sets that looked promising. I tried them out and find the effects to be very subtle and very fine. I picked up these two sets of eyeshadow: 'Cover Girl Soft Focus 5" and 'Cover Girl Adobe'. These were the least expensive that I found. Any similar sets should work fine. The major thing to look for is that the colors are 'Matte' and not 'Frosted'. The foam applicator that comes with the set is perfect for applying the colors, and is also good for using with chalks. Rubbing one of the 'adobe' browns over lettering fades them out perfectly. The 'soft focus' greys make good 'road grime' for the bottom edges of the car sides and to highlight the truck details a little.

Paint mix for steam locomotives, by John Allen, "Model Railroading with John Allen": 'Warm Black' - 70% Black, 25% White, 5% Boxcar Red. 'John varied the ratio from engine to engine, so as to not have everything look the same.'

From Richard Percy in Australia: Almost any shade of Black and Brown can be mixed to give a 'dirty' weathering color. I have used 50/50 mixes of the following Floquil Paints, with a varying degree of success: Engine Black / Rail Brown, Engine Black / Earth, Engine Black / Mud.

Mix for diesel loco grills, "Superdetailing a Tunnel Motor", Robert.J.Zenk, Jan 1985 Model Railroader: 50% Engine Black+ 50% Roof Brown. Thin 50% for use (Info from Richard again).

Black mixes for indoors, from Richard Percy again: 'Indoor Black' (Anything that is above the frame) - 5 parts Black and 1 part White. 'Underframe Black' - 3 parts Black and 2 parts White. This probably comes out very close to Floquil Grimy Black. So I only used it on Locos. The underframes and truck sideframes, of wagons and coaches received Floquil Grimy Black.

Here is a list of a few good articles on weathering:

More to come....

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If you have comments, suggestions on what you would like to see
or data you might like, you can email me at:
Rick Blanchard -

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©1997 blanchard design, all rights reserved
Top photo courtesy Don Winslow. Used with permission.