This Article is About
model railroad scenery
using acrylics
water colors
different colors
realist
color scheme
plaster
yellow ochre
Model Railroad Scenery - Painting Rocks
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Model Railroad Scenery  -  Painting Rocks

Creating realist model railroad scenery is one of the most satisfying parts of model railroading. As a beginner, one of the most intimidating aspects of building my first layout was how to make realistic looking scenery. I found it doesn’t take a lot of artistic ability to create a fantastic looking mountain range or simple outcropping of rocks.

Once you have created your terrain, or casted your rock outcropping, it’s very simple to paint them. The paint type you use really doesn’t matter, water colors, latex house paint, acrylics, will all perform fine.

I favor the acrylics due to being relatively inexpensive, easy to clean and thin with water, they come in a large variety of earth based tones, and are odorless. I will be covering painting rocks using acrylics, but this technique will work just fine with any type of paint your prefer.

Once I have checked all my clearances and vacuumed up all the loose plaster I assemble my paint choices. I create a lot of mountains scenes based loosely on Southwestern Colorado so my paint schemes are chosen to match that area. The scene in the picture accompanying this article was created using yellow ochre, burnt umber, raw sienna, and black.

For modeling other parts of the country, simply choose colors natural to that specific area. A small touch of green wash gives your rocks a mossy look, Experiment with different colors to find the color scheme you desire for your area.

I begin by mixing a wash of the colors I will be using. For the yellow ochre, burnt umber and raw sienna I mix my these paints approximately 1 part paint to 16 parts water. For the black I create a wash using approx 1 part paint to 32 parts water.

Since you will be painting with a “wash” you want to just slowly build the up the color. It is much easier to add another coat of the wash to darken things up than it is lighten colors. You can lighten things up with a squirt of water, but I prefer the effects of adding washes to darken.

Yellow Ochre

I start by just dabbing on the yellow ochre covering approx 40% of the rock surface, highlighting the areas I want to appear brighter such as the high points that would be highlighted by exposure to the sun.

Burnt Umber

Next I will cover approx 40% with the burnt umber, highlighting the areas I want darker like the undersides of outcroppings and in deep crevices.

Raw Sienna

Remember whenever you hear “raw” in relation to paints it means red.

I then lightly dab the raw sienna in places I want to appear reddish. It is quite easy to go overboard with the “raw” colors. So I go easy and, once again, build up the color slowly.

Black

The thin black wash I finish up with is the key. Don’t just dab the black wash on. Start at the top of your formation with a wet brush of the black and let the black wash run down over the formation.

Washing in this manner allows the black to run into cracks and crevices and creates a shadow effect that is nearly impossible for someone of my minimal talent level to recreate trying to paint the shadow effects.

Occasionally I will go back over spots I want to really highlight with a thin wash of white also mixed 1:16. It creates a really unique effect.

I really hope you give this technique a try. It work on any model railroad terrain whether mountains, rock outcroppings or rolling hills. The color variations created will show through whatever ground cover you choose to add later.


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