Facebook Page
Weathering Tips - Model Railroading Tips, Tricks and Techniques

Weathering Tips

Do you have weathering tips to share? Email them to me here.

You know, I realized a great way to make graffiti without buying those expensive decals. I use White-out (a correction pen), the finer the tip the better. I even made up a cool scene with this- I painted an HO car, parked it in front of a university, and put an angry teacher beside it, like one of his students painted it! -asparuh frangov (viper)

Extreme Weathering
Weather as you normally would your next boxcar, tank, hopper, etc. then, spray 2 coats of DullCote on your finished car.

When that has dried thoroughly, use your pump sprayer filled with 93% rubbing alcohol and give a good, wet coat to your finished car.

The alcohol reacts with the Dullcote and makes the most faded, weathered finish you've ever seen.

Careful, don't do but just a few cars as the effect goes a long way. -Pepper Kay

Roads, Paint and Rust
There are several brands of alcohol based asphalt patch material used to mend roofs and gutters. I found that I could dilute and pour it in a form made of stripwood, to make a road bed. Before it completely hardens you can rub in some talc and cut in cracks and divisions. You can even carve scale bricks as the underlying old road bed. The surface looks remarkably real.

Also I almost never paint anything. I gesso it and then add layers of alcohol stain (used for shoes.) I usually mix and dilute my own colors and then put them on in several uneven layers. I have several moss green washes that I put on finished shingles to imply a little moss growing. If you have a cabin in the deep woods, dust the moss stain with fine white grout powder. It absorbs the color unevenly and looks exactly like lichen growing on the shingles. Works great.

I hate that fresh painted look, it kills scale. A nice washed out slightly uneven color really helps keep things in perspective. I'm always interested in finding new ways to achieve this.

For old metal and rust I discovered Instant Iron by Modern Options It's excellent for iron smoke stacks and works great as a coating on scale correlated roofing. I drizzle their Instant Rust down the pipes and roofs to get a nice aging effect. It takes about an hour, but the surface actually rusts. The roof effect can be enhanced by dusting with different colors of grout powder while it's still wet. When it's dry I do an uneven wash of very dilute dark stain to get a more realistic look.

Okay my favorite way to make rusted iron culvert pipes, ancient smoke stacks etc is to take aluminum tubing or wrap heavy aluminum foil around an appropriate sized bolt to get the correlated look. Then dip the end in Radio Shack printed circuit enchant. Be careful, it's nasty stuff and it eats away slowly at first then it goes like mad. A bonus is that this thins the tubing to almost scale thickness...i.e. very very thin. It really helps drive home the illusion. Once I have that eaten away look I either paint it with the instant iron and rust it or I paint it black then treat it with Rustall...several coats. Sometimes it comes out too shiny, which also kills scale so I dust it with rust dust or dull coat it.

I hope this helps someone out there. -Peter Plantec

Get even more weathering tips & techniques with Robert Anderson's Model Train Help
Model Train Help eBook 4th Edition

Is It In The Mud?
Polly S Railroad Tie Brown actually has a lot of merit for weathering freight cars. It looks like old dirt fresh from a rainstorm if applied heavily in big patches, then streaked down with a rag. Experiment to find the right effect. -Stephen

Plaster Castings
I have found that women's eye shadow works well when wanting to blend colors on plaster castings. The eye shadow doesn't need to be sprayed to adhere to the plaster and is easy to work with(no messy dust). I usually apply a slate colored eye shadow (black) to the castings first then follow with the colors of my choice. Eye shadow comes in an assortment of colors and range in price between $1.99 up to $20.00. The cheaper eye shadow holds well, but if you have the money to spend, I recommend the more expensive eye shadow because it has a very natural look when you are done. Just experiment with the colors, and remember...HAVE FUN!! -Aaron Savoian

Old Wood Appearance
One tip is to make unstained wood look old and gray. The tip is very simple just lightly go over the balsa wood with a dull pencil. -Mike Luyster

Paint Mixing
It seems everything today is sold in "blister packs" hanging on hooks in stores. I do alot of painting, weathering etc. I use these lil' plastic "dishes" for all kinds of paint mixing, they are great with your air brush! they're free and disposable and it keeps the lil' woman off your back. -Jon Hancock

Making wheel faces and structures look like they have "real" flaking rust areas: I gather the type of rust that is more on the orangy side (i.e. newly forming) by sanding it off of various surfaces with fine sand paper of about 120 grit. Then I "reduce" this with finer-grit sandpaper, 400-500 grit will do, by placing a small amount in a folded piece and rubbing the sandwiched rust into a very, almost scale-like dust. I use a soda straw cut to about 2" in length to dust things with the super-fine real rust powder after first painting with roof brown water based paint. Shake off any loose rust immediately. The result is a 3-D type effect on wheel faces, metal roofs, or any other object that could or would be seen close up by operators or visitors. -Brett Duffek

On my home N Scale Layout I have a gain elevator. Who does not have this type of industry on their layouts? There are a lot of things that are over looked when it comes to ideas for weathering. This idea came to me after watching a Cargill grain train pass one weekend. From that I had made note for a good weathering idea:

Step 1: Pick up a tube of Elmers Glue, Model Glue or any glue.

Step 2: Get a package of Woodland Scenics Burnt Grass 785-44, or 785-62.

Step 3: Add dabs of glue around the top hatches of the hopper, even between them if you wish. Put the burnt grass on the glue spots and tap it down with your finger.

What you get is a car that has been over filled or a mass pile of over spill. The burnt grass gives the look of grain on the roof. Be sure to put a small trail of grass between the tracks at your local gain station to show that grain has leaked out the bottom of some of the cars. Maybe add a bit of Green Clump Foliage to show that some grain seeds have started to grow. Even a bit of Woodland Scenics Field Grass such as Natural Straw item #785-171 or Harvest Gold #785-172 would make interesting things like wheat growing. As always best of luck with your model railroad. -Brendan

To put graffiti on train cars or buildings use gel pens from your local office supply store. They write on just about anything. -Tim White

Check out The Rustall Weathering System.

Pastel Chalks
Pastel Chalks are great for weathering. Using a craft knife, scrape the chalk stick into a powder. Dip a paint brush in denatured alcohol and then into the powdered chalk. Dab or brush the chalk onto the surface to be weathered. Dab orange and brown mixtures to simulate rust. Heavy application on pipe creates the illusion of heavy rust accumulation. Black chalk around a chimney creates the illusion of soot. Experiment. Start with light application. The alcohol devolves the chalk and makes it stick. Application of a dull coat varnish isn't really necessary. -Andy Garner

Three Step Technique
I use a three step technique in weathering. First, I brush on a wash of black craft paint and "wet" water. I stop here if I want a light weathering effect If I want something stronger, I add a second wash of brown craft paint. Finally I add small blobs of orange paint (to simulate recent rust) and blobs of light gray to simulate newly exposed metal. If plenty of water is used, very subtle effects can be obtained.

Weathered Windows
For a "weathered window" appearance, try spraying Floquil Flat finish thinned to 50% lacquer thinner on the INSIDE SURFACE of windows instead of the outside. That way the window still looks like glass but appears dirty. -Jim Six

Weathered Windows, Part II
Another way is to sand paper the inside of the plastic window with 300/400 grit......the roughened surface also tends to "fog" out any bright lamp behind it. -HO RR Fan

India Ink
India ink, considerablely thinned with water , is a good all around weathering agent. It is especially good for simulated weatherbeaten unpainted wood. Mix about 2 drops of ink in 1 cup of water.

Colored chalk makes a very good weathering agent. Grind up the chalk into powder and apply to cars, locos, buildings with a soft brush and work into the material with vertical strokes. To apply darker streaks I use a Q-tip to apply the chalk. If you don't like your results just clean the car with a damp sponge and start over. If you are going to preserve your weathering with dull coat, be aware that you will lose some of the effect, so over apply the chalk. You can always add more weathering after you dull coat the model if you don't like the effect.

Commercial Products
There are many Commercial products that will weather wood, plastics and plasters on the market. Most are very good and will give you excellent results. I use a product (no pitch here, I really like it) called "Weather It", which makes scale lumber look old and very weathered. Treat all the wood that you are going to use before construction because "Weather It" will break down wood glue and your project will fall apart. I learned this the hard way as I watched my water tower come unglued before my eyes! On the other hand, if you have some wood glued together and you need to get it apart with splinting or damaging it, this is an excellent product to dissolve the glue if you don't mind the color change in the wood afterwards.

Air Brush
Weathering with an air brush is easy to do and gives excellent results. Start with darker colors and add lighter colors on top. Line up all your cars, structures and loco's and treat them assembly line style, then change colors and do it again and again. Remember, weathering is a matter of degree and most rolling stock is fairly clean. The disadvantage of weathering with paint is that it is pretty permanent when you are done.

Air Brush
I have been weathering with an airbrush for many years and have done many clinics for Badger Airbrush and at the GATS train shows. A few helpful hints, both for the beginner and the experienced airbrusher. A double action brush is by far the easiest and most productive, both with ease and performance. I use a gravity feed, Badger model 100LG most of the time as it allows for very closeup work (ie:, nuts/bolts, valves, fittings) and anything else that requires very small and close up work. There is no jar to contend with and get in the way. For other work, a Model 150 is the all around brush to use for this hobby.

I have found that by using four colors, you can weather your project to any degree that you want,simply by mixing and blending as you paint the object. The four colors I use are: RUST, ROOF BROWN, ENGINE BLACK, and EARTH. You can use either water base or oil base paints and paint one over the other if desired. Both MODEL FLEX (water base) and Floquil (oil base) are excellent paints and come already mixed and labeled from the mfg.

If you are going to the colors I suggested, start with the rust, then paint over and blend in the roof brown. The engine (or grimy) black can then be lightly dusted over the two colors to blend them all together. The earth (if desired) can be painted over the results to resemble water staining and sun bleaching.

Hopefully this little bit of information will help someone who has the desire to weather their engines and rolling stock, also good for structures and scenery. -Mac McCalla

I use poster paints and hydrocal, mix them and sift with a flour sifter over the object to be weathered. Liberally spray with a spray bottle, a mixture of water and glue to hold everything in place. Makes box cars look very old. -Wendy Holmes

In weathering a loco, you have to be careful that you don't get the things in the engine. Take the plastic off the chassis, then take a water based black paint and delute it in water. Take a paintbrush and wash it over the engine. The paint will dull the paint on the loco already, and the paint will stay in the groves and create a grimy look. Take some flat latex paint afterwards, and paint diesel smoke out of the the smokestacks. Your loco then will be very weathered. Try the wash twice to get a better effect. -James

Tire Tracks
You can make it look like a car has driven through the dirt or grass. After you have put down the grass, take an eraser and rub off some grass to look like tire tracks. -Chris Taylor

When airbrushing HO, with a little hand molding, the soft cardboard rolls that toilet paper comes on fits into the cars and locomotive bodies and provides a way of holding these objects. I used the cap from a spray can fastened to the center of an inexpensive lazy susan to allow me to turn the bodies without having to touch them while the paint was wet. -Palmer Schatell

It's easy to forget to highlight a car with white paint (other colors work too). Scratch brushed white paint has a dramatic effect when upper surfaces of trucks, roofs, grab irons, and even human figures are highlighted. It is like adding perspective to a drawing. Take a stiff brush, put a small amount of white paint on it, then brush most of it off on some scrap cardboard. Brush upper surfaces with the little that's left. Ideally the effect is subtle enough to be imperceptible to the visitor. Cheap water-based craft paint is fine. -John Hanks