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Painting plain and embossed Plastikard - Hints, Tips & Smaller Projects. - Getting You Started. - Your Model Railway Club
 Posted: Mon Oct 15th, 2007 01:04 pm
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From Perry on the previous forum.

In response to a suggestion from Jeff (Gwent Rail) in the Scratchbuilding section of this forum, I have put together an overview of my technique for painting models made from plain and embossed plastikard.

I donít suggest that that this is by any means the right way or the only way. Itís just the way I do it.


I use Humbrol enamel paints almost exclusively when painting plastikard. The reason for this is it comes in handy small tins, is available in a good range of colours (of which more later) and is, at least in the UK, stocked by a number of local shops.
There are several websites showing the range of Humbrol paint colours, but one can be seen at:

I also use Holtís grey acrylic primer in an aerosol can.


I use the Humbrol enamel thinners. That way there is no adverse reaction to the paint that you can sometimes get using white spirit or similar substances.

Buy the best you can. I used to use pure sable brushes but with prices now being £15 - £20 per brush, as I replace them I now have to go for synthetic types. Most of my painting is done with a normal No.2 size. Some dry-brushing is done with a No.4 flat brush with fairly stiff bristles. Keep old brushes to use for dry-brushing; it knocks the hell out of good ones!


Step 1: Cleaning.

Make sure the surface you are going to paint is dry and clean. If itís covered in greasy fingerprints the paint wonít stick too well, so give it a careful wash in some lukewarm water with a drop of washing up liquid in it. Then give it time to dry. That will not be the last time I use the phrase ďgive it time to dryĒ in this posting, because it is very important at several stages.

Step 2: Planning
The first step in painting the model is to have a plan. It doesnít need to be complicated and is doesnít need to be written down, but having an idea of what you are going to do allows you to get things in order.

Step 3: The Base Coat.
What kind of base coat you apply depends, unsurprisingly, on the effect you are trying to achieve,. If you want a smooth overall finish, such as the tank on my water softening plant, then a base coat sprayed on using an aerosol can of car-type acrylic primer paint will give you a good start. Subsequent coats of enamel paint will stick to this beautifully. You can prime embossed plastikard the same way, but remember that the embossing isnít very deep, so each coat of paint you apply slightly lessens the relief effect. If you decide to apply the base coat by brush, thin the paint slightly to allow it to flow easily over the surface you are painting. I canít tell you how much thinner to put in the paint. It depends on your working conditions, how thick the paint is before you start, etc. All I can say is put enough paint to do the job into a small container; I use plastic milk bottle tops, then add thinners a drop or two at a time until it brushes on easily. I use an eyedropper to add the thinners to the paint that gives me good control over how much or how little I add. I very seldom use paint straight from the tin. I usually need to change the colour slightly or thin it, or both!

Give it time to dry. Let the base coat dry thoroughly. Not just until it looks dry. Leave it overnight at least.

Step 4: The ĎMortar-mixí Coat
Using embossed brickwork as an example, the next stage is to get some pale grey Ďmortar-mixí as I like to call it, into the grooves between the bricks. Of course you can also use this technique for putting some dark colour into the grooves of planking, or shadows beneath roofing tiles. Just think about what the colour would be. Donít use pure matt black. It is far too strong and Ďjumps outí at you. Always tone it down with a very little white, or you can add a touch or red or blueÖanything you want. Experiment on scrap pieces of plastikard before you do anything to the model if youíre not sure how it will look.

Thin your mortar-mix well. It needs to be a lot thinner than the base coat so that it flows into the gaps between the bricks. Make sure you have some paper towels handy, as you will need them as soon as you start painting. Brush the mortar-mix quickly and gently over the surface, allowing the paint to collect in the gaps between the bricks. Donít work the brush back and forth or press too hard, otherwise the high level of thinners in the mortar-mix could disturb the paint of the base coat and mix the whole lot together. Only do a smallish area at a time. Stop painting frequently and gently wipe most of the paint off the surface of the bricks with your paper towel, leaving it in the gaps in between. Donít rub it too hard. I find that on brickwork itís best to wipe vertically but you may need to experiment. When you have covered the entire area it will look pale and pretty horrible. Donít worry. Weíll put that right shortly.

Give it time to dry. Again, overnight would be good.

Step 5: Painting the bricks.
Now itís time to start building up the finish you are after. Take a milk bottle top or similar small container and put some paint into it. Itís a good idea to try to have enough to finish the whole job in one go because it will be almost impossible to replicate the colours you are going to mix exactly. I will again use the brickwork as an example. Into the milk bottle top I put some brick red (Humbrol matt 70), some white, (Humbrol matt 34) and some black, (Humbrol matt 33). Most of the paint is the brick red with only a small amount of the black; remember matt black is incredibly strong and will darken other paints too much very easily. Use it sparingly. You can always add more but you canít take it out again. A small amount of white makes up the remainder of the palette. Donít mix the colours together! Leave them in different coloured blobs. Now add a few, maybe two or three, drops of thinners, no more. This time you want your flat brush with the stiffish bristles and a clean paper towel. Mix small quantities of paint together very slightly on the brush. Donít aim for a complete single-toned mix. Make some of the brick red mix slightly lighter, some slightly darker and leave some just as it is. You want it with a bit of variety! Only put a very small amount of colour on the tip of the brush. Donít dip it in up to the ferrule Ė youíll just waste a lot of paint. Once you have the colour on your brush, wipe almost all of it off again on the paper towel. You are now the proud possessor of a Ďdry-brushí! Work the brush gently and quickly over the surface of the bricks, barely touching them. You donít want to allow this coat of paint to get down into the mortar lines, another reason for having very little paint on the brush. When no more paint is being transferred from the brush, reload it, wipe it, and carry on. Each time you mix the paint on the brush the tint will be subtly different, bringing the brickwork to life. When you have completed the whole surface give it time to dry. Only then can you see the full effect. The chances are if youíve done it right, it wonít look dark enough. No problem. Go back to the start of Step 5 (this one) and give it another coat. It will have even more variation this time and will look even better.

Give it time to dry.

Step 6: Finishing
When painting the finishing details on your model, try to keep in mind that the Laws of Physics govern everything. Sounds scary? Not really. Itís just that we need to keep in mind that rainwater running down a building will carry muck and dirt with it leaving vertical deposits. Water doesnít usually run very far sideways unless it hits a ledge, but even then it will continue itís downward journey as soon as it can. Therefore vertical dirty streaks can be dry-brushed downwards from, for example, the ends of windowsills, places where pipes exit the brickwork and many other locations that you will discover by thinking about how your building would be affected by the weather. Dirt will gather on some ledges and a mucky colour can be dry-brushed in those places. Donít try for an even coverage. Quite the opposite; you want it to look patchy and irregular. Think about the type of location your building is going to occupy. My water softener model will stand in a steam-era loco depot; not the cleanest of locations, so dirtying up could be fairly strong. A High Street shop, or a house is likely to be rather less dirty Ė one would hope! As a final detail, to bring out the texture of the bricks even more, with a fine brush, pick out individual bricks in colours much lighter and/or much darker than the basic brick red, but donít overdo it. Less is more, in this case.

Give it time to dry.

Humbrol enamels are easy to work with and the colours change little upon drying. When you think your paint-job is finished let it sit for a day or two, then go over it with a critical eye. You can carefully touch in any small areas you missed and emphasise areas of weathering if they need it. Thatís the beauty of not having large areas of single colour. Itís much easier to blend new paint in if there are already variations of tone and colour present.

One last little reminder; it is much easier to paint a dark colour over a light colour, so try to plan around that if you can.

Although I have used embossed brick as my example, this technique of layering the paint will work on many kinds of embossed surface. You will only arrive at the correct levels of thinning the paint by practicing. There is no hard and fast rule. Your tin may contain paint that is much thicker or thinner than mine to start with. The consistency seems to vary to some degree across the Humbrol range according to the colour.

Painting isnít a (matt) black art or a science. Itís a matter of practice and experience; finding out what works for you, what you like or dislike. Have a go. The worst that can happen is that you have to re-prime the whole model and start from scratch Ė but so what? Youíll have learned a lot by then.

Perry :grin:

The time in Spain is :

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