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The Isle of Westland Railway

It's better by train.......

Weathering methods

The Railway Channel film - Ian and Andrew do weathering

 This is a programme produced by Mark Found and Ian Stock using my line and equipment about the subject of 'weathering' and outlining a few basic techniques such as 'washes' and 'dry-brushing'.


Basic weathering techniques.


Very basic weathering...............where to start.

I regularly get asked about the techniques I use so have written down a few notes.I hope they may be of interest...........................

I started out because I felt that I would like to try to make my model vehicles look more like those I saw in photographs or real life. I have not invented these methods.........well ok I have 'tweaked ideas' to meet my own aims that in many cases were designed for indoor 'smaller scale' models, but the basic methods I have taken from other people's writing and so make no claims to having invented them.

Like most things in this hobby the hardest part is making the initial start.................from then on it gets easier. This is also very much an art and not a is very much in the eye of the beholder and we may not all agree on what constitutes 'accuracy'. However, we can probably agree that if it looks more like a photo of a real prototype..................then we are getting somewhere ! Above all we are all in this for fun so lets not get too serious about it!

When I started out I was very pleased with some 'basic weathering' that really made a difference to the look of an otherwise spotlessly clean vehicle. As I progressed I have enjoyed each stage of improving techniques and this in turn has made me want to try to improve my models further. By not attempting too much at each stage I have not had too many real errors.................mind you I have had a few but nothing that could not be rectified.......and its been very enjoyable seeing the end results! I regularly go back and add 'tweaks' to the weathering effect of vehicles I have worked on in the past to attempt to improve them. The total number of hours on these over the years must be huge !

Weathering methods for outdoor lines, as far as I am concerned, revolve around my applying paint by brush. Airbrushing I have no experience in, and so I can only advise on the methods I use which are a number of brush based methods. I hope someone else will enlighten us on airbrush methods over and above what is written in books.

There are also 'weathering powders' available , but although I have tried these, they neither produce the effects I seek, not will the finish survive long in the 'real environment' that my models run in rather than the 'controlled environment' of the model railway room used in the smaller scales. Covering the finish achieved with varnish seems to change the look and so I have not taken this method further.

When using the brush I use two basic methods..........................a colour wash and dry brushing.



The weathering effects on railway vehicles seem to revolve around 'atmospheric' effects (such as a dust of mud/rust deposited on the vehicle mainly originating from what is on the trackbed) and those brought about by 'physical' means such as rusting or scraping of the surface. On a new model the finish is invariably better than that of a newly constructed and painted full size prototype item............ and what most of us seek is not the effect of a 'Museum exhibit'. So some change is needed. Some effort should produce something that looks like it has lived in the real world for a while !


Stay away from pure black and white paints. Neither is seen in the real world other than soon after application. The colours of stock seems to tend to gravitate to 'shades of grey' and so these are the colours I use. Pure black in particular seems to 'lose the detail' of the model as these 'sink' into the background colour. Having said that my preferred loco livery is black in the main................but by the time I have finished none of the loco will be pure black and nearer various shades of grey which somehow reveals the details that would otherwise be lost.

I tend to stick to 'good old Humbrol enamel paints' as they are easy to obtain, have a good range of colours and are easy to apply. They also have also caused me no problems on my gas fired steam loco's where they are used throughout the body work despite heat. Having said that however..................I give no guarantees and can only report what has happened to mine under the useage they get.

Rolls of kitchen towel are excellent for this work. Some thinner 'tissues' can also be useful.

Various tool with sharp edges allow the addition of a graining effect when desired by dragging the point lightly over the paint surface.

Colour wash

This tends to be step one for me when starting on a model.

Mix some dark grey paint with a large quantity of paint thinners …..............just as if you were cleaning a brush. Using a large 'square end' brush take a little of the paint/thinners mix and, starting at the top of the vehicle, stroke the brush downwards. It should intially look as if little has happened to the model surface but dark paint should be collecting in any surface variation. This often 'lifts' detail out that previously was hidden and immediately you start to see change.


If too much dark paint is there then dab some off with the kitchen towel. Cover the whole side evenly and then allow to dry.

You should now have achieved a satisfying change to a vehicle that now looks as though it has collected some dirt from being outside. Do the other sides, roof and underside areas. On the underside go for a darker colour as dirt tends to build up here more and possible a heavier coating of paint to reflect the fact that the frames of the vehicle are both nearer to the sources of dirt and unlikely to get cleaned either on purpose, or by the effects of rain washing down the vehicle sides..

Always flow the paint from the vehicle roof to body bottom to reflect the effect of gravity is making dirty water flow down the bodywork.

If the final effect looks too 'mild' you can add other layers of wash'. If too heavy then take the Kitchen towel, when the paint has dried, and rub up and down on the areas that are too 'dark'. This will remove some of the paint on the raised areas even when the paint is dry leaving that which is in crevises.

Play around puting paint on and taking it off by the kitchen towel method until you are happy.

For a first vehicle this might be as far as you want to go …................but doesn't it look great !

Dry Brushing

The aim is to put barely discernible amounts of paint on. Although you might initial think that this has no effect it produces subtle and realistic weathering results and I tend to use this method having first used the Colour-wash method above and let that dry fully.

I use a square flat sided brush as this I find easiest. This destroys the brush so use a cheap one with fine hairs. Dip the brush lightly into the well stirred paint (no additional thinners this time) and immediately rub the brush onto a piece of Kitchen-roll. Keep rubbing the brush until it appears that no paint remains at first glance, and then use the brush on the vehicle you are weathering. On sides go for the downward movement to simulate the effects of rainwater running down. On roofs run across from side to side once again to simulate water travelling downwards. On interior planking for wagons I tend to initially follow the wood grain direction of the planks initially, but on later coats go for random direction across the vehicle varying the angles to simulate the effect of shovels being used to unload lose cargo or, say, crates being dragged across the wagon floor.

Use this method with several different 'layers' of paint (having allowed the one just added to the vehicle to dry) making slight variations to the colour by mixing in white or black paint to vary the colour just slightly. Aim to not have a visible line of change between paint colours but rather 'feather' these in to each other.

From here on its a case of looking at photographs and seeking to copy the effect shown by these methods. It takes a lot of time to produce the best effects...................several hours per wagon …..............and is best done over a few days and maybe on a couple of wagons at a time.

The main problem I find is that I am too heavy with the paint and 'over-weather'. If you put some on then go away and do something else (after washing your brushes ! ) then when you come back a better idea of the appearance is gained. Many, many times what I first thought was a fantastic finish I have had to alter on reviewing because the effect was just to heavy. In fact, it is very rare that I get the effect I am seeking at first attempt and can keep altering the paintwork for days having left the vehicle on a side shelf to view as I pass.

To tone down a 'too heavy effect' you can use a bit of kitchen towel onto which a small amount of some paint thinners has been placed to 'polish' away some paint. Do this in the same direction you put the paint on and as always BE SUBTLE or you will end up with stripes ! One other way I use is a soft pencil rubber.

On wagon interiors, once a few layers of slightly varying paint has been achieved then use a sharp tool (some of the dentist instruments being sold at model railway shows are great' to lightly scrape the paint following the grain direction. This has the effect of revealing and mixing the different layers of paint and produces about the best imitation of badly treated wood I find.

From here on in I really just look at the appearance I am seeking and playing around with ideas. Light sanding with fine grit paper produces some interesting results and does scraping layers of paint with a variety of tools. I am currently playing with attempting to add the effect of shadows on areas of wagon. Onward and upwards … I said earlier the first attempt is the hardest in this game I find but by not attempting too much at any stage nothing irreversible occurs. Have fun !