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I usually only post in O Scale but this subject or curiosity has little to do with scale. I am building an O Scale layout and cost is quite high. This should be my layout for at least 20-30 years. I am in Iowa and run Granger railroads, and am looking to have a residential section, a brick and mortar downtown and most of the normal buildings associated with our layouts.

Being increasingly budget conscious, I am not necessarily buying pre built Woodland Scenics for $170 or so apiece. I have purchased some kits and some MTH Rail King items for $20 to $65. I like them just fine, but want to add detail and make them even better. Or will I?

I don't want to hand paint a perfectly reasonable item and make it worse.

My issue with these MTH Rail King level of buildings and some of the kits, or even some Atlas buildings - is the lack of authenticity from the plastics. They look plastic. I would like to maybe try a shingle paint that is flatter - or fill in the mortar section of brick to give it depth and authenticity.

I also want to paint some of my depots in colors that my road names might have. Etc etc. What do you guys do to make these slick semi shiny plastic buildings look more authentic, more like the much more expensive Woodland Scenics buildings ?
 

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I usually only post in O Scale but this subject or curiosity has little to do with scale. I am building an O Scale layout and cost is quite high. This should be my layout for at least 20-30 years. I am in Iowa and run Granger railroads, and am looking to have a residential section, a brick and mortar downtown and most of the normal buildings associated with our layouts.

Being increasingly budget conscious, I am not necessarily buying pre built Woodland Scenics for $170 or so apiece. I have purchased some kits and some MTH Rail King items for $20 to $65. I like them just fine, but want to add detail and make them even better. Or will I?

I don't want to hand paint a perfectly reasonable item and make it worse.

My issue with these MTH Rail King level of buildings and some of the kits, or even some Atlas buildings - is the lack of authenticity from the plastics. They look plastic. I would like to maybe try a shingle paint that is flatter - or fill in the mortar section of brick to give it depth and authenticity.

I also want to paint some of my depots in colors that my road names might have. Etc etc. What do you guys do to make these slick semi shiny plastic buildings look more authentic, more like the much more expensive Woodland Scenics buildings ?
Unfortunately, the craftsmen who paint those prebuilt structures are experts who have been doing it for a long time, and if you expect that you're going to do as well, especially right out of the gate, you're being unrealistic. You probably will mess up your first couple of attempts at painting a structure. But unless you're willing to try, and practice, your skills will never improve.

The first thing you can do is just spray the buildings with a coat of Dullcote or other matte varnish. That kills the shine, but doesn't do anything for the rest of the appearance.

There are a dozen or more ways of painting mortar lines on brick. I personally like using a wash (very thin paint), but look through this section for a thread on the topic to get some other ideas. Try one. If you don't like it, wipe it off and try again. Paint is very forgiving.

My recommendation, though, is that you learn to paint structures. Again, it takes some practice, but you will get the hang of it. The issue is that paints and supplies will also be an investment in itself, although one that will reward you greatly. But this is not the place to go cheap. Get good paints and brushes. I use Vallejo Acrylics and professional grade brushes that cost about $8-10 each. Wash and prime your models before painting for best results. And before painting, fix blemishes and poorly fitting parts with files and modeler's putty.

But definitely give it a try. You will be surprised at how fast you can pick it up.
 

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I like using a thin gray wash as CTValley uses for mortar lines. It really brings the structure to life, and water based acrylic is easy to work with.

Another area to concentrate on is the roof. Only a brand new roof is going to look brand new. It too will have weathering from the ridge board on down to the gutters. Very light streaks of thin black wash or chalks on a big puffy make-up brush works very well. Don't steal your wife's make-up brush though, have her pick up one for you.

Under windows is another area that can use the same treatment as the roof but to a lighter degree.

This structure is lightly weathered on the brick along with the mortar lines, and on the roof. Bare brick tends to chalk after many decades of exposure. The color of this brick is nearly identical to many 19th century homes in my home town in the Alt Town area.

 

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Built buildings can be a bit tricky as you have to mask alot of pieces. However, for kits, just spray painting the parts in flat colors before you assemble them can go a LONG way to making them more realistic.
I highly recommend kits over pre-built if you plan to do any kind of realistic painting.

That said, pre-built can be salvageable and since you're on a budget I'd consider it. Flawed pre-built buildings are one of the cheapest acquisitions at train shows. Here's a one dollar Lionel station that was very poorly done that I repaired and repainted.
It was a speed-painting job and I went with glossy red siding for my toy-ish Christmas layout, but it at least shows that disassembly and repainting of glued-together models is possible.

This came in a box around 10 old Plasticville buildings (each with a crack or two or missing a part or two) for $10 and I plan to give almost all of them all the same treatment.

I don't think you necessarily need expensive paints either. I quick painted a ton of 1/48 buildings for wargaming that look much more realistic than the pre-assembled plastic O-scale buildings you can buy and I used hardware store spray paints (primers and camo colors mostly) and craft acrylics. Typically I'd prime everything black, and then either drybrush on layers of craft paint or dust on layers of spray paint until the color looked right. Sometimes washes and weathering afterwards, sometimes not.

For brick I've usually just drybrushed a brick color over white or tan basecoat (if you want brighter mortar) or black basecoat (if you want shadowy crevases).

Here's a bunch of near-future wargaming buildings(note lack of glazing, sci-fi bits and other liberties taken with realism) I fast-painted a whiel back with my aforementioned techniques.

No one will confuse these with finely weathered examples, but they're better than bare plastic prebuilt-structures (IMHO) and could be made even better with a bit more time taken. As-is, they'd probably be fine for back-of layout structures.
 

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The nice thing about brush painting is that it doesn't require a lot of masking, often none at all. A steady and and a fine brush will get nice neat lines. Quality paint, applied properly, does not show brush Mark's or hide details.
 

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I usually only post in O Scale but this subject or curiosity has little to do with scale. I am building an O Scale layout and cost is quite high. This should be my layout for at least 20-30 years. I am in Iowa and run Granger railroads, and am looking to have a residential section, a brick and mortar downtown and most of the normal buildings associated with our layouts.

Being increasingly budget conscious, I am not necessarily buying pre built Woodland Scenics for $170 or so apiece. I have purchased some kits and some MTH Rail King items for $20 to $65. I like them just fine, but want to add detail and make them even better. Or will I?

I don't want to hand paint a perfectly reasonable item and make it worse.

My issue with these MTH Rail King level of buildings and some of the kits, or even some Atlas buildings - is the lack of authenticity from the plastics. They look plastic. I would like to maybe try a shingle paint that is flatter - or fill in the mortar section of brick to give it depth and authenticity.

I also want to paint some of my depots in colors that my road names might have. Etc etc. What do you guys do to make these slick semi shiny plastic buildings look more authentic, more like the much more expensive Woodland Scenics buildings ?
Bryan;

I use Tamiya model paint. It's alcohol-based and covers well. It's available in many flat colors (as well as gloss) and they sell a flat base that can be used to flatten any of their paints. I've also had some success with applying a flat spray can enamel over some glossy paints to kill the shine.
Here are some photos of My N-scale plastic structures.

Traction Fan 🙂
 

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I highly recommend searching on youtube for Jason Jensen Trains. Altho he models in HO scale, his painting and weathering techniques are superb and usable in any scale. He explains as well as shows in detail how he achieves the finished structures he builds. Jason builds the show display models for a couple of the top of the line kit manufacturers. There is one of his videos specifically on painting plastic brick structures, but he also touches on it in several of his build videos that include brick or block parts. His videos shows how he builds a structure from an idea sketch to a building ready to be placed on his layout. The best part is that he seldom uses equipment like an air brush so his techniques are inexpensive and easily duplicated. He uses inexpensive craft store acrylic paints, he shows the brand and exact colors he's using. Jason also does a lot of kitbashing and scratchbuilding using inexpensive materials like reclaimed cereal boxes and insulation foam board he picks up as scrap from construction sites. I learn something new each time I watch one of his videos. (Note: I have no affiliation with JJT, I just admire his work)
 

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I usually only post in O Scale but this subject or curiosity has little to do with scale. I am building an O Scale layout and cost is quite high. This should be my layout for at least 20-30 years. I am in Iowa and run Granger railroads, and am looking to have a residential section, a brick and mortar downtown and most of the normal buildings associated with our layouts.

Being increasingly budget conscious, I am not necessarily buying pre built Woodland Scenics for $170 or so apiece. I have purchased some kits and some MTH Rail King items for $20 to $65. I like them just fine, but want to add detail and make them even better. Or will I?

I don't want to hand paint a perfectly reasonable item and make it worse.

My issue with these MTH Rail King level of buildings and some of the kits, or even some Atlas buildings - is the lack of authenticity from the plastics. They look plastic. I would like to maybe try a shingle paint that is flatter - or fill in the mortar section of brick to give it depth and authenticity.

I also want to paint some of my depots in colors that my road names might have. Etc etc. What do you guys do to make these slick semi shiny plastic buildings look more authentic, more like the much more expensive Woodland Scenics buildings ?
Bryan;

Design Preservation Models makes excellent, and reasonably-priced brick & mortar, structures in O-scale, as well as HO & N scales. Their simple kits are easy to assemble & paint, and they look terrific when painted & weathered. The group of stores, shown in the "Main Street Black River" photo below, are DPM kits. Also, the brick Union Station in the photos attached to my previous reply has long side, exterior walls made from two DPM kits. (The shorter, end walls, & the interior, were scratch-built)
I do my initial painting with an airbrush, before assembling the walls. The airbrush does not need to be an expensive one. I use the $10 Harbor Freight, one shown in the photo, for most of my painting
I use Tamiya brand, flat model paints, but there are several other good acrylic flat model paint brands available.
Window frames are brush painted. (You should find this considerably easier in O-Scale than I do in N-scale. 😄 ) This simple step of painting the structure, with a flat finish paint, kills the plastic shine.

After the initial coat of paint has dried, I then use chalk, or patching plaster, to fill in the mortar lines between bricks. On some models I also "paint" with chalks. To do this, I dip an artist's-type brush in plain water, and then drag the wet brush across a stick of chalk. Then I brush the water/chalk mixture onto the model. Initially nothing much shows, but when the water dries you end up with a nice weathering effect that is dead flat, no plastic shine at all. (See photos. The tug, rail float, and boxcars, all have this "paint" with chalk effect.)

Good Luck & Have Fun!

Traction Fan 🙂
 

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Design Preservation Models (DPM) production rights has been bought out by Woodland Scenics, They have renamed and/or renumbered many of them (at least in N scale) and are using several of the designs in their RTR finished line, But you can still find a good selection of them on ebay and the discount hobby suppliers. They are pretty basic in that they do not include separate windows and doors, bases or floors, and the roofs are just a sheet of plastic you have to trim to fit. They also require some fussing with to remove the loft in the ends of the walls and cleaning off of the injector pin locations on the back side of the walls so the window glazing fits flat. Still they are nicely detailed, in scale, come in many different styles and lend themselves to kitbashing detailing and weathering. There are videos on you tube showing everything from basic prep to assembling multiple kits into large factories and skyscraper buildings. Ignore the scale in the video, since the techniques are applicable to any scale. DPM also offered a line of modular brick building sections that can be arranged to suit your needs. Really useful for odd spaces you are always trying to fill, and low relief background structures against the backdrop.
 

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Design Preservation Models (DPM) production rights has been bought out by Woodland Scenics, They have renamed and/or renumbered many of them (at least in N scale) and are using several of the designs in their RTR finished line, But you can still find a good selection of them on ebay and the discount hobby suppliers. They are pretty basic in that they do not include separate windows and doors, bases or floors, and the roofs are just a sheet of plastic you have to trim to fit. They also require some fussing with to remove the loft in the ends of the walls and cleaning off of the injector pin locations on the back side of the walls so the window glazing fits flat. Still they are nicely detailed, in scale, come in many different styles and lend themselves to kitbashing detailing and weathering. There are videos on you tube showing everything from basic prep to assembling multiple kits into large factories and skyscraper buildings. Ignore the scale in the video, since the techniques are applicable to any scale. DPM also offered a line of modular brick building sections that can be arranged to suit your needs. Really useful for odd spaces you are always trying to fill, and low relief background structures against the backdrop.
That's very sad news to me. Woodland Scenics charges rip off prices for everything. DPM was a good company offering good products at a good price. So now they've been swallowed up by a bigger company offering decent products, but at ridiculously inflated prices!

Traction Fan 😢
 

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Well, this is really old news. DPM has been a division of WS for about 10 years now. I'll grant that WS often charges a lot for things that are otherwise the same as stuff you can get in a craft store much more cheaply, but they generally have good products, and prices are commensurate with sales volume.
 

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Bryan;

Design Preservation Models makes excellent, and reasonably-priced brick & mortar, structures in O-scale, as well as HO & N scales. Their simple kits are easy to assemble & paint, and they look terrific when painted & weathered. The group of stores, shown in the "Main Street Black River" photo below, are DPM kits. Also, the brick Union Station in the photos attached to my previous reply has long side, exterior walls made from two DPM kits. (The shorter, end walls, & the interior, were scratch-built)
I do my initial painting with an airbrush, before assembling the walls. The airbrush does not need to be an expensive one. I use the $10 Harbor Freight, one shown in the photo, for most of my painting
I use Tamiya brand, flat model paints, but there are several other good acrylic flat model paint brands available.
Window frames are brush painted. (You should find this considerably easier in O-Scale than I do in N-scale. 😄 ) This simple step of painting the structure, with a flat finish paint, kills the plastic shine.

After the initial coat of paint has dried, I then use chalk, or patching plaster, to fill in the mortar lines between bricks. On some models I also "paint" with chalks. To do this, I dip an artist's-type brush in plain water, and then drag the wet brush across a stick of chalk. Then I brush the water/chalk mixture onto the model. Initially nothing much shows, but when the water dries you end up with a nice weathering effect that is dead flat, no plastic shine at all. (See photos. The tug, rail float, and boxcars, all have this "paint" with chalk effect.)

Good Luck & Have Fun!

Traction Fan 🙂
I really like your paint with chalk effect! What chalk do you use and what sealer?
 
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