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I am not artistic by any means, and despite years of practice and layout building I am still the proverbial "Charlie Brown" and cannot get anything right. I have however achieved basic stone gray using Rusteleum Gray and flat black Primers - see picture of retaining wall below. For another project I am working on, I would love to achieve a brownish color on Scenic Express foam walls, doesn't have to be perfect or magazine-worthy. I've seen such brownish walls in magazine articles and model train videos, but I cannot find information on paint used. For rough idea, please see stone arch bridge in article Stone Arch Bridge | DAHS ( Note that the real thing is likely a combo of green algal growth and brown rush washing down from tracks/ballast. I couldn't achieve that, nor do I want to, just a brownish color. If nobody has direct experience in this, I'll resort to trying various Rustoleum brownish colors on scrap wall pieces.


Previous stone wall using Rusteleum gray and flat black primers on Scenic Express Pennsy flex walls.



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Last edited by Paul Kallus
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Paul, Chris A on the Forum usually posts on the What Did You Today on Your Layout thread. He uses the same retaining wall between his to levels and it does have a brownish tint. I’ve always liked the look of it. He posted a video on his PFE Reefer fleet in action recently that gives a good view of it.
If that’s the look your after maybe try reaching out to him. He may have covered it somewhere in one of his posts.

Paul, I feel your pain, but it really doesn't have to be all that complicated or artistic IMHO. I'm certainly no artist, but have been able to get some acceptable results:



First, one color is almost never the solution. Sure, having a plausible base coat color helps, but the key is what you do next.

If you want the effect of varying color stone blocks or bricks, adding some varying shades and tints to specific blocks/bricks (easiest achieved IME by mixing the selected shades of paint on a makeshift palette and lightly dabbing on selected stones/bricks). I just use inexpensive water-based acrylic from the hobby and/or dollar stores. Otherwise, the base coat will do fine to start.

Next step is to do a wash or series of washes, using either heavily watered (one part paint to 5 or 10 parts water) black paint or a mix with the color(s) of your choice (brown, green?), allowing the excess from each coat to accumulate and dry in the crevices. This highlights the irregularities and simulates the effects of natural prototype weathering. Repeat until you achieve the effect you're after.

Finally, you can use black or white dry brushing for a final coat (or before a final wash). In general, gently down-stroking with an almost dry brush with white paint will add 'sunlit' highlights to the surface. Conversely, dry brushing upward with black can add 'coal smoke' highlights above tunnel portals and adjacent walls and structures.

Bottom line: don't hesitate to jump in and experiment. I think you'll be surprise at the "artistic" effects you can achieve, even if you (like me!) are in no way an artist!


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Last edited by Steve Tyler
@Dave_C posted:

Paul, Chris A on the Forum usually posts on the What Did You Today on Your Layout thread. He uses the same retaining wall between his to levels and it does have a brownish tint. I’ve always liked the look of it. He posted a video on his PFE Reefer fleet in action recently that gives a good view of it.
If that’s the look your after maybe try reaching out to him. He may have covered it somewhere in one of his posts.

Dave,  thanks for mentioning my work on the retaining walls...   So I'll add some notes I emailed to another OGR forum member some time back, and include some photos.   At least here in this thread it should be searchable. 

Notes on Steps, Colors and Application methods for Brown Colored Pennsy Stone Block Walls:   

I am attaching a few photos of Pennsy Stone Block Walls.   I am a little hesitant to recommend colors and steps as when I went to try and duplicate what I had done 3 years earlier, I had some serious trouble duplicating what I had done.   
I even wrote down notes of colors used and steps but apparently something went wrong.   
Anyway, my approach with most all of my stone walls whether they are carved pink styrene, or the molded Pennsy Stone Block walls is to spray paint a flat gray primer coat first. 
Then I get my cheap craft store latex paint bottles out.   My usual go to colors: 
  • Pewter Gray or something similar
  • Burn Umber
  • Raw Sienna
  • Khaki
  • Sandstone, just a slightly lighter tan than Khaki
I keep all of the small "ketchup cups" from the fast food restaurants around as well as a piece of glass or plexiglass to serve as a mixing pallet.
Step One is to seal the walls with a good Gray Primer Coat, in my case I was using a mix of Cast Hydrocal walls, the Flexible Pennsy Stone block walls, so they all needed to start from the same base coat.
The "theory" or method is to sort of blotch paint, think "Stamping Motion" individual blocks, or groups of blocks, in the Pennsy Stone Block walls and the tunnel entrance you are working on.
The biggest hint, even during the blotch painting after the primer, make sure the paints are watered down at least 50% and don't over apply them,  you need some of the base gray to show through. 
The other hint is I will go through with each color and hit maybe 1 out of 7 or eight blocks, then do the next color and so on.  If a block gets too heavily coated, you can blot it off with paper towel, then dip the brush in water and dilute it more right on the block wall.   You can also get creative and actually do some mixing of colors while they are wet.   It's hard to explain this or know with confidence what it will look like till it dries.
Having said that if you try this and don't like the result, you can actually take a medium to soft scrub brush and wash the whole thing off and start over.   Don't ask how I know this.   I was trying to make 12 new wall sections match what I did years earlier, and found out I missed big time !!!   
The final step is to mix a much more "diluted" wash and go over the entire section to knock down the harsh contrast.   It's best to make these washes really thin, like 8:1 or 10:1 water to paint so you don't over power all the contrast.  You can always add a 2nd wash coat.   
My thoughts as to why my attempt to match the walls was so difficult:   First,  I think due to the time of year, I did my base gray in flat latex primer, not solvent based spray primer, (not good), Second, I think my blotch painting mix was too thick and resulted in too heavy a coating on individual blocks with no show through....  Finally, I think my final wash was also too concentrated and turned the whole wall section too monotone....   YOu can see in the 3rd  photo below,  I had too many sections that were too brown/rust colored when it all dried.  The first two photos show results I was pretty pleased with.   
If you're not looking to go for the dark burnt umber brown tone, this all works with various shades of gray.  Make sure to add some Khaki or sandstone color to the grays and blacks, as I tend to find that the gray and black Craft Paints have a lot of dark blue pigment in them, and the khaki/sandstone will make if more of a warm earth tone dirty gray. 
I would recommend that if you're doing a long section with multiple sections and divider columns that you try to work them all at the same time, and write down your colors, and dilutions.
Here's a few photos.   


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Three things:
1) You definitely want at least some variation from stone to stone. It is what makes the wall look like it was built, rather than just a piece of painted plastic.  The easiest way to do this is to get a set of magic markers of the kind that is intended to touch up scratches on furniture. Just darken random stones with various shades of brown before you do the final color coat. Most of the color will be covered or washed off, so the effect will be subtle.

2) Nobody believes this until they have tried it, but ANY uneven vertical surface should first be painted FLAT BLACK as the base coat. This is the opposite of the final "dry brushed" white glint coat, in that it produces the effect of deep shadows in the nooks and crannies. The normal base color should be brushed over that, being careful not to fully cover the crannies. This, combined with the standard white dry-brushing really gives the final product depth and texture.

3) For your purposes, you will find a can of brown camouflage spray paint very lightly and unevenly dusted (so as not the melt the plastic) onto the surface will add a lot. Do this after the base coat but before the dry-brushing. The beauty of the camo paints is that they are extremely flat, which is what you want for many natural surfaces.

I've read everyone's detailed instructions (thanks for that) but I cannot find how you apply the paint - Chris and Steve, specifically? You mentioned "stamping motion." This thread reminds me of Bob Ross' programs...I still watch the reuns on PBS...he makes everything look easy but it is far from it.

I hated arts and crafts in the cub scouts and Sunday School, regular school, took me all day to make something, with glue and mess everywhere. I honestly don't think I can do the stamping method.

Pete: that's interesting about the base coat of flat black...I've heard that before to do to the base level where earth is exposed, dirt, grass, etc. but I've never tried it. I did however use flat black primer in my grayish walls posted above, by spraying upward on the vertical walls to simulate shadow effects within the crevices, etc. As an aside, I usually buy the "mistake" earth tone paints at the hardware stores, discounted much off the regular prices. I just bought a darker brown the other day and grayish street color.

Has anyone had decent results using 2-3 colors of spray paint? I was think Rustoleum camo brown, gray primer, and black primer.

Last edited by Paul Kallus

Paul, stamping can be done with a sponge. Just tear one into pieces. Your looking for something about the size of a quarter. Doesn’t need to be any sort of perfect shape. You basically dip the sponge into various colors on your pallet of colors and transfer it to the wall with sort of a dabbing motion and slowly build up the colors.
I can’t point to a particular episode. But check out Jason Jensen Trains on You Tube. He uses this method a lot on various projects. Kind of like watching the Bob Ross of model railroading.

@Paul Kallus posted:

I've read everyone's detailed instructions (thanks for that) but I cannot find how you apply the paint - Chris and Steve, specifically? You mentioned "stamping motion."

Has anyone had decent results using 2-3 colors of spray paint? I was think Rustoleum camo brown, gray primer, and black primer.

Yeah, any kind of sponge will do, including a lightly paint-wetted foam brush or even just a ripped-off piece of open-cell foam. The idea is to get a very light partial coat of paint that varies over the object, resulting in a mottled effect. You can also use an almost dry bristle brush to stipple the color(s) across the area, concentrating on specific stones or areas. Any initially sharp color boundaries will be softened and blended when you do the final washes.

IMHO spray paint is the wrong application for anything other than the base coat, since by its nature it tends to be very uniform across the applied surface. Sure, in a pinch you can angle the spray to get different amounts in different areas, but it still will not as easily produce the speckled/variegated appearance you're looking to produce. Again in a pinch, you can use a cloth or foam to selectively and partially *remove* spray paint before it dries to get much the same effect, but it's so much easier just to use the right 'tools' to begin with!

Last edited by Steve Tyler

"Stamping" with a sponge is an excellent technique for providing the requisite variation. However, IMO it is most appropriate for use on continuous surfaces like asphalt, concrete, painted wood, or ground cover. In the case of discrete stones, I think it is worth the time to color individual stones randomly. This avoids having a "splotch" of color spanning multiple adjacent stones (and often dividing a single stone). This is not very realistic and always stands out in a negative way to my eye. Coloring the stones with magic markers really doesn't take very long to do.

Using multiple colors of spray paint can be done, but be careful not to overdo it. A brush is often a better way to provide the base color -- brushes work better in avoiding filling in the black "shadow" areas). Then use the sprays in a very light dusting to create highlights and other variations.  Don't spray too uniformly, and keep the spray can at a distance from the work, so that the paint droplets are almost dry by the time they hit the work.

Last edited by Avanti

I agree with the other folks that you won't get the best result trying rattle cans.   

As far as the stamping process, you can do it with a stiff brush, a sponge a foam pad.   The point is not to try and use horizontal  brush strokes.   Don't overload the brush or the sponge,  you can remove excess paint on some cardboard or a paper towel so you don't apply way too much paint when you "stamp".... 

Various techniques work depending on what you're working on.  The Pennsy Stone Block walls have very course texture and deep reliefs so the blotch painting, or stamping has worked well for me.  Conversely, that technique doesn't produce great results on 1/4 inch scale plastic or resin brick walls.

The blocks in these Pennsy walls are relatively large, so for me I didn't want a stone block that's almost 12 inches tall by 24 inches wide (in scale) to be one uniform color.  Additionally the final washes that you apply will blend the whole wall section together as I showed in the photos.   

You really should take a block wall section and just go for it.   I have had a bunch of trouble trying to answer inquiries about how I do this over the years, there's no better way to figure it out than just jump in. 

I'd recommend you take the advice on the flat black base coat and then use some craft acrylics like $1.00 to $1.50 a bottle and take a stab at it.   I always dilute the acrylics mainly so that I don't end up filling in the texture of the stone and also so I don't end up with a completely uniformly painted stone block.   

Yes, it's entirely possible that might end up wanting to "do it over" when you're done, that's ok.   I am several years into weathering walls, roads, buildings and freight cars, and I still have times when I don't like the result and go for the do over..... It's really not the end of the world

The video referenced in the previous post is very straightforward and thorough.  One interesting takeaway is the use of vertical strokes when dry brushing.  Although it shows some great techniques, IMO much of it is overkill unless one is creating a signature scene in a highly visible location.  Most scenery is viewed from over 3 feet away (and often much farther), so don't obsess over it.  And the great thing about scenery is that if you don't like it, it's easy to tear it out or paint over it and start again. 

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