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My layout sits high at about 48". The basement ceiling is lower than a normal ceiling. I originally wants to create a coved ceiling out of masonite and then paint it to mimic the sky. That idea is quickly falling apart as I scope out the basement and realize just how much...stuff attached to the ceiling. Conduit rerouting, extra nails for who knows what, etc.

I'm considering painting it or having the area over the layout painted. It would be done in a sky blue color tinted lighter. I'm not looking forward to the job of moving everything to the other side of the basement though. Anybody have an experiences or opinions on doing this? Am I fussing over a detail that really won't matter? I'm in the Youngstown area in Ohio if anybody knows anybody that does this sort of thing.

Last edited by BillYo414
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If your really wanting to put in/on something for the ceiling, maybe just some model planes or hot air balloons?

If your particularly artsy though, I hear some folks do wonders with "lighted clouds".  Its like cloud chandeliers that glow (just do a google search!).  Have them along the ceiling and guaranteed no one will be looking at a lack of blue paint!

I'm with Donald on this. Sprayed flat black is the way to go. Everything above the layout just disappears visually, yet is totally accessible. Plus the paint helps seal in dust generators. Do as much as possible overhead first, then mask off the lights and anything else you don't want black, and have at it with a sprayer. Stick with one brand of paint. All flats are not the same! Do the ceiling first. The backdrop is next, then the layout.



And another vote for black. 

It's been a theater stage set trick for ages.  Surrounding items/surfaces painted black tend to not draw attention.  The eye is draw to the colors,  things that are most apparent in the light.

It's also a very common contemporary interior technique for inexpensive remodeling as well as new construction for restaurants, retail businesses, et al....girders/joists, HVAC ductwork, electrical conduits, etc., etc.., all painted flat black early in the interior construction process. 

Also, we're talking FLAT or MATTE gloss whatsoever

Yes, this tends to have a 'livelier' that reflects sound rather than absorb it, as with a drop ceiling and noise-absorbing tiles.  Yet, even though drop ceilings are usually white or light in color, they can be painted flat black.  OTOH, drop ceiling framework is the bane of folks who have to do service, maintenance, renovation of all that stuff above ceiling level.

But, as always, TEHO. 


I was just having this conversation with my son this morning.  I am in the process of tearing down my old layout and the false ceiling is coming out.  He asked what I am going to do for the ceiling with the new layout.

My response:  If people are looking up at the ceiling, then I didn't do a good enough job on the layout !

Flat Black is the way to go.    And for gosh sakes, don't buy cheap paint.  Buy the most expensive paint you can buy.

High quality paint solves 50% of all painting problems.

And, by the way, spray painting open basement ceilings and joists with flat black is currently the "in" and fashionable thing to do among upwardly mobile millenials.  So, you are not going to hurt the value of your house.


The good news is that my bench work has not started. So there is no layout to cover up. It's just that I do have boxes, lumber and a 4x8 test layout over there. I would need to condense/rearrange that stuff for the fourth time now. I'm being lazy and should stop whining.

I never would expected black to disappear but it really does. I was thinking about the plays I been to and layouts I've seen and I cant even really picture the ceiling. It's like my brain just didn't write it down because it doesn't exist.

The only reason I think I need to do something is because of the height of my blast furnaces. It doesn't draw the eye up but the wooden joists and rusty ceiling nails just stick out against the model. I set that model up on my work bench when it finished printing. There's a matte white wall in the background and I was really impressed at what I had even though it wasn't painted yet. I put it on the test layout and kind of hated it. It just seemed odd looking. I really think it's because the ceiling is subtracting from it.

I will look into a spray gun and this ceiling paint. I would rather get it done by someone because painting isn't my thing but I did just place that big old Lionel preorder so I probably should save my pennies and do it myself.

@BillYo414 posted:

I'm considering painting it or having the area over the layout painted. It would be done in a sky blue color tinted lighter. I'm not looking forward to the job of moving everything to the other side of the basement though. Anybody have an experiences or opinions on doing this? Am I fussing over a detail that really won't matter?

Personally, I believe that a painted ceiling, or at least a sound absorbing tile ceiling, improves the experience of operating your layout.  You are surely using artificial light, and the reflective properties of a painted ceiling soften and spread light.  Also, exposed rafters, conduits and pipes, distract the viewer's eye from the layout, disrupting the ambience.  Even if you have open beams and exposed pipes, they will not stand out if they are painted.  A light sky blue or a neutral pastel earth tone like I use, will not attract attention away from the layout.

In my case, the ceiling is painted a neutral earth tone that looks like a warm-toned pastel grey.  It's a standard Sherwin-Williams interior color and the whole house was painted with it when built.  I painted the walls behind the layout, and on its sides, a West Texas light sky blue while the room was empty.  Roger Farkash used a darker sky blue that I had purchased, plus various cloud colors which he mixed on a palette, to paint the backdrop, prior to the layout going up.

Good luck with your decision.

@BillYo414 posted:

I agree with your sentiment @dennish. I definitely didn't think it was relevant until I got the model on the test layout.

Here are a few hints before painting that will help you out...

If there are an nails coming down from above, take a dremel and cut them flush with the subfloor.  It will look better and helps with drips while painting.

While primer is not necessary, if you have sheet metal ducts that will be painted, you might consider priming them as the paint will stick better.  Without primer the paint will easily scratch off the duct work.

Other than that just make sure to vacuum the ceiling a bunch of times to clean out the dust.  I also recommend using a compressor and blowing the remaining dust out.  Nothing worse than when dust and paint meet!

When I repainted the white ceiling of my L-shaped train room, I primed the ceiling with two coats of KILZ to cover stains from a few water leaks from an unsealed joint at the roof. Then I repainted with CEILING WHITE paint.  A mistake.

Later on (but too late) I thought of a better design for the ceiling:
   Paint it FLAT BLACK
   Then string Christmas mini-lights (with all white bulbs) in random crisscross patterns to create a starry sky
   Install a separate dimmer circuit for the starry sky lights for a just-right effect
   I have a blimp with Santa on board; I intended to suspend it from the ceiling with a circular "flight path" by
        attaching it with high strength fishing line to a disco mirror ball motor.

Regrettably, this ultra cool idea never came into being.  Perhaps on my next layout ...

Mike Mottler     LCCA 12394


My ceiling is just dusty as far as I can tell.

My walls were extremely stained from water damage and I concocted my own solution. I sanded the walls with 36 grit sand paper and then scraped all the loose pieces off I could find. Then I rinsed with a rag and some water. Then I applied two coats of Aqualock and at least one coat of latex paint. I applied an extra coat if I could still see the stains. It sucked! I would like to never do that job again but I still have the entire basement to go so...yeah. But it was been very successful in terms of keeping moisture out and cob webs down and whatnot. So I supposed it was worth it.

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