Painting The Model
By Mike Hamer

The "Seven Habits of Highly Effective Painters!"

When painting the exterior walls of wooden structures, the techniques can be as varied as the choice of colours. We can, however, group the strategies into a small number of categories depending on the desired outcome. Let’s have a look at some of the ‘basic principles’ of painting wooden walls.

The "Clean Look"

For that structure that appears to have enjoyed a recent fresh coat of paint.

The "Slightly Aged Look"

The "Heavily Aged Look" Weathering as you go!

The "Alcohol/India Ink First" Method Brian Nolan/Bob Van Gelder SRMW

Some of the finest modellers around prefer to begin with their weathering first. Yes, I think it’s always great to think outside the box! With this method, you give a wash of A/I to your walls and leave to dry overnight. The next day apply your washes of your final colours. Hey, why not try some drybrushing...you’ll never know what will materialize!

Note: I’ve enjoyed success applying washes of ‘other’ colours over my main wall colour to bring out a greater textured look. For example, on two structures I’ve finished, I applied yellow washes after sanding the red paint to reveal the grey primer below. The outcome looked great! With the final wash of alcohol and India Ink, all the sanding and washes were successfully married. I suggest practising on spare pieces of wood, be it clapboard siding or board on batten or any basswood offering you have lying around. Good luck and have fun making those new structures look old!

Final Thoughts On Weathering

My Thoughts On Bracing

There are some modellers out there, and I am one of them, who recalls the three key words in real estate as being, "Location, location and location!" With painting wooden structures, we feel the three critical words are "bracing, bracing and bracing!" Yes, I brace ‘before’ I paint and I let the glue set for 24 hours before any paints are applied. Yes, paint may dry in a short period of time, but it won’t ‘set’ for at least a day before any water soluble paints can be applied. Of course, the wall sections are placed under weights to ensure they remain flat while the glue sets. Final piece of advice - always brace perpendicular to the grain of the wood...typically vertical bracing for horizontal clapboard pieces and horizontal bracing for vertical board and batten pieces.

Model Photos


Interlocking Tower
(American Model Builders)
Painting Technique:
Clean look - for a refurbished looking tower
Straight painting of two coats ‘sand’ with ‘maroon’ trim (B&M colours)
Light weathering with pastel chalks.

Whistlestop Station
(Bar Mills)
Painting Technique:
Clean look - for a well-kept depot
Washes of ‘sand’ colour so as to not fill in the nail holes along the walls and straight maroon trim (B&M colours)
Application of Alcohol/India Ink solution.


Shipyard Brewery
(Bar Mills)
Painting Technique:
Heavily weathered look for older industrial appearance
Prime coat of grey in ‘splotchy’ fashion
Washes of red (two or three to achieve desired colour)
Sanding of walls to reveal primer and wood beneath paint
Additional washes of yellow then red
Application of Alcohol/India Ink solution
Note: The addition was done much later than the original building and the matching of the two paint jobs presented a slight challenge

Small White Shack
(Bar Mills)
Painting Technique:
A series of washes of white paint.
Application of pastel chalks for weathering (earth and rust tones)
Final wash of white paint - the mix with the chalks and the wash proves effective.

Small Red Shack
(Bar Mills)
Painting Technique:
Prime coat of grey
A series of washes of red paint, then yellows
Finally, an application of Alcohol/India Ink

Small Green Shack
(Bar Mills)
Painting Technique:
Board behind tar paper painted brown
Tar Paper painted green
Outer boards painted brown
All items "peel and stick’ items allowing for ‘award-winning’ paint jobs!
Final wash of A/I mixture brought out all of the details.

Waterfront Willy’s
(Bar Mills)
Painting Technique:
A series of washes of yellows so as to not fill in nail holes
Smaller section painted grey and maroon with border painted white (peel and stick)
For this structure I took a risk and used a wash of ‘watered-down’ black paint as I had no India Ink available - turned out reasonably well

Baxter Boats and Marine Services
(Scratchbuild)
This structure I made just after I got in the hobby over 15 years ago.
I recently named it after my friend, Jim Baxter. Will make a better sign eventually.
Painting Technique:
The structure used to be a midwestern yellow colour so this acted as the prime coat.
I repainted the structure white applying a couple of coats.
A wash of A/I helped bring out the detail in the wood.


This Web page is maintained by Grant Knowles and was last updated on Nov 1, 2008.