how to model ground textures

a little bit of rural England in 00 scale - Pendon Museum

We have come an awful long way since the days when model ground was represented by coloured sawdust stuck on the baseboard with glue.

We have also fixed the compass direction of the model, as there are great differences between North and South facing aspects.

getting started

The first job is to apply a layer of Polyfilla to the foam or or plaster bandage. The rule is observation and always work from good photographs if you can.

If the surface is to be developed, a small section should be laid down at a time. In the photo below, the rock cutting has already been built and painted. No other special surfaces were needed on this module, so once the plaster layer was applied, (about an average of 3mm), it was smoothed using a 2" wet brush. You may have to use a but more plaster to make good any defects that have appeared on the foam or plaster bandage. Small details can be formed such as a path as in the photo above.

It is not a bad idea to tone down the plaster with brown poster paint. Do not use fabric dyes for this as the plaster will break down. I then paint the whole lot with brown plastic matt emulsion.

the plaster has just been painted with emulsion - it is still wet!



Pave comes in all shapes, sizes and materials. In the photo below, the slabs are just thin Plasticard cut to shapes and glued onto the foamboard sub-base of the hotel. The aspect is North, so they have been carefully weathered using acrylic paints. Plant growth is carefully added in the cracks between the slabs.



It is no use at all just scattering some commercial product to represent gravel unless you are modelling a surface that has just been laid. The grain size of most scatter is just too large in 4mm scale. Gravel quickly become mixed with particulate and the underlying earth. I tend to use a layering technique, starting with a colour washed plaster finish. I then use very fine sifted sand of the correct colour and scatter this onto the plaster using dilute PVA glue. Vehicles will tend to push the gravel in various directions when manoeuvring or braking. I actually run a model vehicle over the wet sand to simulate this. While the glue is still wet, I then drop mixtures of weathering power to begin to get a realistic surface. Sometimes, I pat the whole mess down with a damp small wood block. Once the glue has almost dried, potholes can be scraped out using a small pick.


tarmac and concrete

The road below was once tarred. The top layer has broken away in places. This was achieved by adding another layer of fines and powder and sucking some of it off with a very fine vacuum nozzle while the glue was still wet.

The rough concrete below clearly shows ridges which were formed when the concrete was originally screeded. Concrete is usually laid in sections and the cracks between can be shown by scribing the plaster once it has dried, as indeed can sections which have cracked or begun to break up. The screeding lines were made by tamping the wet plaster with a thin sheet of brass; just like the real thing! The concrete is painted by using very thin colour washes.



Cobbles, carved in foam board. Many commercial products are also available but are often not quite as realistic.

In the photo below of our harbour module, Wills plastic sheet cobbles were sunk into the 'plaster concrete' and in places nearly filled up with plaster.

The loose 'Cotswold Gravel' in the hotel driveway has been dragged onto the county B road.