Modeling Asphalt

Steve S Mar 30, 2014

  1. Steve S

    Steve S TrainBoard Member

    I've been trying out some ideas for modeling asphalt and street trackage.


    I used 1mm black craft foam on code 100 track. It can go the full width of the rails and not interfere with the flanges as long as they aren't pizza cutters. The stuff at Michael's is 2mm (Hobby Lobby's is even thicker), which is fine for roads without track, but for street trackage you'll need to order some 1mm. An eBay seller named Wandy-Foam sells it.


    The white foam underneath is Readiboard from the Dollar Tree store. While you're there, get some LA's Awesome spray cleaner. Spray it all over the board, wait a minute, and then peel off the paper layers. Do both sides or it may warp. You'll be left with a foam sheet that's a few millimeters thick. I sanded the white foam to give the road a crown. I also sanded in some dips and ruts, though they don't show up very well in the photos. They need to be exaggerated.

    The paint is water-based craft paint from Michael's or Walmart. You can buy shades of gray paint, but if you want to mix your own, mixing black with white will result in a blueish tint. I mixed black with a light tan (suede) to remove any tint. I dabbed it on using a damp kitchen sponge. Look for a sponge that doesn't have any sort of pattern embossed into it. I also cut the sponge in half, using one half to apply the paint. The other was kept clean and damp and was used to remove paint if needed, such as the dark areas down the middle of the lanes. You want to dab the sponge on something else first, such as a piece of cardboard, to remove some paint (sort of like dry brushing.)


    After the paint is dry, you can create patches and large cracks by tearing the craft foam. If you want fairly straight lines, score the underside of the foam with an X-Acto before tearing it. If you want more irregular lines then don't bother scoring first. To darken the patches I just ran them under the faucet for a minute and rubbed them with my finger to remove paint. Some patches are lighter than the road, so mix up a batch of light gray and dab some onto the patch.

    For the small cracks I took a straight pin, clipped off the head, and chucked it into my Dremel mototool. I also used the grinding wheel on my Dremel to file a flat spot on the side of the pin point to give it a bit of a cutting edge. Then just etch the cracks into the craft foam. You can control the width of the cracks by how deep the pin penetrates. It helps to have some reference photos when drawing cracks. The street view on Google maps is good for this. You can paint tar lines on some of the cracks with a long thin brush. Use very dark gray instead of black because even tar fades.

    For the white lines, I didn't want to use decals or chart tape because those would be too perfect for an old worn road. I used masking tape to mask off the lines. I reduced the stickiness of the tape by pressing it to the floor and pulling it up a few times. Even after doing this it took up a little bit of paint which really didn't look that bad. It gave some random wear to the pavement. If you don't want the tape to pull up any paint you should probably seal the foam with clear flat spray paint first.

    I used the sponge to dab the white paint for the lines. The water in the sponge apparently allowed the paint to bleed a little under the tape making the edges a little messy in spots. I probably should have used a cosmetics sponge for this. Those don't need to be moist to be kept soft.

    I brushed some real dirt onto road to make it look better.

    I attached the craft foam to the white foam using spray adhesive.


    ETA: I should give credit where credit is due. I originally tried a technique described by Dan Crowley where he brushed tinted plaster on top of craft foam. The rigid plaster wasn't suitable for between the rails, and it didn't really allow for cutting out patches, but it got me to experiment with the craft foam.

    Steve S
  2. SLSF Freak

    SLSF Freak Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Wow - I did a stretch using Dan's method and was really pleased with the results but what you've done there looks AMAZING. Nice job!!

    Regards -Mike
  3. Arctic Train

    Arctic Train TrainBoard Member

    Beautiful job Steve!! Now you got me thinking about ripping up all my roads and redoing them with your method.

  4. Doug A.

    Doug A. TrainBoard Supporter

    Awesome! It would be interesting to see how this translates to smaller code rail (particularly N) and if even thinner foam is available and/or viable for this technique. Thanks for sharing!
  5. Steve S

    Steve S TrainBoard Member

    Thanks for the comments. Wandy-Foam sells a 0.5mm foam that should work for N scale. It's so thin it's more like cloth than foam. For cracks and patches it would probably be better to just paint them on rather than tearing them.

    Steve S
  6. Metro Red Line

    Metro Red Line TrainBoard Member

    OMG, that looks so good, it's scary. How did you sand the crown like that? I can totally picture that's exactly how I will mess it up.
  7. Steve S

    Steve S TrainBoard Member

    I just used a sanding block. Lay the white foam on your workbench so that the long edge of the foam is along the edge of the table. Then just sand lengthwise. A lot of foam dust is going to end up on the floor so you'll probably want to put some newspaper down first.
    As for messing it up, roads aren't perfect. They have a lot of dips and ruts. For an old road, the last thing you want is perfection.

    Steve S
  8. PEIR

    PEIR TrainBoard Member

    I followed your link over from Modelrailroadforums. Excellent tutorial Steve! I will be using this product when the time comes on my IRL modules.
  9. ddechamp71

    ddechamp71 TrainBoard Member

    Excellent. My own goal is to use this technique for even smaller, my future Z scale layout. ;)

    Kez likes this.
  10. Steve S

    Steve S TrainBoard Member

    I'm glad it was helpful. Post some pics when you do it.

    Steve s
  11. PEIR

    PEIR TrainBoard Member

    Will do Steve. I am just in the early stages of laying track so it will be awhile before I get to scenery.
  12. Steve S

    Steve S TrainBoard Member

    I mentioned the eBay seller named Wandy-Foam. You might try emailing him and see if he can sell you some longer pieces so you'll have fewer seams. The pieces I bought were 12" x 18", but he might be cutting them down from larger stock.

    You can hide the seams by making them look like cracks. Tear a fairly straight line near the end of one piece. Then lay that on top of the next piece and use an X-Acto to score a line on the second one. You'll want to turn both pieces upside-down so that you're doing this on the back side. Then just tear along the scored line. The two pieces should match up well. You can paint a tar line along the crack (a Sharpie pen would probably work well.)


    Steve S
  13. warnerj01

    warnerj01 TrainBoard Member

    Awesome idea, I just need to figure out how to do this in N scale.
  14. Jeepy84

    Jeepy84 TrainBoard Member

    This sounds infinitely easier that WS road stuff.

    Sent from my XT1585 using Tapatalk
  15. MarkInLA

    MarkInLA Permanently dispatched

    wow ! If you had framed shot to only see the road and nothing else you could have told me it's a shot of a real road that you plan to copy in your particular MRR scale...( I believe HO since you empoye code 100 to get a more exaggerated crown)...Very good work !
  16. Eugen Haenseler

    Eugen Haenseler TrainBoard Member

    wooow Steve

    That look's great!!!

    Your article its too late!
    My roads are already done. :(
  17. Steve S

    Steve S TrainBoard Member

    If you just want roads without trackage, then you could use the 1mm foam. If you want to do street trackage, they do make a 0.5mm foam, but it's more like cloth than foam. It really doesn't look the same. I'll do a little mockup. It might take a day or two.

    Steve S
  18. Chuck Finley

    Chuck Finley TrainBoard Member

    I use the gray and black foam from Hob Lob for roads and parking lots. I prefer it to styrene, plaster, etc. Plus it's cheap.
  19. Mr. SP

    Mr. SP Passed away August 5, 2016 In Memoriam

    IMG_7374.JPG IMG_334.JPG IMG_334.JPG IMG_337.JPG No street running on my railroad. I used scraps of three tab roofing turned back side up for roads. I used cork roadbed under the road. I cut the three tab roofing with a utility knife and stuck it down with contact cement. I painted the roofing with a very dark grey latex paint. After it was dry I rattle canned the road with Testors Glosskote. Decal stripes were used for striping then finished with
    Testors Dullkote. "N" Scale ballast was used for the gravel along my HO roads.
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2016
    SLSF Freak likes this.
  20. WRustyLane

    WRustyLane TrainBoard Member

    Wow, wow, wow. That certainly looks like real road. I´ve heard of using building felt to model roads in HO scale. You certainly have done it right. It looks so very realistic. I do a lot of reading about ¨stuff¨ before I engage in doing it myself. If I like the way a modeler does something, I´m liable to copy it down to the very last detail. I need to find a spray adhesive to use. What would you suggest?
    ppuinn likes this.

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