Painting Grass for an RV layout.

Jags Oct 7, 2019

  1. Jags

    Jags TrainBoard Member

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    New to the forum and finally starting a new project in Z scale after years of purchasing track and rolling stock. Been drawing up various layout plans using CadRail and finally have decided to start with a relatively small plan that I have come up with. The thing is I plan to bring this 4X2.5 foot layout with me in my RV!!!

    Since this will be a layout that needs to be moved and stored vertically in the RV I want to keep it simple and clean by painting all the scenery elements such as dirt, grass, pavement, ballast, etc. and not using any form of "sprinkle on and glue" products. The track will be secured to the board but buildings will be simple placed on the layout when needed and stored in a box with the rolling stock when stored.

    My question is has any one come up with a technique or method to just use paint to create grass, dirt, roadbed, etc.? Any ideas, suggestions and especially photos would be greatly appreciated.

    Below is the layout. Trains run clockwise. This layout allows me to have 8 trains on the board with the ability to run 3 of them at the same time. The layout is currently setup on my living room table in my home and is being tested. (I'm having fun running it!!)

    RV Layout.jpg
     
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  2. eaelec

    eaelec TrainBoard Member

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    I have been using this "natural stone" spray paint to paint cork roadbed on a recent project. No chance of glue messing up your switches.

    krylon.png
     
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  3. Jags

    Jags TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks for the reply!! I've been looking at those textured paints and will have to do some experimentation. I'm not planning to use any cork roadbed and will be attaching the track directly to the 1/2 inch foam board. To use spray paint I would have to mask off all the non roadbed areas and the spraying might become a very messy proposition. I was thinking of first painting the entire board with a brownish ground colored paint. I would then use a 1/2 inch brush to paint very thickly the roadbed over the ground colored areas to hopefully give the roadbed some height relief over the ground. Planning to do the same with the "concrete" sidewalk and "asphalt" road areas and then finish with adding the grass paint over the ground where needed. Woodland Scenics has some appropriately colored undercoating and top coat paint for the ground, concrete, and asphalt. I'm wondering if you could spray that textured paint into a small container first and then use a brush to paint it on? Would the "granules" still be correctly distributed? Do you have any photos of your texture spray painted roadbeds? Is in Z scale?

    Get back to me and thanks again!!
     
  4. HOexplorer

    HOexplorer TrainBoard Supporter

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    You could also buy some Woodland Scenics 'Earth and Green' paint and mix the two into a color you want. It won't look phony and should look pretty representative of the real thing.
     
  5. rray

    rray Staff Member

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    Another option is "Bachmann Trains Grass Mat".



      • SceneScapes grass mats roll out to create an instant base for landscaping and scenery; reusable and non-shedding with heavy-duty paper backing, these mats are for use with train layouts, model scenes, dioramas, and craft projects
      • 100 inches 50 inches
      • Realistic color
    • Natural texture
    So these grass mats have ground foam bonded to them, not sawdust. They feel soft to the touch, but you can glue down people, structures, and paper roadways to them easily enough. Some people use them for D&D type gaming. I seen them at in use at hobby town, where kids setup their armies of figures and were playing with card on them. Also, some people use them on their slot car racing boards.

     
  6. Jags

    Jags TrainBoard Member

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    Yes that is the plan to use the "earth" undercoat as the base and then use the "green" to add the grass over the ground. My question is if there are any painting techniques out there that will give that "green" more of a grass look and texture. Also how best to add other green shades to make things look more realistic. Any ideas? Any videos out there to watch?
     
  7. Jags

    Jags TrainBoard Member

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    I've never liked the look of the "grass mats". It's all too uniform like a football field or golf course. Also is it available correctly scaled to "Z" scale? I would love to see some photos of grass mats used effectively to represent natural grass areas on a layout.
     
  8. rray

    rray Staff Member

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    Well, my own opinion is that the mat would look better than just paint, because the plywood grain might show through.

    I myself would still prefer a thin layer of minimal expanding foam lightly buttered on the plywood, texture with cheese grater rasp, then plaster cloth, then ground foam and ballasted track, then static grass, even for a portable RV sized layout. We have hauled out Z Bend Track modules all around for over a decade without damage or particles flying off.

    But since everyone has different ideas, and it's a hobby, there's no right or wrong way, and I am sure that paint can be made to look good. You just got to develop the technique, and play around with it till it feels right. :D
     
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  9. Jags

    Jags TrainBoard Member

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    It's good to hear that the more normal scenery techniques can hold up to transport with minimal damage. I didn't expect that but I guess if you get everything glued down really well than things may stay put. I would love to see some photos of your Z scale modules.

    And yes that is the fun of it all. You just have to play around with it till it feels right and works for you!! (y)
     
  10. rray

    rray Staff Member

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    Here is a couple photos of modules that seen 10+ years of bouncing around without more than a broken tree or two, and we have lots of stuff glued down, and have drove the modules to Anaheim and Salt Lake, to Portland, to Sacramento, Medford, and dozens of other places over the years:
    [​IMG]

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    So the point I want to make is, it is possible to glue down scenery that will survive the road. The trick is to moisten the scenery material with soapy water or alcohol, then drip on a 50/50 mix of white glue and water till it looks saturated like milk was spilled. When dried a few days later, it is hard as cement, yet wetting it will loosent it up again for reworking if you want.
     
  11. Jags

    Jags TrainBoard Member

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    WOW!! Very Nice!! I don't know if I have the artistic talent to make it all look so real. Like you said earlier, it's a great hobby and we'll see how it will all progress as I go along with the project. Thank you so much!
     
  12. tjdreams

    tjdreams TrainBoard Member

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    Not Z scale but I painted on all the scenery. Water Grass Rocks all done with just paint.
     
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  13. rray

    rray Staff Member

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    There you go, proof that with just paint you can have nice scenery.
     
  14. markm

    markm TrainBoard Supporter

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    On my first Z layout in the late 1980s I used techniques with paint based of the Bob Ross techniques from his PBS instructional programs. At the time I felt the available commercial materials were too course for Z and his layering technique for oil paintings seemed more in scale.

    For grass I started with a base green like David's example. Then using a loose mixture of greens and yellow, tap in color and texture with a brush. I used a 1/2" stencil brush rather than the larger paint brushes. You can add color and get a field of wild flowers. If you use oil colors expect at least a week to dry. For acrylics about half the time.

    For rock faces, I used the pallet knife technique but with tools meant for cake decorations. It's been a long time and I don't know the cost of painters' colors, but they were pricey in 1987. Likewise I'm unsure of the availability or cost of the tools mentioned. I am planning to use these techniques on my new layout.

    Hope this helps,

    Mark
     
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  15. bostonjim

    bostonjim TrainBoard Member

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    I would use this technique if I was just using paint and no foam, goop, etc...the paint(s) could be painted on in layers as Mark has said and then with a stiff (stencil) brush you can stipple on other colors giving it a textured look. Each coat of paint should be thoroughly dried. You can use the pallet knife to etch additional texture while the paint is fresh. You can also sprinkle a bit of ground foam onto the wet paint for some variety. Jim
     
  16. Jags

    Jags TrainBoard Member

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    I want to first of all thank all of you for your replies and suggestions. I also want to apologize for not replying to the thread for almost an entire month but I was busy actually building my layout!! This was my first attempt at actually building a layout and it still needs a lot more detail work but I thought I'd share a quick photo of what it looks like so far. Like I mentioned this will be a portable set up so all the scenery is painted on. Let me know if anyone is interested in some of the details. Thanks!!

    RV Jaegerheim 01.jpg
     
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  17. in2tech

    in2tech TrainBoard Member

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    First, that's all painted on? Even the gravel near the track? I for one want to see a YouTube video please of the layout with the trains running :) Also, although I won't be moving my 2 x 4 foot N Scale layout, I like you try to use material for now, that is not loose, etc... mainly because I can never make up my mind on an actual track plan and am always changing it around, but hey that's what I enjoy! And also like you my tree's don't get clued down so I can move them wherever I feel like it.

    From your photo angle it looks like you used turf that sprinkles on, and hard to believe that is painted, great job! Do tell us how you did it please! Also, hope to see an overall picture of the layout in a video. I like to see top down photo's of small layouts.
     
  18. Jags

    Jags TrainBoard Member

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    Let me do a quick pictorial of what I did.

    First I painted the 1 inch foam board with 2 coats white primer:
    IMG_20191017_210654783.jpg

    Next I used Woodland Scenics Earth Undercoat diluted 1 part paint to 2 parts water as per instructions and used a brush to paint on the "earth". I kept things very thin and uneven and painted in the same direction as the track would be layed to create some strata:
    IMG_20191017_213824073.jpg

    I then layed the track back on the board so that I could trace the track layout and the position of the buildings:
    IMG_20191022_223842033.jpg

    I changed the design of my parking lot so I printed out full size the parking and town area to see how it would fit on the layout:
    IMG_20191029_125326562.jpg


    Removed everything off the board and started with the pavement area first using Woodland Scenics Asphalt Top Coat. You can see the track tracing in the photo also:
    IMG_20191029_150357408_HDR.jpg

    I then painted the large concrete area adjacent to the parking area with Woodland Scenics Concrete Top Coat. I didn't like the color as it was a bit too beige so I added some of the Asphalt black color to the bottle till it ended up a nice light concrete gray color:
    IMG_20191029_193626916_HDR.jpg

    Now the interesting part, "painting" the track road bed. My first idea was to purchase some of the Krylon Granite spray paint and paint it on using a brush. Problem was that I could not find the "fine" granite. All they had locally was the "coarse" granite which would have been too big and out of scale. And being in Hawaii I couldn't even purchase any online as it can't be shipped here. So I reverted to plan "B". Following the track tracings using a 3/4 inch foam brush I painted on a layer of Minwax Water Based Polycrylic Clear Matte. I then sprinkled on some Woodland Scenics Fine Ballast Gray Blend. I let it all dry overnight, swept off the extra ballast, and then applied two more coats of the Polycrylic over the ballast. It has dried very hard and I don't think it will crumble off. It also gave some "relief" to the roadbed:
    IMG_20191029_221929549_HDR.jpg
    IMG_20191030_124133095.jpg

    I then completed adding the other concrete areas over the pavement. By painting the concrete on top of the pavement it also gave a slight "relief" above the pavement:

    IMG_20191030_141755901.jpg


    Now to the topic of this thread - painting the grass. I used Woodland Scenics Green Undercoat at full strength using a stencil brush and randomly dabbing the paint on it the areas I wanted grass. Kept things pretty thin in most areas allowing the brown earth to come through in places. Also tried to keep a thin area of earth next to the ballast as I often observe in the real thing:
    IMG_20191031_121403880.jpg

    Looks like I reached my max of photos allowed in a post so I will try to continue in the next post.
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2019
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  19. Jags

    Jags TrainBoard Member

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    Next step was laying the track back on. Made sure everything was aligned correctly and used the Marklin track nails to keep the track in place. I wanted to be able to cleanly remove the track if needed in the future and that is why I decided not to ballast and glue directly over the track. It seems like my idea of placing the track on the completed ballasted track bed will work out very well and I'm quite satisfied:
    IMG_20191031_132842151.jpg


    Here is an overhead photo with the buildings, trains, and other items placed on the layout. Still waiting for a few electrical parts to complete the build:
    IMG_20191107_230305160_HDR.jpg


    Interestingly enough I only used four paint colors so far in the layout. I do plan to add some more fine detail using some different shades of green and brown. However, my artistic skills aren't that great and I'm pretty amazed how well it has turned out so far!


    I hope to get a quick video up soon. The layout allows me to have 9 trains isolated on the layout and I can run 3 trains simultaneously in three loops. Switching is all done manually and there are a lot of possibilities!

    If anyone has any questions just let me know. Thanks again!!

    RV Jaegerheim 01.jpg
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2019
  20. Jags

    Jags TrainBoard Member

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    Couple more photos. Overhead shot vs. CadRail drawing:


    Overhead.jpg CadRail Final.jpg
     

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