Model Railways – Using Pencils on Brickwork – Top Tips


Using pencil crayons is quick, easy and will work on most materials, especially Slater's embossed Plastikard and resin-cast models.

Unless you have a lot of spare time, or are building for Pendon, painting bricks on a model building individually isn't an option because of the time required. Some laser-cut bricks are too sharp-cornered for this technique to work effectively though, so test on an inconspicuous area first. The method works in all scales from N to O.

  1. Remove any moulding flash and ensure all the mortar lines are free of debris. You might need to run a scriber or other sharp point down them to ensure the brick faces are clear and well defined. This isn't a problem with most kits, but it's worth checking.
  2. Paint everything a mortar colour. I use Humbrol 121, Pale Cream, most of the time but for some prototypes, employing a lime mortar, a pale grey might work better. Don't worry that it looks too light at this stage. That will change.
  3. Rub ordinary pencil crayons over the surface. Use at least three different colours as this provides variety in shades and they will mix on the surface. You'll need to sharpen and even file the points to get into all the nooks and crannies. For most of us, a selection of brown pencils will be perfect, but a Prussian Blue for engineering bricks can be handy. Harder leads (HB) tend to work better than soft or watercolour pencils, but it's worth experimenting a little to see what works best for you.
  4. Brush weathering powders into all the corners where it was hard to get the pencils. Then brush them downwards, to simulate dirt being washed by rain. This will also get muck into the mortar lines. How dirty you want your building depends on your prototype, but Humbrol Track Dirt (dark brown) and Smoke (black) are the basic colours. You might want a little Green on the lower edges to simulate rising damp, too. Don't worry about sealing the powders, they will stick to the surface well enough and we don't tend to handle our buildings much, anyway. 

If you’d like more advice on painting or weathering a wagon, Phil Parker gives you a full demonstration in our latest video. Or if you'd like to learn more about brush painting, watch our video here where you can brush up on your wood effect painting methods with Howard Smith.

You can also read our step-by-step guide to weathering a locomotive using paint washes and powders here, or for more advice articles, head to our Techniques section.