Model Railways: Using Weathering Powders – Top Tips


Weathering powders should be considered a useful tool when creating realistic models, though not the sole implement.

Weathering powders work best over a matt paint finish, hence if used on an RTR model, we’d advise a little airbrush work beforehand. Consider powders as a semi-permanent form of weathering. They will stay in-situ if left alone, but must be sealed if you intend to handle the model. Buildings aren’t much of a problem, but locomotive, coach or wagon sides should ideally be sealed with a quick spray of matt varnish paint.

1. Adding details

Model Railways: Using Weathering Powders

This building was painted using Lifecolor acrylics. You could leave this building as it is, but weathering powders are particularly good at depicting an accumulation of dry dirt. This might include chimney smoke on buildings or locomotives, diesel exhaust particulates, brake dust or track dirt. Only apply a little powder to an old brush, testing on a piece of tissue before you touch your model.

2. Recycle and reuse

Model Railways: Using Weathering Powders

Working with weathering powders is a messy job and a great deal of what you apply to your model won’t stick permanently as you work your brush over it. Holding a container underneath prevents waste and will allow you to reuse it at a later date.

3. Don't overdo it

Model Railways: Using Weathering Powders

Avoid applying too much powder at any one time. Stand back from your work and check it before applying too much. Providing you haven’t permanently fixed it with a matt varnish, you can wash the majority of powders from models under a tap with water and an old toothbrush if you’re not happy with the results.

4. Mix to get the ideal finish

Model Railways: Using Weathering Powders

We regularly mix weathering powders with paint to add texture, or change their colour. Mixing DCC concepts’ red oxide powder with Comart’s Dry Rust produces an excellent thick matt colour for the painting of bricks; particularly effective when dry-brushing.  Alternatively, powders can be mixed with white spirit to create custom washes to fill panel lines to depict a dirty object that has been subjected to rainfall. 

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.