How to weather buildings and structures

27 August 2019
lead-web-29208.jpg Weathering card kits
It's one thing adding buildings to your train set, but don't they look a bit clean? Let's make them more realistic using weathering.

Weathering a model adds a degree of age to it. The technique can transform a train set that looks like it's filled with new-build houses and shops, to one that looks like they've been stood for years and have taken a beating from the weather.  

For card buildings, avoid using paint, instead, build up a collection of brown pencil crayons and pens so you have a reasonable colour match to hand when touching up the edges and corners of parts. Art shops often sell individual pencils so you don't need to buy colours that won't be used. Weathering powders can be used to good effect here too.

Once happy with the appearance of your buildings, if you've applied weathering powders, you can seal them in place using matt varnish sprays available for Enamel or Acrylic paints. Make sure you don't mix them!

If you're really worried you might ruin a model building, just use weathering powders and if you mess up, you can soon rescue your building by cleaning it with an old toothbrush and some water.

Weathering card buildings – top tips

Card buildings must be kept dry at all times or they can easily warp, which means that weathering them with wet paint isn't recommended. Those most often used by modellers are colouring pencils. They can be used to effectively disguise joins on your kit where any exposed card may show. Felt markers can be useful too.

weathering card

Light weathering can be done to roofs and walls using a ‘dry brushing’ technique. Use a flat paintbrush just dipped into acrylic paints – take off any excess paint with a tissue. Brush along the roof tiles and the brick courses. Some paint will stick to the detail on the walls and roof. Once the paint is applied, partially rub it off using a tissue so that the weathering remains in the brick courses and between the tiles.

Content continues after advertisements

Another weathering method ideal for card kits is weathering powders. Three of the most commonly used shades for weathering buildings from Humbrol: Rust Weathering Powder, Dark Brown Wash and Black Wash. For the chimneys and slate rooves of buildings, apply weathering powder to your brush as though it's a paint, then tap off the excess and wipe your brush over the surfaces to be weathered. Repeat as necessary.

weathering card kits

Don't forget to weather the painted windowsills of your buildings. Why not try repainting a few of them whilst you're at it?

Weathering can also be undertaken with an airbrush or charcoal or chalk pastels. Watercolours are another cheap and cheerful way to weather these buildings – just run some diluted paint down through the brick courses.

A different method is to use weathering dyes such as those made by Joes Model Trains ( These weathering dyes are water or alcohol soluble and provide good adhesion even on glossy paint finishes and smooth metals. They dry matt and can be sprayed with an airbrush or brushed on with a flat paintbrush. Use thin washes of the dyes starting at the top of buildings and let the diluted dye drip down through the brickwork.

As with all weathering, unless you want your building to look very dirty go easy on the weathering techniques.

For more weathering advice and top tips, head to our dedicated section.