Ask Phil: Creating ice and snow

30 August 2021
We see a lot of summertime layouts, but looking outside, I'm tempted to set mine in the middle of winter. Can you tell me how to model snow? John, Shropshire

You're right, winter layouts are much rarer than summer ones. Maybe modellers prefer the colours and fluffy trees?

Here, I've made a little diorama showing a country road. The wall is a plastic kit, tree a piece of seafoam (Forest in a box) and post box a Langley Models casting. The road itself makes use of a Geoscenics potholed road kit - a series of powders that are sprinkled over a PVA base to produce something suitably worn.


There are several products on the market to aid the winter modeller. The first is from the military modelling world.

Precision Ice and snow is a very fine powder that has to be sifted onto the model using the sieve provided in the kit.



If you want the snow to be a permanent feature, spray the model with hair spray first, and let this get a little tacky.  For small spots like the post box top, a touch of PVA glue will encourage deeper build-up. You can use the same trick around the base of walls and other spots where snow gathers.


If your layout isn't huge, it's worth putting something under the feet so the model is tilted. This encourages drifts as though the snow has blown around, it rarely falls straight down.

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To really make your scene look cold, and also bring it alive, try blowing a few Deluxe Materials Icy Sparkles crystals into places you want to highlight. Use these sparingly, we want realism, not a cheesy Christmas movie effect! You'll need a bit more PVA or hair spray to fix these in place.


Much of this work could be carried out without the glue, and the results removed with a vacuum cleaner once you decide to move to a warmer season. 


Don't forget - winter isn't just about snow. All your people should be in nice, warm clothing. Many trees won't have leaves, that's why the seafoam looks perfect, and the rest of the undergrowth will be flatter.


Finally, you'll need a snowman:



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