How to paint laser-cut brickwork
What we used
Humbrol Enamel 70 (brick) and 118 (Matt Tan)
Humbrol Dark Earth and Smoke Weathering Powders
Beige emulsion paint
The surface of laser-cut brickwork is sharp and accurate, but is too smooth to use the tried and tested pencil crayon colouring technique.
At first we tried to dry-brush the brick faces with enamel. It worked a bit, but an awful lot of paint was picked up in the mortar lines and the results were not much better than those achieved with pencils. Next, we ran thinned mortar colour along the grooves. It's a technique that many modellers use, but one that never seems to work for us. By the time the colour is thin enough to flow, there's hardly any pigment in it. If you can make this work that's great, and it might well be the solution to this problem.
This final method was partly inspired by the embossed Plastikard bricks on the popular layout ‘Overlord’. After painting the buildings with enamel, they are scraped with DIY store wall filler. This sticks in the mortar lines and pretty neat.
Playing with this, we didn't like the consistency or colour but it gave me the idea to try a thick paint. Something water-based seemed like a good idea, as we could wash it away if things didn't work out. A matchpot of beige emulsion was to hand, so we gave it a go.
First impressions weren't good but we found by applying the paint and then removing as much as possible from the brick faces, first with a scraper then some paper and finally a sponge, we ended up with a good looking result.
Experimenting with methods and materials is part of the fun in this hobby. Some methods will work for some people so, if you are struggling, don't give up – just change the way you are doing things. Very few mistakes can't be rectified and a good coat of weathering hides many mistakes!
Regular BRM readers will have seen us colouring bricks by painting them with a base colour of Humbrol 121 enamel and rubbing pencil crayons over the faces. It's a quick and easy method. As long as you have a selection of brown pencils you'll get the colour and variation of tones seen on the real thing.
The finishing touch is always to work some weathering powders into all the nooks and crannies as well as a general dusting all over. You can see the difference on the building here compared to the viaduct and larger building behind, which haven't received their powders yet.
Trying the same trick on laser-cut brickwork just produces a huge mess. You can't see the mortar lines between the bricks.
We believe the problem is down to the shape of the model bricks. Embossed or moulded bricks have curved faces whereas the laser-cut versions are very sharp. Mortar gaps between the bricks appear smaller and deeper too. Brick faces on the laser cut material seem a lot smoother too.
After a lot of experimenting, we painted the bricks with enamel, aiming for a less than perfect finish. Once dry, beige emulsion paint from a matchpot is scraped over the surface to fill up the mortar lines. Work on a small area at a time, so the emulsion can't dry before moving on the next stage.
Using a paper towel, wipe the emulsion away from the brick surfaces, pushing it down into the gaps.
Leave the emulsion a few of minutes so it's touch dry, then polish the brick faces with a moist (not damp) sponge. You'll see the colour coming through strongly as you work.
Once everything is fully dry, leave it overnight if possible and work weathering powders in with a stiff brush. We find Dark Earth and Smoke from the Humbrol range are all that's needed, although some green around the base to represent rising damp looks nice on really decrepit structures.
We're sure you'll agree that the finished product looks great and will give your model railway buildings and realistic look.
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