If you have just learned to build your first model train display then you might notice something rather quickly. Grey and white is dull! When you build cast models for mountains and features the color of the casting will simply not do for use as a dynamic display unless you are modeling chalk rock mountains. For anyone who is not this article will help you to decide how best to add the color you are looking for.
One of the first things you should take time to do is to pick up a rock from your yard or somewhere close. Notice how many different shades and hues make up the rock? This mixture of colors is common throughout nature. There is no object that contains one solid color. This is the first valuable lesson in painting your display. You do not want to paint anything solid unless you want to ensure that it looks as phony as possible.
The next thing you will want to do is to try to obtain some pictures of the area you are attempting to depict. This will give you a color palate with which to work. Make sure that the pictures contain a sampling of all the different features that you are including in your model train layout. This includes water features as well as trees, rocks, hills, etc.
Once you know what colors you will need you have to find out what type of paints you can use on your casted display. While cast rock and other features can be painted with most any type of paint including oils, water colors, house paints, and even clothes dye the best choice would probably be artist acrylic paints. It is easily thinned with water and can be easily blended and cleaned up. It also has no odor which is a huge benefit. Pick your colors to match the colors you see in the picture; earth tones of greens, browns, dark yellows and black for the earthy parts and differing hues of greens for trees and shrubbery as well, also pick varying shades of blue for your water features.
Once you have your paints you are almost ready to begin. Make sure that you thoroughly clean your display before you begin to paint it. The dust that is left behind can ruin a perfectly good paint job and cause you to have to try to color match the part that is not damaged by it. Now you can begin to mix your paints. Use a flat piece of plastic to mix your paints on so you can have several different colors mixed up at the same time and will not dry quickly.
When you begin to paint your rocks keep in mind that the colors are not meant to be uniform. Mix up several different hues of grays, browns, reds or whatever color your rocks are meant to emulate. Refer back to your pictures often if you want to stay relative to the area you have copied. Apply some of each mixture of colors to your rocks in varying ways. Do not apply one shade to the right side, one to the left, one on top, and one on bottom. This can definitely make it look like a bad display trying to pass itself off as good. The only exception to this is when you are painting a section that is a simulation of rock that has been cut through by man.
If you have ever been driving down the highway and went through man-made mountain passes you will notice that you can actually see the different strata in the rock. This is the only time you should paint this hard of a line on your rock features. Once you get the hang of painting your rocks you can try your hand at trees and other vegetation. Remember to refer to the pictures often as a point of reference and with a bit of practice you will soon have a miniature piece of land sitting in the middle of your train display.