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Painting Brick Structures

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Painting Brick Structures
Posted by Late for Work on Saturday, September 24, 2011 10:31 AM

I am in the process of painting about a dozen 1950s era HO brick and stone buildings and I have no sense of color.  What Floquil or Polly Scale colors (or other brands) have you used for a variety of brick and stone buildings.  Thanks in advance.

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Posted by wp8thsub on Saturday, September 24, 2011 5:14 PM

Try oxide red primers.  I like both Krylon and Rustoleum brands, which are different colors, but both make for good brick red.  Rustoleum is redder, Krylon is darker an a bit more brown.  They can be decanted into a jar if you want to airbrush them.  I also use various earth tone craft spray paints like terra cotta.

Rob Spangler

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Posted by Phoebe Vet on Saturday, September 24, 2011 6:21 PM

I have used those primers in the rattle cans.


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Posted by gandydancer19 on Sunday, September 25, 2011 12:40 PM

I use any red color, and no two buildings are painted the same red if I can help it.  This is for the basic brick color.  After that I apply some type of wash to simulate the mortar.  This will fill in the mortar lines between the raised bricks, but it will also tint and tone down the basic red brick color.  I have one building that I used a bright red gloss color called Racing Red on.  After applying the wash, it looked fairly good.

I also use different color washes.  White, gray, tan, etc.  That way each building has it's own unique look, even if the basic red is the same that was used on another building.


The above is my opinion, from an active and experienced Model Railroader in N scale and HO since 1961.

(Modeling Freelance, Eastern US, HO scale, in 1962, with NCE DCC for locomotive control and a stand alone LocoNet for block detection and signals.) at home, and N scale at the Club.

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Posted by CTValleyRR on Monday, September 26, 2011 4:45 PM

For the buildings themselves, I use Model Master Acryl British Crimson and Earth Red, and Polly Scale Boxcar Red, Special Oxide Red, and Zinc Chromate Primer.  Then I dry brush a fair bit of Polly Scale Grimy Black on the side.  Finally, I top it off with a thin wash (1 part paint to 10 parts thinner) of Model Master Acryl Sand or Polly Scale Aged White, Earth, or Grimy White for the mortar and to fade the color a bit.

Connecticut Valley Railroad A Branch of the New York, New Haven, and Hartford

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Posted by Medina1128 on Monday, September 26, 2011 6:06 PM

Look at buildings in your area. If you live near an older town with a town square, go check the buildings out. You may find that many brick buildings are not necessarily a red color, but have been painted over in another color.

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Posted by eaglescout on Monday, September 26, 2011 10:14 PM


I never understood why folks would paint brick (in real life).  I know if may look nice to some until it needs painting again but I am a fan of no maintenance.  Now signs painted on old buildings is another matter.  Lot of nostalgia and advertising history there to add to a layout.

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Tuesday, September 27, 2011 6:55 AM

I agree with all the suggestions above.  I have a shelf full of rattle-cans.  Take a look at some of the "textured" paints from Rustoleum.  They have some with a uniform "sandy" texture, and some that are "multicolored" and more grainy.  The texture takes away the flat plastic look of styrene kits, although brick with oxide primer does a good job of that already.

I've been using the Rustoleum multi-color speckled black spray paint for roofs for almost all of my structures.  It produces a great "asphalt" roof color and texture.  I usually weather it a bit around the edges with powders, and then seal it with Dull-Coat before assembly.  The speckling in the paint also looks good on a shingled roof.

These paints go on kind of thick.  So, try to paint the surfaces before assembly, so that you can lay them down flat to apply the paint and let it dry.  Mask the edges where you'll glue the corners together, so you have a clean surface for the glue to bond to.

On the subject of masking, I use blue painters' tape.  A lot of kits have nice cornice work and other details, so I often do several mask-and-spray cycles on a single face of a building.  If you have stuff like cornices that are detailed and you plan to hand-paint them, mask them off during spraying so you don't fill in the detail work with too much paint.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by chutton01 on Tuesday, September 27, 2011 10:19 AM

I never understood why folks would paint brick (in real life).  I know if may look nice to some until it needs painting again but I am a fan of no maintenance.

Starting from the late 1960s, in urban/suburban areas, the reason for painting brick walls is usually to cover up graffiti.  Scrubing and sand blasting often leave discolorations and blotches, so painting just looks better.
It is common enough in the "less posh" neighborhoods around here (NYC/Long Island) to see the first floor of a mutlstory brick building painted and the upper floor(s) bare brick, as the wall is painted by guys using rollers on poles - coverage is key to cover the graffiti, neatness is a bit secondary.  This means the mortar 'lines' will also be painted over on the ground floor, contrasting somewhat with the bare brick and mortar lines on the upper floors - I plan to have a few buildings like this on some layout modules I am building.

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Posted by Medina1128 on Saturday, October 01, 2011 6:39 AM

I cropped out the majority of the brick in this picture, but as you can see, the brick has been painted over. I took the picture to replicate the sign. I live in a town that had the distinction of being "the baby chick capital of the world" (Clinton, MO). There was even an article about it in MR. A special train was run down from Belton, MO to Clinton.

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Posted by dante on Saturday, October 01, 2011 10:54 PM

Are you sure the brick itself has been painted?  Appears to be a sign board mounted on top of the brick: no brick joints visible in the sign and a small shadow along the bottom edge.


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Posted by P&Slocal on Sunday, October 02, 2011 9:35 AM

The sign itself is attached to the brick. If you enlarge the pic you can see the screws attaching it. The brick may not be painted. Remember, not all brick is red. Since this is vertical laid brick the chances of a "designer" color is more likely. If I were to go around my hometown in PA and photograph the brick buildings, I would have a wide variety of color from white to almost black...and yes, even painted brick (which I detest!).

Robert H. Shilling II

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Posted by billslake on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 8:25 PM

Here in Wisconsin a lot of the buildings in the southern part of the state were built of "cream city" brick, a light, buff color.  (Milwaukee gained the nickname of "Cream City" due to this brick.)  I have used Floquil mud or buff to replicate the color . . . and then used a weak india ink wash to tone it down and accentuate the mortar joints.

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Posted by hon30critter on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 9:11 PM

With regard to brick colour (spelling is Canadian eh!) sometimes the local supply of suitable clay determined what colour brick would be predominant. For example, if you visit south central Ontario you will find pockets where most of the older structures were made of yellow brick. In Toronto most brick is red. Decorative brick patterns were also common. If you travel up the Bruce Peninsula the brick is red but the predominent style in the early years of brick construction was to have white brick accents on the corners, often called 'soldiering' due to its resembalence to old military uniform brading and decorations.

Painting brick was often used to try to preserve the surface where the original brick was showing signs of deterioration. The paint was supposed to stop water from soaking in. In cold weather the water would freeze and, if the brick was soft or poorly glazed, cause the outer surface of the brick to peel off. Once the core was exposed deterioration could occur fairly rapidly.



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Posted by doctorwayne on Friday, October 07, 2011 12:27 AM

Dave is correct about brick colour often being dependent on the location of the structure, especially for older buildings.  It was more practical to use locally made brick if it was available, and the colour was dependent on the colour of the local clay.  Another factor affecting the appearance of brick is the colour of the mortar:  brick with white mortar will look quite different from the same brick with brown or grey mortar.  I've used all of the usual oxide reds for brick, but my favourite is Floquil Reefer Orange, as it closely represents the colour of much of the brick in my hometown of Hamilton, Ontario.  Here's an example, with the one street-side cleaned:

...and a few with Reefer Orange brick:



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Posted by AntonioFP45 on Thursday, November 03, 2011 4:39 AM

 Beautiful work, Doc!. 

In Florida a number of brick structures from the past also had an "orange-red" hue to them as well.  I plan on using Doc Wayne's method to airbrush my Walthers Cornerstone car shop kit that I'm converting to a diesel locomotive service building. 

The challenge will be the weathering as I want to keep it realistic without going extreme (been there, done that) Stick out tongue

"I like my Pullman Standards & Budds in Stainless Steel flavors, thank you!"


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Posted by MisterBeasley on Thursday, November 03, 2011 8:11 PM

This is the front face of my Walthers Merchants Row kit:

I sprayed several different colors to get the multiple-building effect.  The left is a Krylon rust primer, the center is a cream-color, and the right is the natural brown of the plastic the kit was molded in.  When I sprayed the cream color, I did it from a low angle.  Somehow, I lucked out and the paint only ended up on the bricks, so I didn't have to mortar that section.  I did the rest with a light gray was of acrylic paint, flowed into the mortar lines and wiped off the surface.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by northeast_train_guy_1965 on Sunday, March 19, 2017 12:05 PM

Is it easier to paint the brick and wash the mortar before the model is assembled or after it is assembled?

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Posted by Aralai on Monday, March 20, 2017 9:40 AM


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Layout Slideshow: Stephen King's Derry Maine in HO

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Posted by doctorwayne on Monday, March 20, 2017 11:39 AM

I'd assemble the structure first, but not add the windows/doors and other details until the brick and mortar work was done.  Pre-painting before assembly not only makes assembly more difficult, as gluing surfaces need to be free of paint, but it also means that the areas where the joints are located will need to be painted and mortar applied after it's put together.  
Many styrene structures need extra care taken when assembling corners, as a poor fit, especially on brick buildings, is definitely not prototypical.  
One solution is to file or sand the supposedly 45° angles at the mating corners to a sharper angle.  Then, when assembling the walls, only the outer face of the edges of the mating walls will be in contact and if you use solvent-type cement, a controlled over-application of it will soften the edges sufficiently to fill any gaps.  As soon as that is accomplished, a strip of, f'rinstance, .125"x.125" styrene can be added to the inside of the joint, making it stronger than the unaltered joint would have been.  Let the joint harden before trying to remove any oozed-out plastic on the outer surface and use a knife or other suitable tool to re-carve any filled-in mortar lines.

Here's the future home of the Tuckett Tobacco Company (a real, but long-gone, business in my hometown).  It's been airbrushed with Floquil Reefer Orange:

The walls have been assembled and painted, while the roof is only temporarily in place.
Next, I applied pre-mixed drywall mud to represent mortar.  To do so, simply use a clean cloth stretched over your fingertips to dip into the mud, then smear it onto the walls, making sure to work it in around the sills and lintels of the windows and any other three-dimensional details.

Depending on how heavily it's applied, the mud will dry fairly quickly, and the next step is best performed outdoors.  Using a clean rag, simply rub it over the walls, removing the excess material from the surface of the "bricks", but leaving it in the moulded-in mortar lines.  There'll be some residue left of the surface of the bricks, which serves to mute the colour somewhat...

Here's the place cleaned-up a bit...

...and with the foundation painted, doors and windows installed, and a wash of well-thinned Pollyscale paint applied...

Another option for brick structures is to paint the entire building a suitable mortar colour (early mortar, with a high lime content, was fairly white, while later versions tended towards greys).  However, mortar can also be coloured, and just about anything is possible.  Try to select a colour which complements that of the brick.  After the paint has cured, and using a suitably-sized chisel-type brush, the brick can be drybrushed, as was done on this kitbashed Walthers factory...

Another solution is to paint the assembled structure shell a suitable brick colour, then, after the paint has cured, apply a well-thinned wash of water-based paint, in your colour of choice, over the entire structure.  If you add a drop or two of dish detergent to the paint, it will flow much more readily.
When using this method, you may wish to prop the building at an angle or even place it so the wall upon which you're working is flat - this will help to control the density of the coverage, but in most cases, you'll need to wick-off the excess wash where it collects, as it doesn't necessarily dry in a realistic-looking fashion. A paper towel (usually several) works well for this, and I usually do this type of work with the structure atop several thicknesses of newspaper.  
A benefit of using well-thinned washes is that you can build-up the colour(s) gradually, until you get the effect you want.
This one, also based on a real factory, was painted the boxcar-reddish colour seen on the blank-part-of-the-layout's-edge wall, then weathered to the soot- and smog-stained look of it's long since demolished prototype...

For stone structures, I assemble the building's shell, then paint the whole thing grey....this one was done with Floquil's Gray Primer, but even something similar from a rattle can, as long as the spray isn't too heavy, will do:

The bricked-up doors and windows were then painted to match the colour of a common local brick, and the individual stones were painted using a brush and several shades of water-based (Pollyscale) paint.  Because the structure is already grey, not all stones need painting, just enough of them to give the surface a little variation...

Next, the drywall "mortar" is applied...

...and the excess wiped off...

After the windows and other details were added, the entire structure was lightly weathered using various washes of well-thinned acrylic paints....


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Posted by SeeYou190 on Tuesday, March 21, 2017 10:26 PM

I paint my bick buildings after assembly, but before roof, windows, and details.


I paint the brick starting with a base coat of Model Master British Crimson. I add a little orange, and "weather" the brick. I do the same a few more times adding a little black, brown, or white. This gives a nice color texture to the surface. Then I apply the mortar using drywall joint compound. After the mortar is on, it looks amazing.




Happily modeling the STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD located in a world of plausible nonsense set in August, 1954.

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