Trains.com

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

I Finally Discovered a Great Material for Modeling Dirt

20387 views
17 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    April 2004
  • From: Connecticut
  • 724 posts
I Finally Discovered a Great Material for Modeling Dirt
Posted by mondotrains on Wednesday, July 28, 2010 10:15 AM

Hi Guys,

I couldn't wait to share my latest discovery.  For years, I've used Woodland Scenics "dirts" and never really was totally satisfied with the results.  They don't create a real flat surface because they are composed of ground up foam that has a certain amount of "loft" to it.

I recently bought some "Crayola Powder Paint", available in local craft stores or on-line from places like the following:

 http://www.misterart.com/g1306/Crayola-Powder-Paint.htm

 

I mixed black and brown in equal amounts into an empty "spice shaker".  You know, the shakers that come loaded with paprika, oregano, etc. that have small holes on top for shaking out the spices.  I spread my 50/50 mixture of Elmer's White Glue and water like I always do for scenicing an area and then shook on the Crayola Powder Paint.  Before it dried, I added the usual other textures, using Woodland Scenics different light and coarse materials.  When the area dried, I had what looked like real dirt.  And, it was flat, like real dirt, without the "loft" I mentioned before.  I also used this stuff to sprinkle over already-sceniced areas to blend colors together.  This stuff is cheap and could scenic a lot of area.

I think I'm going to buy some other colors, like red, yellow and green and obviously could make a whole assortment of different color ground cover by varying the amounts of each color in the mix.

 

Hope this helps.

Mondo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mondo
  • Member since
    December 2001
  • From: Northern CA Bay Area
  • 4,370 posts
Posted by cuyama on Wednesday, July 28, 2010 11:12 AM

This is called "Zip Texturing" and was very popular before ground foam was available. Sometimes it did not stand the test of time and became powdery, but the technique is still in use. Joe Fugate's model railroad scenery zip texturing clinic is a good on-line resource.

  • Member since
    April 2004
  • From: Connecticut
  • 724 posts
Posted by mondotrains on Wednesday, July 28, 2010 11:27 AM

I read his article but he mixes the powder paint with plaster.  I've tried this and certainly it works.  What I'm talking about is using the powder paint to sprinkle on top of an area and then adding other textures on top of it, while the white glue is wet.  Also, if you want to darken an area already scenicked, this stuff does a great job of blending the colors.

And yes, I first painted my Homosote with a dirt-colored latex paint.  So, what I'm trying to say is this powder paint approach is just another procedure which produces great results.

Mondo

 

 

 

Mondo
  • Member since
    March 2007
  • 2,751 posts
Posted by Allegheny2-6-6-6 on Wednesday, July 28, 2010 1:06 PM

 Mondo

That stuff is called Tempra paint and I've used it here and there to simulate oil stains around a fueling platform for example but I have to hand it to you I would never have thought of using it for ground cover. I would be willing to bet that after you get it spread around the way you want it  then mist it with a fine spray of water it will set up nicely.

Just my 2 cents worth, I spent the rest on trains. If you choked a Smurf what color would he turn?
  • Member since
    January 2010
  • From: Denver, CO
  • 3,576 posts
Posted by Motley on Wednesday, July 28, 2010 1:49 PM
Why not use the free stuff outside? Nothing better than real dirt, and it's cheap!

Michael


CEO-
Mile-HI-Railroad
Prototype: D&RGW Moffat Line 1989

  • Member since
    April 2006
  • From: Fountain Valley, Ca.
  • 763 posts
Posted by Bob grech on Wednesday, July 28, 2010 6:17 PM

 The best material for modeling "dirt" is dirt itself. Find a cheap strainer and sift your dirt to remove the unwanted debris. Sifting your dirt will turn it into a fine powder. Also its a good idea to also run a strong magnet through it to remove and metal particles. The best part of using this method is that it's free and plentiful.

Have Fun.... Bob.

  • Member since
    March 2007
  • 2,751 posts
Posted by Allegheny2-6-6-6 on Thursday, July 29, 2010 12:25 AM

Bob grech

 The best material for modeling "dirt" is dirt itself. Find a cheap strainer and sift your dirt to remove the unwanted debris. Sifting your dirt will turn it into a fine powder. Also its a good idea to also run a strong magnet through it to remove and metal particles. The best part of using this method is that it's free and plentiful.

 

 

Don't forget before you use any "real dirt" you need to bake it in an oven on a flat sheet at around 400 for about a half hour to kill the microbes living in the soil if you don't you aren't going to like what will happen. Contrary to what you might think dirt is alive and you'll need to kill it before you use it on your layout. The one advantage the O/P has by using tempra paint is he can adjust or mix it until he gets the desired colored soil he wants. The dried dirt you use from your yard isn't going to come remotely close to the look of a freshly plowed field, trust me I know

 


 

Just my 2 cents worth, I spent the rest on trains. If you choked a Smurf what color would he turn?
  • Member since
    December 2002
  • 1,511 posts
Posted by pastorbob on Friday, July 30, 2010 8:12 AM

I have used about every known way of creating dirt, grass, shrubs, etc. and do what the rest of you do for the most part.  However, I did use real dirt for the base.  I model a part of Oklahoma which has the red dirt, and I never could find a way to really get it looking right with conventional methods.  On one trip to Oklahoma, I took containers with me and we stopped on an oil lease road and filled them with Oklahoma sand/dirt.  I brought it back to Kansas City, baked it, boiled it, fried it, sifted it, and tried it and it worked very well.  In fact, I have used it all over the layout and the effect is remarkable.  Okie friends who visit immediately recognize the dirt.  That trip was ten years ago and I still have a dirt supply left, and the dirt on the layout has held up well. 

"dirt is dirtier"

Bob 

 

Bob Miller http://www.atsfmodelrailroads.com/
  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: west coast
  • 6,535 posts
Posted by rrebell on Friday, July 30, 2010 10:24 AM

For real dirt, use a thrift store coffee grinder, makes it into a fine powder.

  • Member since
    December 2006
  • From: Liverpool New York
  • 245 posts
Posted by fireman216 on Friday, July 30, 2010 9:25 PM

 A friend of mine several years ago scooped up some dirt from his back yard....sifted it several times...cooked it in the oven...and then packaged it in dollar store clear plastic containers with a cool "DIRT" label on it with a picture of himself digging up the dirt with a shovel. He sold this "product" at the annual train show and made a MINT. Plain dirt can pay the bills baby!!

A true friend will not bail you out of jail...he will be sitting next to you saying "that was friggin awesome dude!" Tim...Modeling the NYC...is there any other?

  • Member since
    March 2007
  • 2,751 posts
Posted by Allegheny2-6-6-6 on Saturday, July 31, 2010 12:36 AM

 Where was this train show Rubeville right nest to the turnip patch. .

Just my 2 cents worth, I spent the rest on trains. If you choked a Smurf what color would he turn?
  • Member since
    February 2002
  • 533 posts
Posted by CascadeBob on Saturday, July 31, 2010 10:45 AM

 I would suggest that you check Joe Fugate's DVD "Scenery and Bridges" Vol. 4, Part 1 for an excellent description of his use of the zip texturing method to create realistic dirt.  The Crayola Powder Paint is no longer available.  According to his scenery website referenced above, he is now using a comparable product called Rich Art - Fresco Powder Tempera that's available from Dick Blick Art Materials at www.dickblick.com.  Using the zip texturing method he describes, he can adjust the color of the "dirt" to look more realistic under layout lighting than real dirt would be.

If you're going to use real dirt, you should definitely bake it to kill all the things living in it as suggested above.  You also should pass a fairly strong magnet through it to remove any material that's magnetic that could get into the motors on your locos.

Bob

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • 281 posts
Posted by markie97 on Saturday, July 31, 2010 11:55 AM

Anyone ever try using tile grout? It seems to come in the correct colors.

Thanks,

Mark

  • Member since
    May 2005
  • From: Riverside,Ca.
  • 1,125 posts
Posted by spidge on Saturday, July 31, 2010 12:53 PM

markie97

Anyone ever try using tile grout? It seems to come in the correct colors.

Thanks,

Mark

Mark I like the tile grout but have many colors to sift on and mix. I like to mix it with play sand so there is some texture. Now you may think the play sand is to big but try it and you will be suprised. The play sand takes on the color of the grout and then I like to sift on vareous colors to add veriety.

Here's some results for you,

This photo shows the embankment with the main color and the riverbed with a lighter color mixed in. I may darken the riverbed just a little. I also knocked off the larger bits of sand as it dried so it looked more smooth, like a dry river bed looks.

Colton_Proto_module_064

Now here is our base latex color with play sand pressed into it. the secret is in the base latex color. This modeler did use some of the grout to.

IP_Anahiem_2010

This module has many different grout colors. the dirt road was made buy simply wiping off(or knocking off) the high sand granules and adding a slightly lighter color of grout than the surrounding area.

modules_003

 

Take a piece of wood and do some experiments. Thats what I did and I had four different looks to choose from.

John

  • Member since
    March 2007
  • 2,751 posts
Posted by Allegheny2-6-6-6 on Saturday, July 31, 2010 9:00 PM

RFinch

 I would suggest that you check Joe Fugate's DVD "Scenery and Bridges" Vol. 4, Part 1 for an excellent description of his use of the zip texturing method to create realistic dirt.  The Crayola Powder Paint is no longer available.  According to his scenery website referenced above, he is now using a comparable product called Rich Art - Fresco Powder Tempera that's available from Dick Blick Art Materials at www.dickblick.com.  Using the zip texturing method he describes, he can adjust the color of the "dirt" to look more realistic under layout lighting than real dirt would be.

If you're going to use real dirt, you should definitely bake it to kill all the things living in it as suggested above.  You also should pass a fairly strong magnet through it to remove any material that's magnetic that could get into the motors on your locos.

Bob

 

 

 

You can still buy Crayola Powder paint from these places, I buy all I want from AC Moore but don't see it online but these places list it.

 http://www.misterart.com/g1306/Crayola-Powder-Paint.htm

 

http://www.teachersparadise.com/c/crayola-powder-paint-1-lb-brown-p-18426.html

 

 

Just my 2 cents worth, I spent the rest on trains. If you choked a Smurf what color would he turn?
  • Member since
    October 2009
  • From: Minneapolis, MN
  • 122 posts
Posted by ChevelleSSguy on Sunday, August 1, 2010 12:37 AM

I have read some partial info in that post on Joe Fugates forum clinic post in the past, which is posted above. Remember that if you are using dirt from outside, it may not look the way it does outside because of the lights in your layout room. Thats why Joe likes to use his method so he can color the dirt the way he wants it to compensate for the lighting above the layout.

  • Member since
    February 2002
  • 533 posts
Posted by CascadeBob on Monday, August 2, 2010 1:23 PM

 FYI:

I just got off the phone with Crayola LLC.  They said they have discontinued their line of Crayola Powder Paint.  So if you have a source of this paint locally, you had better stock up because it's no longer available.  I checked the two sources referenced by Allegheny and both of the websites show the Crayola Powder Paint out of stock.

As I said in my above post, Joe Fugate is now recommending Rich Art - Fresco Powder Tempera as an acceptable substitute for the Crayola Powder Paint.

Bob

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: west coast
  • 6,535 posts
Posted by rrebell on Monday, August 2, 2010 4:40 PM

I seem to be having trouble with this method, never get the right color and I use the new brand recommended.

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Users Online

Search the Community

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!