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Buick’s Blog – Ballast Basics

Buick’s Blog – Ballast Basics

This how-to guide was kindly submitted by Mike in the Railway Modellers Facebook Group

Following on from my earlier post, here’s another ‘How to’ for those of you struggling with your ballast.

This is not intended to put anyone’s ballasting to shame but just my own opinion which you may, or may not find useful.

Lets forget coarse, medium and fine sizes, ballast can make or break a model railway and quite often, the biggest mistake people make is choosing the wrong colour. Unfortunately, this is largely down to the manufacturers as they supply a number of colours that are anything like the real world…..however, there’s a really simple fix and it’s goes like this.

Get the lightest colur you can get hold of, it’s easier to colour a light grey, or a light buff than it is a dark grey, and preferably, get both and mix them together in uneven quantities. Once you’ve spread it over the track (and be careful not to over do it – over ballasting can kill your layout too) and fixed it down (I use Matt Medium…..same as Woodland Scenics Cement, but you can use watered down PVA etc) you can start adding tonal colours to bring it to life. Again, using the cheap acrylics mentioned earlier, water them down and using a pipette, drizzle the diluted paint over the ballast. As before, once it’s dry, repeat the process with another colour (I use burnt umber, white, light grey, and sometimes dark red), each time allowing the paint to dry. Don’t worry that it’ll sit on top of the ballast for a while – this is quite common but it’ll eventually soak in. The idea here is that you’re gradually building up different tones and the advantage of this over using an airbrush is that the colour will be drawn down through the ballast rather than cover the surface.

Practice makes perfect and whilst it may seem a little strange, it’ll have your friends telling you it looks amazing, even if your ballast is over scale.

This is aimed at the newer modellers so please don’t feel I’m trying to teach my granny how to suck eggs.

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About The Author


Favourite Scale: OO / 1:76 Likes: Making small stuff on the laser cutter Dislikes: Counting rivets Other info: Starting to dabble with the world of 3D printing a bit to enhance the products we create on the laser. Layout: Whitwick Grove

1 Comment

  1. PantoPete

    Looks really great particularly around the trunking in the second picture

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