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The art of growing old gracefully.  

At some point in the life and work of most modellers they reach the point when they want their brand new model to look old and used.  Knocked about a bit, softened at the edges, realistically grubby and lived in. The urge to get away from showroom finish is probably most pronounced in military modellers and common among railway modellers.  My impression is that this desire for realism is becoming a developing trend among building modellers outside these genres as well.   

The weathering on this cottage (the real thing, not a model!) is low key and would need a particularly gentle touch when modelling it .  Note the central panel of brickwork.  The bricks are the same mix of colours as in other panels but repointing has changed the overall impression of colour.  Note also the irregularity of the tile lines - uneven but not jagged. This characteristic could easily be overdone.

Weathering is not an art I have personally mastered and what follows is a jackdaw-like gathering of real life examples and bits and pieces from the work of others - the work of experts in the field.  But be warned. You may become so depressed by their expertise that you will feel the urge to hang up your brushes and craft knife and go and find another hobby.  The best work in this field is quite stunning and is as much help to most of us as the Sistine chapel is to the beginner water-colourist. 

The world of Zombie apocalypse urban gaming does not often feature in my articles but you might like to take a look at this YouTube video from a guy calling himself the Terrain Tutor. His explanation of how he weathered a building to the point of dereliction is clear and full of practical tips, even if his presentational style is a little unusual.

Mel the Terrain Tutor caught in mid washing. His key tip is that before actually putting the thin wash paint onto the model he first wets the whole surface with plain water so the wash flows freely rather than sticking.

The building he is working on came from Derbyshire based Sarissa Precision Ltd. I've not previously come across them but they produce a huge and varied range of buildings and terrain for wargamers, mostly in 28mm but also in 40mm, 20mm and 15mm scales. The range is truly enormous. I had not realised the wargames market was so big.

The models, made from laser cut MDF, come unpainted in kit form and there are specialists like Gary Peach, trading as March Attack who will paint and make them for you. I mention Gary because I really like his guide on how to paint in a weathered style.

A true challenge for any modeller

Simply splashing dollops of mud on a pristine building will not cut it. Just like the art of make-up we are generally looking for a subtle and natural effect. Weathering can be overdone and become a caricature.  Take a look at how good it can be

A most unusual piece by Karen Corbin, whose work we have praised before.

A contest winning kitbashed structure by Al Sohl  from the Long Island Model Railroad Engineers as illustrated on the site.  Take particular note of the join between the base of the building and the sidewalk and the piled up rubbish.   In an article on that site Al describes how he uses a "weathering brew" made from black or brown shoe dye mixed with rubbing alcohol.  The full article is certainly worth a read.

 Elements of Weathering.  

Weathering is not simply the application of a grubby or lightening wash over pristine paintwork.  It has multiple aspects:
A good illustration of how water, rust or other staining often takes a triangular shape.  Sometimes real life looks too extreme.  Reproducing this example in a model might invite criticisms of the weathering being excessive 

Not strictly weathering, but closely linked to it, is evidence of alterations and repairs over the years - patches of slightly different brickwork or repointing,  replaced or filled in windows and doors, lines showing where outhouses etc have been removed. 






Did the builder who filled in this doorway go home and think to himself "good job done" or does he still slit his wrists in shame every time he drives past?

Modern archeological evidence of a lost outhouse or extension. All sorts of different brick staing and marks where the flashing was.  Note also that the telegraph pole is weathered as well.


Difficult to reproduce in N scale or 1/87 but if you are modelling in one of the larger scales this sort of detail can be clearly visible from the sort of distance onlookers observe models.

An associated issue, where many building models let themselves down, is that buildings need to be bedded into the landscape they are part of.  I notice this most on model railway layouts where many otherwise good structures are clearly built on a flat base plate and then sat down on top of an existing surface.  An often recommended fix for this is to construct a building with sections of wall extending below the final ground level,  placing the structure into a hole on the baseboard and then backfilling the ground surface around the outside walls.  Many of the examples in this article also show how important the ground and materials around the base of the building are in giving a realistic effect. 

Unless you are from areas such as Holland or East Anglia a surprising number of real buildings are built on some sort of slope - even if this is only  a foot or two from one side or from back to front.  Allowing for this, or something more dramatic, can add plenty of detail interest - both at the top and the bottom of the model.
I spotted this piece at the excellent, Brighton ModelWorld exhibitiona few years ago.  My first assumption was that it was an interesting piece of scratch-building but I now think it may be a commercial piece.  There may be buildings in this state of decay but on reflection the damage to the timber cladding seems an bit overdone for a building still in use.

One other site you might like to look at is where you will find an article on the Basics of Building Plastic Structures by Richard Schumacher and Venita Lake, which includes advice on weathering as part of the construction process. While  Googling may not always deliver what you are looking for,  the search combination of the  words model, weathering, house and structure will lead you to a wealth of useful sources.

Just as a postscript, do remember that buildings do not start weathered, they go through all the stages of life from construction through new via weathered to ruined. 

Remember that pavements and other ground surrounding buildings also suffer from weathering and damage

Lots more modelling required for something only part constructed
Another link worth a good look is from the repetoire of 'The terrain tutor' Luke Cowan

Which is all I  have to offer on the subject for now.  If an expanded article full of hints and tips is something you could write, or if you have an example you would like to show to the world, please do get in touch with us at   and we can put your work in the next issue of The Miniature Builder.  


These days it is not possible to include everything within the site - take a look for example at this YouTube video of 'Runswick Bay' .

Quite possibly a much more interesting subject than many finished buildings

Brand new and shiny -by Miller Homes at Admirals Wood.

For more of the work of Michael Tucker take a look at the ModelWorld article in this issue.