How to Paint a Model Mountain Landscape

Written by sean kotz
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How to Paint a Model Mountain Landscape
The model railroad mountain seen here is painted with browns and tans and enhanced with landscaping elements. (model railroad image by pearlguy from

Once you have created your model railroad mountain, the next step is to paint and landscape the terrain. This will vary somewhat from project to project. If you are modelling the Rockies, for example, you'll have a more rugged, rocky layout and use rusty browns and orange tints. The Appalachians will require slate blues and greys and limestone colours. The Sierras may require light browns and tans, and the Alps would require more greys and whites. In any case, painting is fairly straightforward.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Acrylic paints in various earth tones
  • Shallow plastic container
  • 3-inch sponge brush
  • 1-inch nylon or horse hair flat brush
  • 1/4-inch flat brush
  • Water
  • Rags
  • Black India ink
  • Rubbing alcohol

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  1. 1

    Choose a reasonable earth tone for a base coat, typically a light tan or brown, and pour some of the paint into a shallow plastic container.

  2. 2

    Paint the base coat from top to bottom in horizontal strokes using a 3-inch sponge brush and allow to dry.

  3. 3

    Mix a selection of two to four different diluted paint mixtures called "washes." For lighter colours, use approximately 1 part paint to 16 parts water. For darker colours, use 1 part paint to 32 parts water.

  4. 4

    Select a wash that represents a dominant colour in your colour scheme and randomly paint spots and streaks here and there. Use a large 1-inch brush if the mountain is fairly big and a 1/4-inch brush if not.

  5. 5

    Rinse the brush and switch to another colour, repeating the process until you have at least three different shades painted on, allowing them to blend here and there for a natural look.

  6. 6

    Mix together equal amounts of all colour washes into a blend and add water to create a thin master wash.

  7. 7

    Lightly apply the master wash over the entire surface to help blend the colours and allow to dry.

  8. 8

    Create an India ink wash by mixing approximately 10 drops of ink per 1 cup of rubbing alcohol and apply to the surface of the mountain from the top down, allowing it to seep into the cracks.

Tips and warnings

  • If you have an airbrush, you can save lots of time by spraying in the base coat and even some of the wash coats.
  • Lightly wetting a sponge brush before you begin will make it more effective.
  • Wear old clothes when you paint. This process can be messy.
  • If you want a grassy look, you can sprinkle ground foam, a product found in hobby stores, over the wet paint.
  • Be sure to use water-based paints, like acrylics or tempura paints, and not enamels.

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