Painting concrete


So do you guys have any good ideas for painting concrete?  Roads, building foundations, buildings, coal loadout silos, bridge abutments, bridges, it is all around us but I haven't figured out how to do it yet.  It always looks painted.  Looking forward to hearing how you do it.

Here is a photo of the Skyline loadout in UT:

one in Boulder:

Coal Creek mine:

A bridge:

You get the idea.


Paul Mack

Hillsboro, OR




Painting Concrete

Concrete gets its color from the materials that are mixed together to make it. However, it only retains that color so long as the weather doesn't affect it. That takes effect as soon as it's poured in the forms used to give concrete it's shape. So you'll see from looking at your pictures, that the color of concrete is not uniform and is subject to the dirt that accumulates on it from air pollution, hydrocarbons, water and what not. Rust gets involved to because most of the concrete used to build anything with is of the reinforced kind. Reinforced concrete contains metal strips and tubing called rebar that helps prevent crumbling and also give concrete greater strength as well. Concrete still has to be maintained if you want it to last 50 - 100 years or even longer as shown by the fact that some Roman construction is still standing today. And that is because most of what still stands was made from concrete.


joef's picture

It's all about color and texture

As I say in my video volume 4 on Scenery and Bridges - it's all about getting the proper color and texture.

Irv covered some of the color points pretty well - I would add that you use a photo reference when you mix your color(s) and you do the color mixing under the same lighting as your layout. Study the photo reference and paint the colors you see - the brown-black weathing bands, the dirt and rust streaks caused by rain water runoff, the fresh concrete color caused by areas of crumbling, and so on.

Don't forget texture! Even in the smaller scales, concrete has texture! Use things like my plaster weathering colors (we'll be doing an article about these in MRH, or if you can't wait, you can go to the Model Trains Video site and download some videos for a few dollars - the one on modeling a concrete tunnel portal is a good bet) to give the concrete a dull, dusty look. Hit the concrete with a good coat of Dullcoat to kill any shine, and dust on some plaster weathering powder, then fix it in place with a mist of water.

In HO scale and larger, you should also give concrete objects a more rough texture. To do that, I mix a little Durham's Water Putty into the paint. The gritty texture really adds to that concrete look.

Joe Fugate
Publisher, Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine

Joe Fugate's HO Siskiyou Line

EivindPT's picture

The color of the concrete

The color of the concrete varies so much that if you need to truckloads the concrete can varies in color from truckload to truckload, so you can actually see the differnse in the colors after you have taken away the forms.

The roman structure is actually made of cement and lime not concrete. concrete is a product of sement and lime. The romans used copper and bronce as rebar, and used a mixture of lime and water. and it still stands today.

What of the greatest is phanteon which as a arced roof.

EivindPT ATSF in the late 1950's and early 1960's in O-scale

The color is the easier

The color is the easier part.

I am used to trying to get smooth even finishes when I paint and that is not concrete.  It may be relatively smooth but is not a uniform color except from very far away.  I was wondering more about technique, similiar to what Joe was describing above.  Even as simple as Oil, Acrylic or Enamel paints?  Most of my experience has been with automotive lacquer and enamel but I am starting to think that is not the best.  When I worked as an architectural model maker, we had a guy that would use the touch up Devilbiss gun with very low pressure and more or less spatter the paint on and it was gorgeous for perfect roads, sidewalks, buildings.  With a little weathering it would have worked well for model railroading. 


bear creek's picture

Concrete isn't smooth

But in HO scale a 1/16" imperfection is less than 0.001" which you would have trouble seeing or even feeling with a finger tip.

So unless you're concrete is really rotten and weathered I'd go light on the texturing and knock myself out on the coloring.

That said, one of the things that Joe Fugate's plaster based weathering powders do is kill the shine that many paints have (especially when lighting hits them at a bad angle). And when used with a water mister than can really do a great job of simulating how mother nature dribble dirt and grime over a surface.



 Contributing Editor, Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine

An easy solution

Hi to all

I use as concrete the elms wood filler with a little bit black weather powder.

the texture is perfect (I am O scale)

After is dry you can use any powder tone to make it weatherized.

my 2 cents.

jarhead's picture

Elms Wood Filler


Thank you for posting your solution. I am building an O scale layout with On30 and I was looking for a solution to do my embedded standard track on the street and what to use. I will be checking that out.



Nick Biangel 

elms wood filler


for this project I preffer to use cellu clay (michaels store you can find it)

and is a nice grey concret tone by it self.

elms  applied over foam board

Cellu clay (is not the best pic)




jbaakko's picture

I prefer to print off a photo

I prefer to print off a photo of what I'm trying to achieve and stand in the Military paint section of my LHS until I find something. There's plenty of gray's in there... Afterwords, however, you'll have to weather it...

jarhead's picture

Elms Wood/ Cellu Clay/ Joint Compound

 In the Jan-Feb issue of O Scale Trains magazine their is a very good article on how to make you r embedded track on concrete using joint compound. 

Now you mention this cellu-clay, is it easy to use ? How much can you buy ? Does it come in a bucket or only comes in small quantity ?



Nick Biangel 

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