Shelf layout plastering and colouring

Written by Glenn. Posted in Shelf Layout

{timg title:="Doug painting the completed plastered sections of the scenery" thumb:="images/stories/shelflayout/20130924_205013-sml.jpg" img:="images/stories/shelflayout/20130924_205013-lg.jpg"}

Work began doing the scenery for the layout. Solid foam blocks were used to cover any gaping holes and to create the larger mounds of terrain. The next step is to hide the rough cut of the foam blocks and to remove the perfectly flat baseboard surface.

Plaster or Goop overcoat?

Once satisfied with the rough shape of the foam laying down a filler to get a natural shape is the next step. Mark did some "goop" on the exhibition demonstration section and he was good enough to leave some materials so it could be tried on the shelf layout.

"Goop" was only used on the creek bed underneath the bridge. While the paper mache of the goop gave the surface a rough textured look which was very realistic I found the smell a bit hard to take after a while. Methylated Spirits is added to keep the mould at bay. It is also a bit of work to gather the materials and to measure and mix them together. You need to get the supporting surface very correct as changes cannot be made like with plaster.

I found the plaster easy to mix and apply. I was using a "base coat" left in my house by the previous owners so it's age is unknown. It seemed to set OK but it took at least a week to properly harden.

I was hoping to use a large supply of surplus bandaging plaster complete with supportive netting but the plaster refused to mix with the water. It must have been too old or exposed to moisture at one stage. The base coat worked out all right but it needed some final shaping.


Applying the plaster created unrealistic ridges and these needed to be removed. I found the best way was to remove the large pieces with a wood chisel and then sand the plaster using a mulit-tool for the larger parts. Finally using a small piece of rough sandpaper hand sanding the more fiddly bits.


The intention is to cover most of the plaster with coloured saw-dust or turf. But in case some gets chipped off and reveals the very white plaster underneath it's a good idea to put a colour underneath.

I decided to use  acrylic poster paints. They are cheap and and in theory you can mix y colour you want. In addition to red, blue and yellow you also need black and white paint. All colours mixed together gives you a dark brown colour, so you need black. And white is to reduce the saturation of a colour.

Varying the colour

One problem that has arisen is some areas are one shade of brown and the other side of the track is another shade of brown. The mixing works quite well, and the primary coloured paints allow you to vary the colours to look natural. Ideally a few palette wells of natural colours should be pre-mixed and then used intermittantly, mixing the colours on the surface as you would find in the natural world. The poster paints also have a natural low sheen and they look realistic painted onto the plaster. 

But if the surface is reworked the poster paint can be rubbed off, one of its characteristics of being washable I guess.