How to make fake plastic train buildings look more realistic

Miniature plastic buildings for train layouts are readily available, but like any plastic model, they look much more realistic if you go to the effort to paint them. You can get what you need at the nearest hardware store.

Fortunately the materials are inexpensive and easy to find.

What you need

Projects always go faster when you have what you need up front. Here’s what you need and where to get it. I’ve provided links if they help. Ordering online and picking up in-store can save you some time.

Simulating brick

Before assembling the building, spray it with red primer. The primer gets rid of the plastic shine and adds a bit of texture. Let the primer dry.

If you wish, you can paint some of the bricks a slightly different color using acrylic paints from the nearest craft or discount store. If you look closely at pictures of real buildings, you’ll notice the bricks are almost always three different colors, or at least three different shades of red, and the arrangement will be fairly random. Duplicating this takes additional effort, so you’ll probably want to save it for the buildings at the front of the layout that you really want to draw the eye.

Simulating mortar

After all of the paint is dry, apply a bit of plain wall spackle in between the bricks. Work slowly, and wipe away excess spackling from the face of the bricks with a soft, damp cloth.

The result looks a lot more like brick and mortar than plain, bare plastic does, and without a lot of cost or effort. Once the paint and spackle have dried completely, you can seal it by spraying it with Testors Dullcote if you wish, but this step is optional. Then assemble the building and place it on your layout.