Applying colour to paper card buildings

This is a quickie page to demonstrate some of the techniques which can be used to finish card buildings. Unfortunately some snapshots have a bit of a problem due to depth of field, a result from taking snapshots instead taking time for a correct photo. However they function for the purpose of illustrating the status of the work at that moment. The techniques used are basically the same I followed for producing the card buildings that were on my former layout Spaubeke. Main difference is that that was all handscribed card and since then we also have digital cameras.


photo with enlarged view of a tiny lineside post



kit inner walls and roof

The kit consists of two parts, this the main part with the brick components, windows and door.



This is the second part with the roof and inner walls.


collection of parts

close up of the roof which shows how the laser is used for engraving the slate tiles in flat card making an effecitive 3d roof.


Based on my experience with hand engraved card for the buildings on Spaubeke I choose to apply colour to the walls before gluing everything together. This is probably slower but gives a better result in the end. In this sort of building it is very difficult to get the colour as wanted into the stacked brick edges, applying the colour when the card is still flat avoids this in an easy way. Also after the glue penetrates the card it becomes plasticized and it is then difficult to add colour with watercolour pencils.

The basic idea is that pencils can only colour the surface thus do not penetrate the deeper mortar lines. Thus my methods starts with applying the base colour for the deepest layer, thus the mortar colour. I used an airbrush to apply a white/grey base layer of acrylic ink. In this case a mixture of Tamiya white, Winsor and Newton warm grey and a drop of yellow. Use isopropyl alcohol to dilute the mixture for the airbrush. Drying time can be speeded to a few minutes using an hair dryer. These acrylic inks are insoluble to water when dry and are an ideal combination with paper and card.

applying base coating

Base coating applied.


This shows what you can use for the main colour. A set of selected colours for brick walls and stone plaster. In this case I mainly used Faber Castell colour series 8200 #186,190,192,252 for the bricks and some Derwent watercolur 61, 63, 68, 69. The latter two for the roof. Further use is made of Conte a Paris crayons (chalks) to locally modify the mortar colour using 2464 (beige) 2304-7 (olive) and Rembrandt 718.9 and 717.9 both greyish tints.

pencils and brushes

Pencils and brushes for applying colour.


Start out with colouring on the flat. On the left hand wall is demonstrated what happens if you keep the pencil with a too high angle to the paper and move it only in one direction. This leaves an irregular pattern. Instead it is better to keep the pencil flat and use a more circular pattern. The right hand part with the long walls show how it should look when applying several pencils and some additional light brushing of chalks in the mortar lines.

avoid a regular stroke in colouring

Avoid this pattern on the left, but also see how the walls come to live with the mortar colour shining through.


A bit later, after applying at least 3 pencil colours and then using a small hard and stiff brush to bring it alive. Holding the brush vertical and making circular movements for a smoothing effect. The effect when applying a stroke, like drybrushing , will give entirely different result. Next step is applying some tiny dust with chalks using a 0000 brush, that is a very tiny brush, probably the smallest you can find.

apply more colours and smooth with a hard brush

Apply more colours and smooth with a hard brush.


Having applied the colours on the flat you may think about gluing. Start with the inner walls to form the hard shell to glue the walls onto. But don't forget the edges of the brick walls and windows. This can be best done using a brush applying some watercolour solved from an apropiate pencil colour. To protect your work you should apply the paint from the back side so that you don't incidently spoil the front side.

start with the inner shell

The inner shell and a wall section.


Building up the layers. You can use hairpins to keep them to fix them temporarily when applying glue. The most apropiate glue is thin cyanoacrylate or super glue. This penetrates the card very well and doesn't leave visible traces.

use hairpins for fixing temporarily

Using hairpins to keep parts fixed when applying glue.


This is how it looked about half way. The bricks layers are applied although I decided not the use the center layer on the small sides. Due to the choosen method for the kit you will see edges at the corners.

A 4 sided shell giving a good idea of the end result.

A 4 sided coloured shell giving a good idea of the end result.


The same procedure holds for the windows. First apply colour and then glue together.

The windows are parts.

The window frame is fragile and needs care to glue on top of the base layer.


The windows and doors are added and also the chimney is built. I probably interchanged the interaction of the chimney layers creating a rectangular chimney instead of a square chimney. This leaves you with a missing piece of brick for the outer layers. I used the available strips on the chimney and just coloured a flat plain piece on the roof side. Also the chimney is probably a bit longer than intended by the designer. You have to be careful in handling otherwise the outer layer of card can become exposed when a brick breaks out on a corner. This can be repaired by applying some watercolour using a fine brush. The roof lies in front, also precoloured by airbrushing using acrylic ink.

Only roof is missing now

Close to finish, roof need to be applied.


More or less finished. I applied strips on the corners to hide some card edges. Also the roof strips are added, as well as the window sills. If you think your card buildings will get wet at some point in future then the advice is to put a cover layer of acrylic based fixative from a spraycan. This will give an invisible coating giving resistance to handling and some humidity.

roof edges applied only needing further finish

roof edges applied, only needing further finish with window panes.


Compare it with a wagon when we put it on the layout and see how tiny it is. The second shed is a full metal kit.

two tiny building and some huge wagons.

two tiny buildings and some huge wagons.

This kit is designed by Stefan Teichert and available from Mago-fiNescale.

Author: Henk Oversloot © 2008
Revision dates: 24 march 2008