Painting and Lining

Locos and Rolling Stock

Some Thoughts by Mark Stapleton

A Reprint of an Article in The Coupling of April 1999

a) Railways are dirty places, so use a darker colour

b) Dust damp; dirt in the atmosphere make everything look lighter so use a lighter colour.

c) There is a prototype for everything

d) If anyone questions your choice of colour, quote a), b), c),.......

The following are among the best among the many words and pictures that have been published in the past, in my humble opinion:

If you are interested in improving your painting skills, these are definitely worth reading. Especially the Brackenborough article.

Types of paint - My opinion of each type

Badger ACCU acrylic paint film. It brushes wonderfully, does not need thinning to airbrush and of course cleans up with water. I really like this paint, but the 'dull'; colours have a bit too much shine, so need a dull coat finish.

Lots of colours, all US railroad, but many are close to British colours. (For example I use DM&IR maroon for Midland/LMS red)

New Floquil Polly 'S' acrylic. I have used this for lining and it seems to work quite well. It does not dry too quickly and flows from the pen well. It airbrushes very nicely, but needs thinning by 1/3 with water. However, the dull colours really are dull.

Humbrol/Precision etc. enamel. I do spray with this, thinned by 1/3 with turpentine. Before using it I stir it well, and more importantly, I warm it up in hot water. (Once I put a jar on top of the furnace to warm up, but forgot it. An hour later it was solid. (At least it was not as messy as Ron Smith with his can of paint on the end of a drill...)

I also warm up the item I am painting so that the paint flows well on the item being painted. This also works well when using a brush since the brush strokes tend to disappear when the paint and the surface are warm.

I use it neat for lining with a mapping (bow) pen since it dries fairly slowly.

Floquil. Xylene based. Sprays beautifully and it has an incredibly fine pigment. I thin it by 1/3 to 1/2 with paint thinner for spraying. You have to be careful since it dries so quickly and can give you a sandpaper finish. Being xylene-based means you need to have very well ventilated surroundings and a filtered spray mask if you are airbrushing. Xylene is a known carcinogen.

It dries very quickly, so it is pretty awful for brushing and practically impossible for lining. I have a couple of bottles of it left, but I rarely use it anymore.

Clearcoat finishes. I use enamels for clear coats. I have found that acrylic clearcoat paint is awful, as it leaves splotches, although if it is mixed in with a colour it is OK. When I want a really dull finish I use Testors dull coat in a spray can. This is enamel paint, and it is really flat. For a satin finish (which is as shiny as you should go), I use Humbrol Satin finish.


There is not much I can say about airbrushing. I use a cheap badger external mix airbrush. I do not use it for fine work, so for me, an expensive internal mix airbrush is a waste of money that could be better spent on decent wine. The secret to airbrushing is practice. A few tips however, may be in order.

Lining and Lettering

Lining is not as difficult as it seems. The secret is practice and patience, plus a decent pen, brush and glass of wine.

For a straight line, use a ruler. For a thick wobbly mess, don't. I make templates from plasticard for lining corners, for the same reason.

Once the line is started, do not stop until you come to the end of the line or run out of paint/ink, whichever comes first. Only then can you take a sip of your wine.

All transfers work better on a shiny surface. However, lining works better on a dull surface and this poses a problem from time to time. Sometimes I will spray a glosscoat after lining but before the transfer' go on. Once the transfers are in place, I spray on the final clear coat, either dull or satin. Read the MRJ articles I refer to above they are full of great ideas.

Tools of the trade

One of the more useful items that I have not seen mentioned when it comes to painting and lining is the type of brush to use. Aside from using a high quality brush, (I use sable, usually Windsor & Newton Elantee 57) I find brushes with LONG bristles. (My #4 brush has bristles about 1" long). They hold more paint, and are far more controllable than short bristle brushes. They are known as, appropriately enough, lining brushes.

I have the 4, 1 and 000 sizes, the last I use only for very tiny details. (The lining done on Exley coaches was done with a lining brush and ruler, not a pen...)

I buy my brushes from Loomis & Toles, although any decent art supply store should do. They have a good selection of brushes, paints & mediums, lining inks, card, plastic card etc. and the prices seem reasonable to boot.

Another thing is to take care of your brushes. When I finish cleaning the paint out of the brush, I then clean the bristles with soap, which seems to take out any extraneous flotsam and jetsam that remains and leaves them nice and soft. I have had my brushes for years as a result. They are stored with little tubes over the bristles as well.

I have two mapping (bow) pens, one that was my father's when he was in university, and the other I bought from the estate of a former Rolls Royce engineer. To achieve thin lines, you need long, thin blades. They need to be honed properly and kept clean!

Remember, the pen is not a brush, it will scratch the surface of your work if you press too hard and the paint dries in the pen much faster. If you stop for a minute, clean out the pen and start again.

Technical (or Rotring) pens

I have one that I use for black lines, it has a .25mm tube. The ink I use is for use on acetates, so it sticks to most surfaces quite well, but only comes in black. These pens do not use paint, so don't try it unless you have more money than brains. I am sure it can be done, but I am not willing to risk it, these pens are not cheap.

I recently found that Loomis & Toles carries some opaque inks in useful colours, so I will have to give them a try. Most ink for this type of pen is for use on paper, is quite transparent, and not good for lining.


I have in the past used Krystal Kleer to glaze small windows such as a spectacle plate on a loco. It is good, but I found Gloss medium (which is a clear acrylic) to be far superior in appearance. I find that Gloss medium dries more evenly and does not leave a 'bubble' in the centre of the window.

The technique is to dip a toothpick or piece of wire into the medium, and carefully smear a small amount around the edge(s) of the window to be 'glazed'. Then I dip again and bring out a larger blob of medium and then stretch it around and across the window until there is a film covering the aperture. Then you carefully pull out the stick and let it dry. You might be able to get to cover an aperture of 3/8 inch, but it will take practice to accomplish this.

So there it is, for those of you that have read this far, get a decent bottle of wine, and get on with it..............Mark Stapleton

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April 2001