info @
South Africa

This Article forms part of my “Better Roads” series.

Modelling good-looking roads shouldn’t be such an issue, and by following some basic guidelines, you too can have realistic looking roads!

One of the nice things about modeling roads is that it’s so easy to go out and photograph and measure the real thing!

In addition, pavement markings tend to be crude affairs where getting everything to the exact measurement is not strictly necessary (more detail may not necessarily always produce a better looking scene).

1. Base & Pavements

For the pavement itself use something like .060″ styrene sheet.

Tip: To minimize the number of joints, start with larger pieces of styrene sheets.  A 25mm x 200mm (4′ x 8′) sheet of styrene costs around R200 ($25).

For the sidewalks you can use small pieces of styrene, or alternatively purchase ready to use sidewalks from manufacturers like Bar Mills and Walthers.

Manholes can be modeled using clay, gypsum, alternatively purchase ready to use manholes from Model Memories, Walthers and others.

Tip:  If you have access to a 3D printer, you can quickly print your own sidewalks and/or manholes at the fraction of the cost of commercial products!


Begin by measuring off and cutting a strip or slab out of the styrene for your roadway.

Try to avoid going unrealistically narrow with your lane widths.  For HO allow: 12 feet for traffic lanes, 8 to10 feet for parking lanes if applicable, and 2 feet for shoulders.  Use lane center line widths of a scale 6″ but this can vary slightly from road to road.

2. Sidewalks

Add sidewalks if applicable.

If there are no sidewalks, round the edges of the road with sandpaper.


3. Road Surface Imperfections

Scribe some cracks and expansion joints in the styrene with the back of an X-acto blade.


4. Base Color

Spray everything with Rustoleum light gray primer, alternatively use an airbrush.

This will be your base asphalt color.

If you want to replicate concrete repair patches mask these off and spray on a lighter gray such as Flat Light Aircraft Gray

If you have sidewalks, mask off the previously painted roadway and paint (with an airbrush) the sidewalks with a suitable color, something like Model Master Light Gray

Typical Products that are easy to come by


  • Concrete:              Flat Light Aircraft Gray for concrete road patches
  • Asphalt:                Rustoleum light gray primer for overall asphalt
  • Road Markings:  Ordinary flat yellow and white spray paint
  • Sidewalks:            Light Gray (applied with an airbrush) for sidewalks


5. Road & Pavement Markings

Mask off your lane and pavement markers and firmly press the edges of masking tape down. 

Using ordinary rattle can spray paint,  lightly dust on your yellow and white spray paint from about 12″ above. 

Tip:  Do NOT use white and yellow pinstripe tape for the lane markers.  You’ll regret it later.

Here is the completed pavement area prior to weathering and placement on the layout.

 6. Black Wash

Using a “black wash” will bring the pavement, road to life.

One possible black wash can be made by mixing 2 teaspoons of India Ink to 470ml (1 pint) of alcohol.

Using an airbrush held about 9″ above the road, LIGHTLY and SLOWLY fog the India ink wash over your roadway and sidewalks.  Use a gentle sweeping motion.

Tip: Don’t linger long in one place and don’t blast the wash on from a close distance. Strive for a relatively even fog over everything


7. Highlights

Now add your center lane shadows.

Crank the airbrush down to it’s lowest volume setting.

Move the brush in much closer, say 100mm (4″), and working carefully, move the airbrush slowly up and down the center of the roads until you see the darker exhaust shadows appearing.

Do the same for the edge of the roads.


8. Seal

To get a lasting effect that will not easily fade, seal the entire project with Dullcote.

In this view weathering has been applied.

The last step is to mount the pavement on the layout.

Original Page Credits:  Lance Mindheim
Black and White Premium WordPress Theme