Which paint for basic scenery


Active Member
I am at the point in my first 4 X 8 HO DCC layout where the track is laid on Woodland Scenics foam roadbed. I was thinking of painting the roadbed and the basic foam insulation base of the layout (before any elevations or terrains are added to the base) while I install the rail joiner feeder wires.

I would like any advice and suggestions on what paint I should use to cover the green 1 inch Lowe's insulation base on the layout. I have tried a few different rattle cans from stores on pieces of the green insulation and they bubbled up worse then a home chemistry set experiment that went bad when I was in third grade. I do like the colors in the Vallejo Model Air line of Flat earth and dirt. ​I also like the Tamiya paints that I have used on a few structure kits. However, I was hoping there was some other type of paint that I could use with good coverage and not as expensive as the little Vallejo or Tamiya bottles.

Also, any ideas about painting the foam road bed would be greatly appreciated. I do plan on putting ballast on the tracks at some point in the future. I just thought a stone grey paint of some type would be a good idea at this stage. But again, hoping to find a paint that is not as expensive as the little model paints from Vallejo or Tamiya for the amount of area I am looking to cover.
Use the cheapest latex paint you can find and.have them tint it for you.I bought a.5 gallon pail for 40 bux and had them tint it brown and I use it for making my ground goop and make a.wash out of it for getting rid of the white.
Careful when painting the foam - it may warp - mine did - where it wasn't glued down well enough.

After that first bad experience I used much less paint it and seemed OK.
Spray some of the Vallejo paint that you like on a piece of paper and take it to your local Home Depot or Lowes store. They can scan it with some kind of electronic gizmo and then mix up and match whatever you need. I use Model Master "Light Earth". For a 4 x 8, you don't need more than a quart at most, probably a pint would do. Like Lynn said, use cheapo latex.
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I'm with Lynn. I picked up the cheapest latex paint and had it tinted tan color. I have no foam on my layout. Plywood and hydrocal for hard shell.
Not that any further reinforcement is needed, but yes, latex. I got a gallon of an earth brown color that I use to tint everything before I apply more realistic dirt or turf. It makes a huge difference in how much scenery material is needed to cover and look good as opposed to trying to cover up, for instance, white. Anything other than latex or watercolor can be risky when you're dealing with foam and other scenic materials, as you've discovered trying to spray your foam. They do make latex spray paint now, but for most things brushing it on is probably cheaper and better.
I go to the big box stores or paint stores and look for cans of latex paint that's their "mistakes" that can sell for $5-7.00 a gallon. Sometimes you might get lucky and find earth or brown tone paint. Or, a light base that can still be tinted to a earth color.

Another option is a store like Home Depot who sells small samples of their paint colors. You can have any color mixed to your specifications. A small container goes a long way. In fact you can usually thin the paint with water.


I'll second Greg's suggestion. I was surprised at how many different colors of "mistake" paint were available at my local big box store. I paid $7 for a gallon of an earthy tan color. The exact color hardly matters if you'll be adding ground cover anyway.

On my layout, I used the tan paint as adhesive for the first layer of ground cover, thus saving a step. In one operation, I went from bare foam to tan scenery with texture. It's amazing how this instantly brought the layout to life!

- Jeff
Thanks for your suggestions and advice. I appreciate it and will be going to Lowes to check out the mistakes in the Latex paint department.