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Producing realistic looking rocks can be a difficult task particularly on layouts where they may be a dominant feature. The methods used will depend upon the nature of the rocks required i.e. are the rocks part of a cliff face or are they forming individual rock features. Rock faces can be natural or the result of quarrying. The images below show the use of texture and colour to produce a realistic quarry face when viewed from distance and close up. This quarry face was produced using tile cement on construction foam. The technique is described below and can be used for natural rock faces as well as quarried.


Cliff faces can be produced using several techniques some of which are detailed below.

  1. Small areas of rock can be produced using commercial products from a variety of manufacturers. These products include cork bark which looks remarkably like natural rock when used carefully, rubber latex rocks produced by several American manufacturers and also rock moulds to manufacture multiple items using modelling plaster e.g. Woodland Scenics.  
    The image to the right shows a simple rock face manufactured using cork bark cut wafer thin on a band saw allowing it it to become more flexible. The cork is fixed to the plaster base terrain using a glue gun. If larger and thicker pieces of cork bark are used, they can be set into the scenery before the mesh wire or similar is applied. Once in place bring the base scenery coat up to the edge of the cork before disguising the edge of the cork with coarse turf pressed into PVA adhesive overlapping the cork. Polystyrene blocks can also be carved to shape before painting with textured paint and then finished with paints as above.

  2. Large areas of exposed rock in the form of cliffs can be expensive to produce using commercial products. Realistic rock faces can be produced using a variety of products including layers of polystyrene, plaster and as we prefer waterproof tile adhesive. The images below show how tile adhesive can be applied on top of either polystyrene sheet (expanded or construction) or plaster bandage to represent exposed rock. The tile adhesive is applied using a small pointing trowel or filler spreader using vertical strokes. This leaves a thicker upper edge to the tile adhesive which adds more realism. Once dry the surface can be weathered with a water wash as the middle image (water with black, grey brown or a suitable base colour paint added) before highlighting and detailing. Remember to disguise the join between rocks and the surrounding scenery with a coarse turf as described above.

Once complete some realistic effects can be achieved. The image left below shows the baseboards shown throughout the scenic section of this website at their delivery degree of finish ready to be detailed by the client. The right image shows the importance of colour blending using water colours to achieve the final finish together with the careful use of scenic effects e.g. vegetation and talus.





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