How to Add Graffiti Art to Your Model Trains

  • 01 of 05

    Modeling Graffiti

    Decals, gel pens, and inks to recreate graffiti
    Decals, gel pens, inks can all be used to recreate graffiti. Ryan C Kunkle

    Perhaps no weathering technique is more controversial than duplicating the graffiti found on many trains today. Some call it art, some call it vandalism. Like it or not, it is a part of the modern railroad scene that many try to duplicate. Many who do argue that they put it on the model because it's prototypical, not because they agree with it.

    Graffiti had been around for decades before the brightly colored spray paint pieces that began appearing on train cars in the mid-1990s. Railroaders used chalk or grease pens to mark routing instructions in a sort of railroad shorthand on the sides of cars to help sort cars in yards. The homeless also had a symbolic language of their own that appeared on train cars and around camps.

    If you choose to add markings to your trains, there are three easy methods available. Having a good picture of the prototype you want to duplicate is always a good place to start.

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  • 02 of 05

    Modeling Graffiti Using Decals and Dry Transfers

    Decals on a train
    A decal makes a quick addition to this HO scale boxcar. Ryan C Kunkle

    Several companies make decals and dry transfers of graffiti that can be applied just as you would the normal lettering and numbers on a model. Available sets include the older simple chalk styles as well as some of the modern elaborate designs.

    This is probably the easiest method of recreating markings, but it also limits the modeler to what is commercially available. If you want to recreate a specific car or design, you'll need to do your own artwork.

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  • 03 of 05

    Modeling Graffiti Using Gel Pens

    Gel pens on model trains
    Common gel pens also create realistic graffiti effects on model trains. Ryan C Kunkle

    Gel pens are available in a wide variety of colors at most office supply or art stores. If you can use a pen, you can make graffiti. Fine point pens work best. Go for the wildest colors you can find.

    Some pens slide over glossy finishes without leaving ink. A flat finish spray should remedy the problem. Pens work best for simple monochromatic designs, but you can combine colors for more elaborate graffiti.

    The limit to gel pens is that it can be very difficult to hide the thickness of the ink.

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  • 04 of 05

    Modeling Graffiti Using Inks or Paints

    recreated graffiti designs
    Artist ink can be used to recreate elaborate graffiti designs like these. Ryan C Kunkle

    Artists ink sets can also be used to create more elaborate graffiti designs. Inks can be found at most art and craft stores. The thin ink flows more easily than the thick gel pens and is good for duplicating multi-colored designs.

    You can also substitute traditional model paints for the ink. Acrylics or oil-based paints can be used. For the small areas being painted and the frequent need to change colors, the fast drying time of acrylics is an advantage.

    You can use inexpensive craft paints if you thin them for better flow. There are hundreds of colors available and mixing is easy.

    Whatever medium you use, a flat finish surface accepts ink best. Lay out complex designs first with a pencil and then color in with inks.

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  • 05 of 05

    Modeling Graffiti Paint-Outs

    Repatched car
    A repatched car can be easily achieved by masking off the reporting marks, number and data before adding weathering and graffiti to a painted car. Ryan C Kunkle

    You can model graffiti without actually modeling graffiti by recreating a car that has been partially repainted to cover the offending markings. Railroads will repaint patches of cars if graffiti covers important information. Modeling paint outs is a quick way to add character.

    Mask off the areas of the car you don't want repainted. Spray with a new color and add decals for the new lettering and numbers. This is also a distinctive way to renumber a car if you have two of a kind.

    You can also create the effect of a paint-out without renumbering a pre-painted car. Mask only the car numbers and markings first with tape. Weather the car, with or without graffiti. Remove the mask and the "new" patch will appear.