Why is basic earth color "tan" ?

Discussion in 'Photos & Videos' started by Biased turkey, Sep 6, 2007.

  1. Biased turkey

    Biased turkey Active Member

    All the books, magazines DVDs suggest to use tan as a generic earth color for model railroads.
    Guess what, after 30 years in Quebec, and 25 in Europe to me the earth color is ... grey.
    I forgot to mention 5 years in Brasil ( Sao-Paulo state ) where the basic color is ... red.

    Did I miss something ?

  2. Herc Driver

    Herc Driver Active Member

    I agree...why tan and only tan? I've used any laytex tan paint, some greens, and lots of chalk colors to add variance of color to my basic tan color. The nice thing about the basic tan is that you can paint a whole layout with a paint brush pretty quickly and not see any paint brush marks. Besides, most of the soil around my parts is clay red and light tan...The top soil is skimmed off by the housing developers then sold back to the home owner after they build the house.
  3. UP SD40-2

    UP SD40-2 Senior Member

    I too had a problem with this, i am modeling Southern Wisconsin, and fact is, the dirt around here is rich and ...BLACK, with tiny hint of brown to it:winki: . the ONLY "earth" color that was acceptable to me is Woodland scenics fine turf "Soil T41" luckily this color is darn near a perfect match for the "earth" color here:thumb: .
    :deano: -Deano
  4. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    A lot of paint colour names come from the region where they were found in the dirt -- Sienna, Umbria (umber), Terra Cotta, ...
  5. Biased turkey

    Biased turkey Active Member

    OK, so I'll have to find some Quebeca and Deano some Wisconsina.

    From Deano:
    Woodland scenics fine turf "Soil T41" luckily this color is darn near a perfect match for the "earth" color here.

    It's dark, but I'm talking here about liquid pigment

    I have some WS Earth Undercoat leftover from an HO scale diorama. It's a very dark green , almost black pigment.
    But at $ 8.59 for 8fl. oz it's quite expensive.
    I could take a sample of Earth undercoat to my local paint store and ask them to duplicate it with their color scanner.

  6. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    That's my friend is a darn good idea. :thumb: :thumb:

    One thing I did was buy a gallon of something I thought came close to the light yellow-tan earth tone around here, then I take a small amount of it and darken it with a tube of dark brown that I bought in the crafts dep't of Wal-Mart so as to match the area that I'm scenicing. I've got one section of my layout with the terrain of Sedona, Arizona... red rock country so for that I started out with white and tinted it several shades of red.
  7. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    I would hazard a guess that "they" suggest tan simply because it is relatively neutral. It does not darken whatever materials are added over it, it is not "unpleasing" if left uncovered, and in turn it covers whatever landscaping substructure you've used (foam, newspaper, plaster cloth).

  8. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    I picked up some colour samples from the store and viewed them under the layout room lighting to pick the one that I liked best. I don't recall what the paint store called it, but, to me, it's Dirt Brown. ;) Unless you're actually modelling bare ground, the colour shouldn't be all that important (sometimes, we analyze stuff too much), as long as it covers the wood/plaster/foam that most of us use for our layout's scenery base. After all, in most areas, weeds will grow anywhere, :rolleyes: and by the time you add ground cover, grass, gravel, structures, trees, etc., not much bare ground will likely be left showing.
    If your scenery base is plaster, like mine, it's much easier to paint if you thin the paint first: not only is it easier to spread, it also soaks in better (less chance of minor chips showing), and goes much farther. I did use it full strength when painting my water areas, though.

  9. Biased turkey

    Biased turkey Active Member

    I get your point MasonJar, tan might be a good compromise between the red soil in Arizona ( ezdays )and the grey soil in Québec for example.
    Anyway almost any neutral color will look better than the color I have right now ( pink ). Why did Owens Corning select that particular color ?

    DoctorWayne, what's roughly the dilution ratio, 50/50 paint to water ?

    Thanks again to all the geologists modelers for the various suggestions.

  10. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Because the competition already had blue?

    Tan isn't a bad start for lots of scenery. I found that adding ground foam over a green base made everything too lush; I have one area where the figures are invisible against all the bush.
  11. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Hmmm, Jacques, I honestly don't recall, but my usual practice would be to pour some into a disposable container (I think it was a plastic 2 litre ice cream container) then add water until it looked about right. :rolleyes: :-D:-D That's not very precise, but I'd guess that it would be anywhere from 50% to 70% paint. However, if you're painting foam, I don't think that thinning it is a good idea: the foam will not soak up any of the water or pigment, meaning that the drying time will be increased, and the coverage (density of the colour) will be reduced. I also found that areas of my layout that had no plaster (bare plywood - the area around the tracks near GERN and some other flat areas where there are quite a few structures) didn't look too good with just the thinned paint. I redid those areas with paint right out of the can, for better coverage. The main idea behind painting with some sort of a dirt colour is to get rid of the unprototypical colour of whatever we used to construct the layout, blue or pink foam, plywood, or in my case, acres of blinding white plaster :eek: - my trainroom looked like the blizzard of '77. It was a disappointment, though, to discover how much darker everything seemed after painting - for several days, I found myself glancing skyward to make sure that some of the fluorescent tubes hadn't burned-out.

  12. N Gauger

    N Gauger 1:20.3 Train Addict

    It's a "Light effect" idea.... The best Photographs and artwork have a Neutral area to them - then the subject has the main colors, but the "base" remains neutral.

    When you start off with a neutral color, such as tans..or light grays... you can build on those colors easier than a "Clay red" for instance... Because a lot of colors won't look good next to red.

    So they say to start with tan, but like always - you can start with any color you want to.. it's your layout :) :D :) :D :)
  13. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    I just had to get a new can of "ground paint", and fortunately I had the formula codes so I got as close a color match as possible. The color? "dutch chocolate", which dries to a medium dark brown. I have always believed that colors should match the "nature" of the area being modeled. There is a big difference in the way the eye perceives color, and the way the camera perceives color. I"ve chosen to go with the "eye's perception", as more often than not my scenery is seen, rather than photographed.

    Whatever color you choose, just make sure the mud on your vehicles tires matches the ground it came from. :mrgreen: :mrgreen:
  14. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    I just took a jar of the local dirt to my neighbourhood hardware store and they mixed the paint from that. Looks pretty good too!

  15. MadHatter

    MadHatter Charging at full tilt.

    I think that the tan is just a easy colour for beginners to start with, since, as stated above, it's nuetral.

    But I suggest using what your eye sees, I mix my scenery with plaster, sand and ground foliage/ cover/ foam to get the effect I want.

    If you're modelling your area, the best place to look for sands is your back yard.

    A friend of mine used a front door carpet for a wheat field as a matter of interest.

    After my wireing is as perfect as I can make it, I brush a layer of plaster (In which I added powder paint while still wet to dye it incase of chips), then I use white glue (wood glue) mixed with the colour I want the earth to be. Then, depending on the area, I throw down some sort of ground cover or just leave it sandy with a few bits of mixed colour fine foam here and there to represent weeds.
  16. Biased turkey

    Biased turkey Active Member

    Thanks again to all he nice Gauge members who took some of their time to reply.
    I didn't expect that such a simple question would have generated so many wise replies :)
    I selected a light tan as my generic earth color. As suggested by DoctorWayne I apply it undiluted , it has the advantage of smoothing the small bumps of the Sculptamold and is less absorbed by the pink styrene and hold the basic turf better.
    I didn't want my 1st layout to be very prototypical , but on my next trip to the Laurentian mountains north of Montréal I'll collect real soil samples.

    Here is a pic:
  17. MadHatter

    MadHatter Charging at full tilt.

    WOW, that's looking great, love the way the rocks stick out!!
  18. Biased turkey

    Biased turkey Active Member

    Thank you, ( I like the result too )
    After building the hill with paper wads, I cut the rock templates in corrugated cardboard, then hot glued them on the paperwads in the location I wanted the rocks to be located. see picture1
    Then I applied the plastercloth on top of thr paperwads and the glued cardboard. see picture2. It gives some flat surface on the plastercloth where I can place the rock usinhg Hydrocal.



    Here is the picture with the rock installed. I prepainted the rocks on the bench, it's a lot easier.

  19. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    That's a great tip about the cardboard (i.e. FLAT ;)) backer for the rock moulds. Especially useful where the rocks are already cast, and cannot be worked into/onto the landscape when still setting. Then there's the additional bonus of finishing the rocks one the workbench, where spillage of excess paints/washes is not so critical. Brilliant!

  20. ocalicreek

    ocalicreek Member

    Spillage is critical ON the layout? :pHmm...never thought of it that way, but I have always been a kinda sloppy scenery guy. Finicky with the finished result, but sorta all-over at the plaster/rocks stage. I guess I just figured it would be ground-covered over and the track was protected by tape already.

    Nice work, Biased Turkey. Yes, please, show us more as it progresses!

    Check out the wild variety of ground coloring that John Allen used, (and the way it all seemed to change depending on the lighting effect for the various shots. Of course, that varied according to rock strata, etc. but also for just the ground. Still, it was mostly tan...

    I have to admit I was/am a tan base coat guy. But my tan is actually more of a red clay color commonly found in Appalachia. There's something nice about layouts with a unified base coat that permeates all the weathering, rocks, ground cover, etc. The layouts that, to my mind, have a polished, 'pro' look seem to demonstrate this. I think it's a limited variety (not a "one of every bag off the rotating WS LHS display" mish mash) technique, and it's trying to emulate a prototype. Even some freelancers pull this off.

    Frary, in his scenery bible, advocates putting drops of your base coat in a mister (highly diluted) and just misting the whole layout - buildings, trees, roads, ALL, to blend that base coat in and unify the scenery. Not sure I'd go that far, but it bears consideration.

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