Six simple steps you can use to make glorious model mud

making mudMud glorious mud. Or it is until you try to recreate it in model form. Here are six simple steps you can follow to make marvellously messy mud.


Most model railways, layouts and dioramas tend to focus on grass, woodlands or meadows and ignore the roads, paths and footways around them.

But as I covered in a recent post on making roads these man-made features are just as common.

This is especially so if modelling older eras where modern road construction techniques weren’t so common and many paths and roads were little more than muddy tracks. It’s odd then that many layouts skip them.

This perhaps due to the fact that they’re not easy to recreate.

Muddy paths, in particular, are very difficult to get right. The texture and the look and feel is tricky to achieve. Certainly, my past attempts won’t win me any awards 🙂

That was until I saw what and how modelling colleague Time Capsule Scratch Builder had done.

how to make model mud for dioramas

Wow! You can imagine pigs wallowing in his mud.

Even better his approach is very simple. It’s a creative, imaginative and fresh approach that fits my mantra here on ModelRailwayEngineer and one I’m really pleased he’s kindly allowed me to reproduce.

I’ll let him explain further.

Sometimes, just using soil scatter materials can feel like the only way to create a mud effect on your scene. However, I have found a more convincing solution that brings out realism in your scenery that can effectively deceive the onlooker…

Ingredients & Tools Needed

• Polyfilla
• PVA glue
• Gravel chippings (woodland scenics)
• Soil scatter (woodland scenics)
• Mud/soil preferably from your garden
• A sieve
• Brown acrylic paint
• A plastic cup
• Cellophane
• A spoon

The Technique

Step 1

To begin with, assess the area that you want to cover with a muddy scene (On my recent Rally diorama I only needed to cover a small area but yours may be larger).

Then collect in a plastic cup a small amount of mud/soil that will cover the area on your scene. If you find you have some large lumps in the soil you can sieve these out to make it a little easier in the next steps.

Step 2

how to make model mud for a diorama or model railway

Once you have the mud/soil add two spoon full sizes of Polyfilla and a covering of PVA glue. Mix this around to bind the components together. It should start to form a stodgy mixture.

Step 3

Now add in a small dollop of brown acrylic paint (shade of your preference) and also add in a layer of gravel chippings and the soil scatter just to add an extra level of texture. Then mix them all together.

Step 4

With a mixture that now could be mistaken for chocolate, spoon out some of the mixture on to your area. At first, it most likely won’t stick to the surface but with persistence, it will grip and you can slowly work it into the areas you need to cover.

Step 5

Once the area is covered I grab some cellophane and lay it over the area. I then press on it to smooth the mud out and also create any wheel tracks that would be present if a vehicle is included.

how to make mud for modesl

Step 6

Once the area has been left to dry you can paint the surface in any way you see fit and it will blend into the rest of your scene perfectly. I used enamel paints on my recent Rally diorama to create different colours and depth as well as using an airbrush to fade it all together but that is not essential if you don’t have access to one.

I then added static grass on top as can be seen by the images and it really does look convincing from a low-level angle.

Just look at that finish. So realistic. I can’t wait to try it out on my layout. The look with this will have in rural settings, especially when roads created using this technique, meet fields should be glorious.

Words and pictures (c) Time Capsule Scratch Builder.

Footnote: One thought does dawn on me, soil from a garden is likely to contain all manner of creepy crawlies. The Polyfilla and PVA will hopefully dispense with most of these but I’d sieve it thoroughly before using it on my layouts just to be sure.

> A final, personal, note: I spend a huge amount of time testing, photographing, writing and researching techniques for these articles and pay for all the running costs of MRE out of my own pocket. If you found this article useful you can support me by making a donation on my fund-raising page. Thanks and happy modelling, Andy.
Afflliate disclosure:The links on this page may take you to carefully selected businesses, such as Hornby, Amazon, eBay and Scale Model Scenery, where you can purchase the product under affiliate programmes. This means I receive a small commission on any orders placed although the price you pay does not change. You can read my full affiliate policy here. I also sell my my own ready to use, pre-made and painted buildings and terrain features. browse the range.

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