How to make scenic cement: my foolproof 3 part recipe for the best ground cover

There’s a lot of misunderstanding around scenic glue but it’s surprisingly simple once you know how to make it.

Here’s my recipe that’s never let me down.

First, let’s clarify what I mean by scenic glues and adhesives, where it’s used and why you want it.

Why and when to use scenic cement

There’s a lot of things to stick down in model railroads. Landscape features, roadbeds (for the track), the track itself, ballast and then ground cover: scatter, turf, ground foam and static grass. (For ballast glue see this formula).

It’s these last elements that I use a scenic glue.

But you can’t just use any glue for this.

For starters, you need lots of it to cover the expanses of glorious landscapes on your layout so something that’s cheap and available in quantity is a prerequisite. It’s also got to be easy to apply and spread around.

Further, spreading scatter and the like is a time-consuming process so you want a glue that takes a while to set – nothing that dries in a few minutes or seconds.

It’s for both these reasons that a dedicated glue is needed.

What not to use

For a long time, I used bog standard wood glue — PVA or Elmers to its friend’s. This worked well and I still use it for small areas.

But there are issues with neat PVA.

For starters, raw PVA can be gloopy.

Not only does this mean you waste a lot when applying it over an area but it’s sometimes difficult to lay an even flat coating. Lumps and mounds can appear and which, typically, you won’t notice until the scatter has been applied. Its surface tension can also create a barrier preventing static grass threads getting a good hold.

I’ve also tried commercial dedicated scenic adhesives and cement from Woodland Scenics, Noch, Jarvis. These all appear to be variants of similar glues. matt Medium and adhesives and work well but cost more than I want to spend and so breaking one of my golden rules.

My formula

Instead, I’ve come up with this formula. It’s a recipe that produces an easy flowing glue that can be easily and evenly spread over large areas. It dries with a clear matt finish and sets quickly. It also holds both acrylic and oil based paints as well.

These are the raw components:

But it’s the mixing that makes the difference.

Don’t just blend them together.

Instead mix the glue and water thoroughly first.

I like to mix them up and then shake them in a bottle for at least 10 minutes.

Once this is done, add the Isopropyl mixture and stir for another 10 minutes. You want the Isopropyl thoroughly mixed in.

Now leave to stand for a while to let the bubbles percolate out of the mix before painting onto the surface to be covered and covering with scatter, static grass etc.

I like to mix up quantities in advance and store in airtight containers until needed.

That’s it. My formula for scenic glue and cement. I’ve been using this for several years now and it’s never let me down. Once set. It’ll last for years.

  • The PVA I use can be purchased in bulk here. This is not only cheap but it’s the best PVA I’ve worked with.
  • The Isopropyl can be found here.
  • I’m hoping you know where to get water from 🙂
Founder of ModelRailwayEngineer, Andy Leaning

Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about 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.
    • Hi Larry, I can’t say for definite as I’ve not tried it but I’d be surprised if it didn’t. It’ll be so close as to not make much difference. Andy

  1. What do you mean by IPA mix? IPA as bought is virtually neat. (and not the brown stuff in beer bottles!)
    I’m just at the scenery stage in a layout that’s been in my head for years and only now have I managed to get anywhere. As I’m 75 I hope to finish it before I’m shunted off to the marshalling yard in the sky.
    I really like your comfortable way of writing.

    • Hi Nigel, sorry, mean the overall mix. IPA + Water + IPA. Thanks for the comment re writing, I try to find balance between relaxed, informative and useful. Doesn’t always work 🙂 Cheers, Andy

  2. is it as good as ballast bond by deluxe ?which is great but really expensive though I believe refill packs will be available soon

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