How to make your own common modelling materials

how to make your own model making suppliesLocked down due to Coronavirus? Can’t get out to get model making supplies? Here’s how you can make your own.

For much of model making, the equipment, accessories and our favourite tools we use will last a long time. A good rotary drill like the Dremel 3000 will last for years as will brushes if properly cleaned.

But, of course, there are a number of items that are consumables. Things that get used up and need replacing.

Normally this isn’t a problem. We can just buy more.

But these aren’t normal times. As I write this, the Prime Minster has just announced a lock down of the UK and non-essential shops – such as model shops – are no longer open.

So what to do if you run out of consumable items for your model making. Here’s a quick list of materials commonly used and which you can make yourself. These also obviously works at other times if you just want to save some money.


Make your own white glue

How to make scatter

How to make static grass

How to make ground foam

How to make scenery paint

If you know how to make other consumable materials you use on your models, dioramas and layouts, please share them in a comment below.

Now on with the list of how to make model making consumables.


PVA – White Glue

PVA, aka white glue, is used for all many of jobs around a model railway and scenic construction in war gaming. I get through gallons of it. Luckily, if you can’t buy it, it’s easy to make a home brew version of it that will work just as well for gluing most things that white glue will work with.

To make this, you’ll need :

  • 3 tablessoons of water
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • A pinch of salt

Slowly mix the water into the flour until you have a thick paste, then mix in the salt and keep mixing until you have a gloopy consistency.

Put this in the fridge for 20 minutes and that’s it. You can store this for a while in air-tight bottles if needed.




Scatter, used for ground cover, ballast and small plants, on layouts, dioramas and mini figure bases is easily made. Just get some dried leaves from the garden and grind them up until all that remains is fine powder. Sieve this to remove any veins and ribs of the leaves. No mix in some acrylic paint to get the colour desired and you have an infinite supply of scatter without. Read my in-depth guide to making scatter for further details.



Static Grass

Static grass, one of the greatest creations for modelling life-life scenery. Normally, you can buy it model shops or online but if you can’t get out, it’s easy enough to make yourself.

Get some teddy bear fur, cut to the appropriate length, colour with acrylic paint and leave to dry.

It’s really no much harder than that but you can read modeller Stephen Fay’s guide here.



Ground Foam 

Another material I get through a load of for making bushes, trees and shrubs is ground foam.

You can make your own that’s very comparable to the commercial stuff by mashing up sponge in a food blender and colouring it. If you’d like more details, read my guide to making ground foam here.



Scenery Paint

I’m not going to drag this out. If you want to paint scenery and can’t get acrylic paint, nip into your kitchen and grab some food colouring. Spread some out and then apply to your hills, fields, etc. The excellent video by Kasey Golden below reveals more.

That’s it for now but I’d love to hear any other suggestions you have as to what other materials you can make.

> 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.
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.

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