Enter keywords or a search phrase below:

Michael Paul Smith's "Elgin Park" Road Technique

1 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    November, 2015
Michael Paul Smith's "Elgin Park" Road Technique
Posted by STOVK on Wednesday, October 25, 2017 7:54 PM


I've been fascinated by Michael Paul Smith's "Elgin Park" that it's inspired me to get into diorama building.


I've been reading a lot about his techniques such as staging, photographing, building construction, etc. However, I was unable to find any information on his technique on making asphalt roads look realistic. So, I decided to try a long shot and reach out to Michael to see if I can garner any information on his technique. lo and behold, Michael was gracious to email me back with a very detailed walk thru. What follows is his kind reply:



Hello Kurt,

The very best of luck on your journey with creating forced perspective scenes with diecast models.

If you have any questions along the way, please do not hesitate to ask! I totally enjoy sharing information.

As for creating the road surface, it is a very simple process although there are many repetitive steps.

It is a board that is painted and textured with commercially available spray paint. Rustolium and Krylon are the two brands I use.

For the base itself, I use Gatorboard because it's strong, durable and yet light weight. Gatorboard is like FoamCore, you know that white cardboard-y stuff you did your science project on? Except Gatorboard is rigid due to it's outer surfaces being coated with resin.  I do not recommend using FoamCore because it is structurally weak. Gatorboard can be expensive, though.

Now a piece of 1/4 inch plywood works fine, but it must be sanded smooth to eliminate any wood grain, then PRIMED or SEALED on the front, back and sides to prevent warping.

My road board is 4 feet by 3 feet, which works well with my 1/24th scale cars.

Creating the surface and color.....

- Basically it's a series of spray paints that have a flat finish, which lightly covers the board. No heavy coats!

-Between each paint application there is a layer of sifted vacuum cleaner dirt, with all of the big stuff and pet hairs removed. You can use real dirt, but it must be sifted until it has a fine consistency, with no twigs, stones or leaves in it. And it's best to sift the dirt onto the board immediately after each coat of paint is sprayed, so it sticks.

Here are the colors and procedure I use:

- Gray primer, plus sifted vacuum dirt.

- Beige or Tan flat finish spray paint, plus vacuum dirt.

-Flat White spray paint, plus vacuum dirt.

-Flat Black spray paint, plus vacuum dirt....etc, until you get a desired color and texture.


And the final coat is the Primer Gray. [You will notice the roads in real life are not black. They are variations on gray.] Keep the spray can about 12 inches from the board while spraying.

Again, use light coats of paint! NO Heavy coats nor complete coverage! You want the surface to have a mottled appearance.

When you achieve the desired color, brush the surface off to eliminate the paint that didn't stick.

After everything all is said and done, I will lightly mist the "road surface" with water, then sift more vacuum dirt on it. I let that dry, then with a slightly moist cloth, I wipe off the dirt. This allows the dirt to get caught into the texture of the road surface.

It sounds complicated but it really is just paint and dirt layered onto a board. And it's really difficult to mess this up. Every thing looks good once you place your cars on it.

What has also added to the "weathered" appearance of the "road" is that over the years, I had photographed "snow" scenes and used baking soda as the "snow".  I only brushed off the baking soda when I was finished so there was still some left embedded into the road surface.

From there I would lightly mist the road with a spray bottle of water and let the baking soda "melt".

When it was dry, the road had a more "used' look.

Another thing to remember, you do not want the final surface to be smooth. There should be some texture to it; about the same as medium sand paper.

My road board has been with me since I've started this hobby, and it's only gotten better with use. You really can't make it look bad.

Here is a recent photo of my "road surface" board. As you can see it really looks like a bad paint job, but in fact it "reads" quite well when photographed.

I hope this is helpful!

Again, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

Very best regards,


  • Member since
    July, 2013
Posted by modelmaker66 on Wednesday, October 25, 2017 10:54 PM

Thank you STOVK for passing that on. That is very helpful for dioramas. Good to hear from you again! Big Smile


Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.


By signing up you may also receive reader surveys and occasional special offers. We do not sell, rent or trade our email lists. View our Privacy Policy.