Weathering a Spaceship Interior Using Hairspray & Salt

Our pal g0rb is back with a smashing tutorial on the scratchbuilding and weathering of a space hulk-themed display platform for your miniatures. Chris is an ultra-creative and unorthodox hobbyist who always has something new to show us.


In this article I am going to show you the steps I took in scratchbuilding a weathered spaceship corridor interior. I used this kind of technique for the space ship corridor in my Space Hulk diorama.

Instead of a diorama base, I will be building a display platform. This platform can be used as a photography backdrop or to display finished models on. The steps used in construction and weathering can of course be applied to anything else that needs weathering.

Here is what I ended up with:


A space hulk is a massive millennia-old derelict space ship, drifting silently through the void after being swallowed and regurgitated by warp storms countless times. It is dilapidated and rusting, and infested with all manner of vermin.

As a result, it has a very mass-produced industrial look, with odd pieces of equipment poking out of walls, pipes going everywhere, and most importantly there will be grime and rust, and lots of it.

On the topic of weathering

The specific method I use to weather the piece is called the salt & hairspray method. The salt and the hairspray act as masks, so that a rusty undercoat of paint can show through realistic cracks and tears in the topcoat of paint.

The way this works is that you first lay down a solid basecoat of color. Normally, this will be a super rusty-looking coat. Then you seal this layer with varnish, and once dry add salt and hairspray over top. Next you cover the piece with your topcoat color.

When you now scratch away the salt, this will expose the rusty undercoat in a random and realistic looking way. The topcoat sticks to the salt, and is therefore easy to remove.

The hairspray also acts like a lubricant between the topcoat and the basecoat when wet: when you add water to the topcoat, this reactivates the hairspray, making the topcoat easy to scratch away. The effect this achieves looks different from the salt method, but is just as effective to convey extreme weathering.

Once the appropriate amount of topcoat color has been scratched away, a clear coat of varnish is applied to seal in the remaining hairspray and protect the effects.

I do add my own twist to this method: PVA glue. I mix in some PVA with paint and use it to cover the edges of the topcoat where it meets the salt. This makes the paint form an extra thick “lip”, which, when I remove the salt, makes it look like the paint is peeling away from the rusty material in a very realistic way.

Sourcing scratchbuilding material

I have a couple of sources that I use for material. One is the hardware store, where I can get XPS foam and electrical wiring. Another is the recycling bin at home, where I can find bottles, caps and cardboard. Another source is the greenstrip in our neighborhood, where every now and then someone will throw out an old printer. These things are gold mines for greeblies, gears, circuit boards and rods & springs of all kinds.

The hobby store is of course invaluable. However, it can get expensive, so I avoid it unless absolutely necessary. One of the things that I get from there is so-called granny grating. This is the gridded plastic mesh they sell for needlepoint work; it is the right size to use for metal grating at 28mm scale.

As for weathering, I use anything from old dried coffee grounds to dirt I get in the garden, to sawdust from the garage and fine sand I get at the hardware store.

This build will use the following material:

• a square of XPS foam as a base

• electronic compenent packaging (I got this from work)

• cardboard from a cereal box

• granny grating!

• various gauges of electrical wiring

• various bits ripped out of an old printer

Tools and consumables

The most important tools I use are a decent hobby knife and some pliers.

For consumables a couple of glues is a must-have: super glue, PVA, and a can of spray adhesive. PVA is a very general-purpose glue, useful for most gluing jobs as well as some other effects. However, it is not very good at sticking together plastics, especially the kind used for granny grating. So for this, super glue is a must.

I don’t use hot glue at all, but a lot of scratchbuilders swear by this. Your mileage may vary.

One other glue I use is 5-minute epoxy. This is a very strong glue, but is not very useful for lots of small parts. I mainly use it when I need a lot of structural strength. However, it is also very useful for creating water effects.

To do the weathering I use salt and hairspray. Any kind of salt will do, it doesn’t have to be super expensive. And the same goes for the hairspray: the cheaper and nastier the better.

On to the construction. . .


1. Prepare the Materials

In the previous photo you can see I have the foam board, plastic packaging sheets, bits taken from a printer, and two pieces of plastic support material. I dig through my greebly box, and pull out stuff that I think feels right. I use some of it, and sometimes go back to find some more pieces.

Next I play jigsaw, adding the pieces in a way that I like. I try to have detailed spaces interleaved with blank areas, so that it is not just a riot, but gives the viewer’s eyes places to rest too.

After cutting the foam to the right size, I seal it with a 1:1 mix of PVA & water. I apply a thin coat then let it dry thoroughly. I don’t use modge podge because I like my PVA and water mix as cheap as possible. This step is important since we will be using super glue later, and super glue will melt exposed foam.

2. Start Gluing Stuff Together

Here you can see I glued the two flat packaging pieces to the foam board, then arranged the printer bits on the walls, and various bits of wire to represent piping. I’ve also cut some pieces out of the granny grating for wall decoration.

3. Add More Detail

I decided to level the flooring a bit and add more detail at the same time by cutting small squares out of the granny grating and gluing them to the floor.

Here is a small detail piece I built out of a plastic tab and some thin electrical wire, to represent some kind of junction box.

I stick this to the wall, and start adding squares of cardboard to the empty space to represent panelling. I glue the cardboard squares only in the center, so that I can later twist and cut the edges to represent wear.

You can also see a small circuit board I rescued out of a toy. Circuit boards add wonderful organized chaos to a piece. I also replaced one of the gratings on the floor with a circular greebly I made from washers, just to break the symmetry and add something to the scene.

Here is the finished construction, showing the detail and what it would look like with a model. At this point, I find it useful to try and see shapes of the build, instead of the colors and seams between different parts. These will disappear once we prime the build.

4. Add Some Wear and Tear

In the previous photo you can see I already added some wear by cutting the corners off of a couple of the floor gratings.

I continue in this fashion, adding some wear and tear by pulling, twisting and cutting at the cardboard pieces on the wall. This will add more character to the wall.

5. Slather on the Grime

Next up, I mix some fine sand into a blob of PVA glue, and start slathering it onto the model. I aim for the nooks and crannies, where grime will naturally deposit and accumulate. Next I sprinkle some sawdust & coffee grounds onto the still-wet PVA, then let it dry.

Once this is dry, I liberally cover the model in spray adhesive. This is an optional step, but adds a fair amount of roughness to the smooth surfaces, and also seals in the sawdust and coffee.

6. Prime Time!

I use an automotive black primer to give the whole piece a good couple of coats. Now we can finally see the details, without being distracted by the individual pieces.


Technically I have already started weathering the model in the previous steps by adding the sand and coffee, but now I add color to the mix. In order to do so, I will use salt and hairspray as mentioned above.

7. Base Coat of Rust

I mix up some craft paint into various desaturated browns, plus a little more saturated orange. This mixture is applied over the model, variously using stabbing, stippling motions with a very large hobby brush (tip: don’t use your 000 detail brush for this). This gives me a very nice rusty looking piece of terrain. I use craft paint, because I need a lot of it, and I don’t mind if the paint has to be thick to be visible. It adds more texture!

I work in stages, adding rusty orange, dirty brown and desaturated greens as I go. Craft paint has a much lower pigment concentration than miniature paint, so you can and should go thicker with it, and do a couple of coats.

Once dry, I seal the rust in with clear gloss varnish. For this step I airbrush on some acrylic floor polish.

8. Salt + Hairspray

Using some tapwater, I wet areas on the piece where I expect paint to have flaked off. This will include the edges of panels and areas next to pipes where water will have leaked, for example. Then I liberally sprinkle salt onto the wet areas.

After letting the salt dry, I cover the model in hairspray, then wait for it to fully dry.

9. Thick PVA Paint

Now I start adding paint to the panels. For this, I first cover the areas I want to remain smoother in straight unthinned paint. Then I mix some paint with PVA to provide a thicker mixture, and lightly dab it onto some of the thicker salt areas. This thicker layer of paint will keep its curled over shape once we remove the salt in the next step, which is the effect we are after.

I let this dry fully, then continue.

10. Scratch and Win

Now I come in with a toothpick, an old toothbrush and some water. First I carefully start popping off the dried salt. In areas where there is PVA/paint covering the salt, I take care not to rip the PVA paint too much. If the salt sticks too well, I wet the area and continue on. Lastly I wet the flat areas of paint, and then carefully start scraping away some of the paint on the flat of the panels.

11. Wash, Highlight and Repeat

For the final weathering, I wash the model in various washes. I use black, burnt umber and dark green washes to tint the various parts of the model. Once dry, I drybrush the walls and the floor, then go over again with the washes. I also add more rust colors by alternating with red and orange, splattering the color onto the exposed and decaying metal.

12. Extra Bits

Finally, I seal the entire model again with clear gloss varnish, then a light coat of matte varnish. This fixes in any undissolved hairspray. Now I add some leaky water effects by mixing up a bit of 5-minute clear epoxy resin and letting it flow from a toothpick into the areas I want it to go.

And that’s it!

The platform is done! Here are some glamor shots:

And finally, for the intended use as a backdrop for a model:

I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did. There is almost nothing you can do wrong when weathering a piece like this, which makes it a lot of fun.


  • Chris


Don’t miss all the other great lessons by Chris and others in the ToadChapel Tutorials Library!

4 thoughts on “Weathering a Spaceship Interior Using Hairspray & Salt”

  1. This is a great tutorial from gorb! He is great at making things look absolutely worn down and filthy. Thank you both for your work on this. Now if only he’ll tell us how to scratch build all those ships he excels at, then we’ll be in business 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been thinking about making some characterful little backdrops to built to fit into my photo booth for quite some time. A bit of light pottering around and browsing google image search brought me here.

    That’s an awesome step-by-step tutorial, just wanted to say thank you for the inspiration, I’ll be bookmarking it to look at again later.
    Take care

    Liked by 1 person

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