This tutorial will help you make realistic looking plastic "masonry" for your dollhouse. The main advantage of using plastic sheets is price: you can expect to pay about a tenth the amount you would for real brick. An additional advantage is that you don't have to do as much measuring, or worry about the lines coming out crooked. Plus, if you're building this dollhouse for children, weight (for safety reasons) will be a consideration; plastic sheets are, naturally, much lighter weight.
Start with a plastic sheet from Precision Products. Other plastic sheets are inferior, believe me. I use the regular (not the aged) brick sheets.
Invest in some cheap brushes and some aluminum foil. For this project, the cheaper brushes, with their tougher bristles, work better. This is one of those times where less really is more.
Invest in some craft paint. You want the full spectrum of colors, from light to dark. The colors pictured above are what I use for underpainting. It may not seem worth it to go through all these steps, but trust me, your work will show in the final product.
Squeeze some of your paint out onto the aluminum foil. Very sparingly load your brush with paint, and dry brush the excess onto a paper towel. When it comes to paint, you don't want your brush totally dry, but less is definitely more. The idea is to build up your color in multiple thin layers. This procedure is what will give the final product its look of depth and dimension.
Progressively work through your color palette, going from lightest to darkest. I usually use between 5 and 7 colors on my brick work. Remember, too, it's not meant to be uniform. Variations in tone, color, etc add realism.
Always remember to dry brush.
This is the amount of paint that should be reaching the plastic sheet. Use a light hand, and stroke lightly but quickly, spreading the paint around.
Your first few coats should look something like this.
I'm very slowly building up the color palette.
Real brick has undertones of pink, yellow, even purple.
This is what your sheet should look like, approximately halfway through.
If you're going to add pattern, do it now--before you add the final coats. I painted each individual brick using a charcoal color. Now's the time for those small, expensive brushes. This is really a time consuming step, but so worth it in the end.
This is what your sheet should look like before the final coats.
Here is a comparison between two sheets: one has underpainting only, and one has its final coats. For the final coats, I used a couple of more traditional "brick" colors.
This is a sheet of "new" looking brick, completed.
This is a sheet of "older" looking brick, completed. To get the worn effect, I very, very lightly dry brushed a coat of charcoal gray over the finished product. A light hand is critical, here!
Now, the next step is to apply at least three light coats of spray varnish, waiting about ten minutes between coats. This step is critical, because it will prevent your hard work from being lost. Remember, use light coats! A heavy coat will film over.
Wait 12 hours before cutting and grouting. I like to make sure everything's had time to cure. Dry to the touch and truly, completely dry aren't the same thing.
Your next step is to cut the plastic sheet to the correct size. It's imperative, here, that you use a fresh, new (and very sharp!) blade. A dull blade can turn, and cut you. One downfall of these sheets is, they are somewhat hard to work with, and do splinter. Don't try cutting these sheets in your table saw! Once you've cut your sheet the right size--and before you install it--grout it. You can certainly buy expensive dollhouse grout, but I find that plain old Home Depot grout--provided it's of a fine enough grain--works just fine. Make sure to buy fine grout, rather than sanded grout.
An example of an installed section.
A close-up of the finished product.