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Tutorial #4 - Clay Roof Tiles

Updated: Feb 16, 2020

Written by Sarah-Anne

What could be more iconic of a Mediterranean villa or a Japanese castle than the clay tiles that cover their roofs? With the most basic of crafting supplies, create roofs as impressive as the buildings that inspired them!

Materials Required:

  • Foamcore sheets (with paper backing removed)/cardboard (for the roof support)

  • PVA glue/Mod Podge

  • Corrugated cardboard (use scrap or recycle some old boxes!)

  • Acrylic paint

  • base colour (in this example, red oxide/red clay colour)

  • highlight colour (cream/light tan)

  • Matte or satin sealant

  • PVA glue (optional, for adding leaf scatter)

  • Assorted flocking (optional, for adding leaf scatter)

Tools Required:

  • Hobby knife

  • Push pins (for holding materials together until glue dries)

  • Pen or pencil

  • Ruler

  • Flat-head paintbrushes

Cut your foamcore to the desired shape of your roof. If the roof will have a 90-degree pitch then it is easier to overlap one side, making sure you account for the slight difference required in length. If the roof pitch is any other angle, then you are better off to cut the two sides to the same length and then bevel the top edges until your desired angle is achieved. Additional roof supports may be required, simply cut a couple triangles with the same angle and attached them under as trusses. To ensure a strong and even bond, use sewing push pins to hold the pieces of foam together until the glue has sufficiently dried. While hot glue will make this bond almost instantaneously, it will create a slight gab between your pieces that may cause issues later one. In this case it is often worth the wait.

While your glue is drying, begin to make the tiles themselves. With your cardboard, measure and cut strips (AGAINST the corrugation) to the length of your roof. If the roof will not be touching any other part of the structure, cut the pieces slightly longer than your roof support structure (about ½ cm on either side). The actual width of the strips is entirely up to you and the effect you are going for, but a good guideline is about 1cm- ½ in wide. You’ll want enough to cover each side of the roof allowing for a slight overlap of each piece. It’s always better to make a few more than you think you’ll need.

Once your strips have been cut, carefully peel off the paper backing on one side. Try not to damage the individual ridges; it’s alright if you have a little paper left on them (as long as it doesn’t go from one ridge to another) as once the glue is added any left on will be sealed down against the ridges.

When the roof structure has sufficiently dried you can begin to add the individual tiles; a best practise is to leave the pins in the foam for the first few rows for extra support. Using your PVA glue or Mod Podge (in this example Mod Podge mixed with black paint was used) add the first row of tile. Additional pins may be necessary to ensure the cardboard remains flat against the foam as the glue dries.

Continue with each row of tiles, making sure to keep the ridges aligned until both sides are covered. To cover the peak, cut another length of cardboard, this time following the corrugation so you have one long ridge the length of the roof. Carefully remove both sides of the paper backing and glue along the top to cover the top row ends completely.

When you are confident the glue/Mod Podge has dried completely, remove any remaining pins and give the entire roof an even later of PVA glue/Mod Podge. Pay special attention to any areas that did not have the paper backing completely removed and press down into the ridges. Let dry fully before moving on to the painting.

With your base colour apply the first layer, diluting with water if necessary to achieve even coverage. When completely dry, add a little of your highlight colour, and with a clean, dry brush, apply a layer using the drybrushing technique. At this point you only want to hit the raised edges leaving the recesses of the ridges the base colour.

Continue blending the highlight colour into the base colour for several more layers; each time using a little more of the highlight colour and less of the base colour. With each layer of drybrushing apply less paint to the roof, and work your way to only applying it to the very edges of each ridge.

When you are happy with your highlights, apply one final layer of drybrusing, this time with ONLY the highlight colour. Remove as much of the paint from the brush as possible, and only focus on the very edges of the sides and top of the roof.

At this point your roof tiles are complete and you could go ahead and attach it to your structure! However, if you would like to add even more realism, or age and weathering, add some flocking or leaf debris. Think about where on the roof they would most likely collect, such as against the bottom of each layer of tiles. Apply a thin layer of PVA glue and sprinkle over your desired flocking, building up the density in different places for added realism. For the colour scheme itself look to real-world examples for inspiration. While the most commonly thought-of examples are the red oxide clay tiles, many other tiles can be made with grey or black clay – or make up your own colour scheme entirely!

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