A small compendium of street and sidewalk building techniques.
About this creation
The easiest means to model streets is obviously street baseplates as seen in the photo directly above, but brick-built streets allow for more realistic markings as well as the opportunity to place details into the surfaces. Brick-built streets often take one of three forms. The first is simply placing grey or black bricks on a baseplate with white or yellow bricks to depict street markings. This gives an appearance of "classic" brick-like streets, albeit bumpy from the studs. The pictures below use an admixture of the other two methods, one using tiles to create a smooth surface, and the other placing bricks on their sides (SNOT).
The advantages of using tiles are quick and easier building, and the ability to place detail just below the level of the streets such as sewer grates, trolley tracks, and potholes. Its disadvantages are the difficulty in obtaining large amounts of tile and the visible grooves between tiles. The advantages of using bricks are more realistic markings, tempered by the more complicated building techniques required.
Although streets can be built in any shade from light grey (for concrete) to black (for newly laid asphalt), the streets below were built in "old" dark grey, which gives a look more akin to worn, sun-faded asphalt. "New" dark gray depending on one's preference and local asphalt can look too "metallic" in color.
Sidewalks can be built in white or light grey, but white often appears too stark and bright. Sidewalks are often built either with tile or with plates. Sidewalks built with 2 x 2 square tiles look very realistic, particularly given the grooves along the edges, however studded sidewalks (built with plates) are easier to attach mini-figs and other details to. The height of the sidewalk can also vary. For example, sidewalks built out of bricks are easy to build, but at 3 plates tall are too high to appear realistic. A more reasonably scaled approach is a 1 plate high sidewalk, which is not too resource intensive, but does not allow for "curb cuts" and sewer grates to be modeled. The compromise seen in the photographs below is a 2 plate high sidewalk with the slopes (3 plates high) making up the curb cuts sunk 1 plate below the level of the street (it's not too obvious.).
This picture shows a street with "SNOT" on the left used to build the double center line, and "tile" on the right to allow for tracks to be built into the street. Looking more closely at the photograph, one can see the "SNOT" left side of the street has a smoother appearance than the "tiled" right side of the street where the grooves between tiles are readily apparent. The edge of the sidewalk is built using yellow plates for additional detail.
Cross-walk built with the SNOT technique. Also note the light grey slopes used to create "curb cuts" where the sidewalk meets the crosswalk.
Cross-walk again, and here one of the dark grey slopes used to create the slant of the zebra-pattern is seen.
This "Only" street marking took 4 weeks to design. The head of the arrow was created with slopes, the curved portion with arches, and the "Only" portion with standard SNOT. The SNOT lettering is elongated just like the real markings.
A specially marked parking space created with SNOT. Still can't figure out how to complete the circle for the wheelchair wheel. The poorly visible parking meter is blue to match the prototype.
This pothole was built using the "tile" technique. It features bricks and an old streetcar rail in the pothole to give the impression that the asphalt has worn away revealing an older street underneath. Also visible is a sewer grate complete with trash and weeds; note how the 2 plate high sidewalk allows for an opening to created in the sidewalk, whereas a 1 plate high sidewalk would not.
Although this provides another view of the "Only" marking, the manhole cover on the right side of the street was built by framing a 2 x 2 round decorated tile in a pair of arches using the SNOT technique. Manhole covers can be created via the "tile" technique by leaving a 2 x 2 opening in the tiling for the cover, but there will be gaps around the cover.