Basic information about various hobby and craft topics.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
Most of us at one time or another have studied realistic dioramas, relief maps, or other
scene representations in museums, nature centers, zoos, and other public exhibits.
Scenery making techniques are also used in many hobbies enjoyed by countless millions of
people. Model railroading, model building, dollhouse building, and school projects are
just a few of the activities which can be enhanced with terrain modeling. This series
of articles will teach you how to make a diorama
A diorama is a scene reproduced in miniature used to tell a story or create an
impression, and many people enjoy building small scenes for display. A diorama can represent
a historical, scientific, fantasy, or just about any scene the hobbyist desires.
Dioramas are used extensively by museum and other institutions to interpret concepts to
their patrons. Nature scenes, geologic representations and many other concepts are
communicated to visitors by the use of dioramas.
Model railroading also uses scenery to make the railroad appear more realistic.
Mountains, lakes, roads, cities, and forests can all be modeled in a railroad layout.
Think of a railroad as a series of dioramas.
Model builders can also use scenery to enhance the display of their models. A model car
can be displayed in a driveway, garage, or racetrack setting. Military models can be
displayed in a battle scene. A scene can be created for any model you can build.
Doll houses can also have their display improved by the use of scenery techniques. Lawn
and patio additions can be made to dramatically increase the charm and realism of a doll
Many school projects can be improved by simple scenery building techniques. Working
volcanoes, history and social studies models, science projects can all benefit from
scenery building materials.
Slot car race tracks can also be enriched with scenery. You can build a model
representation of your favorite racetrack, be it Indy, Daytona, or Talladega.
Scenery building materials and techniques have been refined over the years and easy to
use products have been developed to greatly simplify the process from the old chicken
wire and paper mache days. The new materials are faster, cleaner, easier, and produce
a much better end result than the old methods.
Making a diorama is simple and the materials are easily procured. Styrofoam, duct
tape, newspaper, hydrocal, plaster cloth, ground foam, and lichen moss are the basic
ingredients. Acrylic paints and rock molds can also be used.
Styrofoam or plywood can be used as a base for the scene. Newspaper is wadded up and
used for hills. Duct or masking tape secure the newspaper to the base and help form the
terrain. Plaster cloth is stretched and formed over the newspaper/foam base.
Hydrocal - a specially formulated plaster made for modeling - can be poured into rock
molds. When dry, the rocks are glued to the hills to form realistic strata and boulders.
You can make your own molds using liquid latex rubber, or use ready made molds.
Acrylic paints are used to color the rock and dirt. Ground foam in different colors and
textures simulate grassy areas. Ready made trees or tree kits can make up forests in
the scene. Add buildings, models, and figures and Voile! You have created a
Scenery kits are also available. These contain everything needed for the scene. The
Scenery Kit by Woodland Scenics is the perfect 'how to' kit. It's designed to help the
beginner get started, or assist experts refine their skills.
A diorama can be any size. A mini scene for display on a shelf can be no more than
four inches in diameter and covered by an acrylic dome. A larger scene can be
constructed on a table. Most dioramas are twelve inches by eighteen inches or so.
Size depends on the hobbyists taste, space available, and subject matter of the diorama.
The diorama can model anything the hobbyist desires. It can utilize military models for
a battle scene. Animal figures could be displayed in a realistic setting. A treasured
scene from childhood could be constructed to preserve a cherished memory. Car models
could be shown on a racetrack or pit area.
A model railroad could be thought of as a series of dioramas. The train rolls through
a series of scenes ranging from city streets, industrial areas, and farmland.
Enchanting scenes can be constructed utilizing
model castles and fantasy figures.
A slot car track could be constructed utilizing the Brickyard at Indy as a
For model railroading supplies visit our
model train website located at
Toy Train Central