How To Make a Diorama

A diorama is a miniature scenario that recreates an event in the past or tries to paint a fictional event in the past, present or future. These could be displayed anywhere from a glass box, a table top or even a store window. Making a diorama is a very intricate exercise. Everything will be on a decidedly smaller scale, so procurement of materials, and the construction of some of the elements in the display can be quite challenging.

Here is a short guide to creating a diorama.

  1. All dioramas work on a scale or a conversion factor that is used to miniaturize the elements that you want to include on your display. You may either use a ratio between proportions or to be more precise, a ratio between the units of measurement used on your project. For instance, if you will be depicting persons in your diorama, and the scale is 1:20, you will have to divide their heights by 20. Let's say the characters' heights are, on average, 5'6" (or 66 inches), then the characters on the diorama should be 66 divided by 20, or 3.3 inches.
  2. Procure the necessary supplies and materials for your diorama. If you're doing a display for an ocean diorama or a wartime diorama, you may have to go to a toy store. The other parts of the diorama such as the structures and terrain can be finished with supplies bought from a crafts store, hardware shop or art supplies store. Be creative. Most of the items that are commonly used for the object that serves as inspiration for the piece of the art will not be a practical option for the miniature.
  3. Decide on how many walls you want to use on your project. You may use all four sides for walls - and make your diorama only viewable from the top. Most dioramas would use three walls, though. Design and decorate your background accordingly with paint and other art supplies. Keep in mind that the scale and proportion should also apply to the objects that are painted on the background.
  4. Work on your diorama in a well lit room. Plot what you want the diorama to look like on a blank piece of paper. Do a rough sketch of where certain elements of the design should be. This should give you an idea of how much space your diorama really has. Laying out the design and floor plan of the diorama gives you a better picture of how you can incorporate the other parts of the design such as the small action figures and make-shift structures into your design.
  5. Build your diorama starting from the back-closest to the back drop-to the front. It will be harder to stick your hand into the design once the elements out in front are already present.  Make sure that the largest objects are at the back and the smaller items are out in front. Blocking is very important in this art form: each element must have adequate space to be noticed in the design. Use glue, paste or putty to secure the position of the design elements at the base of the diorama.

The best dioramas are those that depict a scene as if it came right out of life itself. Whether it's about prehistoric cavemen, the civil war, or a scene from Star Trek, be sure to wow the viewers of your diorama by creating an excellently-crafted piece worthy of a museum display.


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