A diorama is a fun way to build an exciting scene in a small space. They usually display a historical time period, a nature scene, or a fictional situation. Dioramas allow a lot of room for creativity and innovation. Whether you are making it for a school project, a base for a model, or just for fun, building a diorama is an easy and enjoyable project!
Planning the Diorama
1Choose a concept or theme. Dioramas are small scenes created of layers of materials, all depicting a similar concept or theme. If you’re making a diorama for a school project, your theme may be assigned to you. Otherwise, you can choose to portray a scene from a book, a historical time period, an example of an ecosystem, an animal or plant group, or something else entirely.
- For instance, you could choose to create a diorama that depicts the rainforest or the desert. Alternatively, you could stage a scene from the Civil War or the first lunar landing.
to Make a Diorama2Research the subject. Once you’ve chosen a theme, you’ll need to do research to make your diorama as lifelike as possible. Find out as much as you can about your chosen theme so you can include both large and small details.
- If you’ve chosen an ecosystem, find out what kind of soil or water, plant life, and animal life are found there. For instance, an ocean ecosystem has salt water, coral, seaweed, algae, sharks, rays, turtles, crustaceans, fish, etc.
- For a historical time period, think about available technology, popular fashion and art, how people spent their time, and what buildings looked like.
to Make a Diorama3Make a rough sketch of your ideal diorama. Look for inspiration online, like on Pinterest or YouTube. Sketch out what you want the diorama to look like, including the background and foreground. Think of the composition of the piece, and the layout of all the figures.
- For instance, you could make a scene of a 1950s diner that includes figures dressed in poodle skirts or jeans and a leather jacket, a jukebox, red vinyl stools at a counter, and a black and white checkerboard floor.
4Make a list of the items you’ll need and gather your supplies. Though the items you’ll need depend on the concept or theme, you may want modeling clay, construction paper, glue, scissors, paint and a paintbrush, markers, felt, and fabric scraps. You may also want miniatures, like figures or furniture, found objects, like rocks and twigs, and printed pictures or magazine pages. Browse your local arts and crafts store to find everything you need.
- Make sure that the miniatures will be appropriate to the scale of the rest of the diorama.
- You might need Styrofoam balls of different sizes, paint, hot glue, and fishing line if you’re recreating the solar system.
- For a nature diorama, collect flowers, berries, leaves, and seeds.
5Select a container. Because dioramas have layers of background, they should be made in a box or frame that is several inches deep. The container must have an open-faced front so that viewers can see the scene. A shoe box or shipping box turned on its side works incredibly well for creating a basic diorama. Larger dioramas can be created out of a large wooden crate or frame attached to a box.
- Get creative with the frame for your diorama. For example, a diorama depicting a family scene or people could be done in a refurbished dollhouse.
- Take into account the design of the diorama when selecting the container. For instance, a diorama about the rainforest will need to be tall enough to accommodate the trees and layers of vegetation you’ll be showcasing.
- You can paint the outside of your box for a more finished look. Do this first and let the paint dry before you start work on the inside of the diorama.
Building the Scene
to Make a Diorama1Create your background first. Begin at the back of the container and work your way forward, adding layers of details and images to create depth in your scene. Make the background first against the farthest and inside walls of your box. Consider painting a basic scene or printing an image and gluing it on. You could also create a collage out of magazine cutouts to act as the background for your diorama.
- Coloring on the cardboard with markers will just make everything look dark. Cut out construction paper and glue it on the box for brighter colors.
- For an indoor scene, glue a magazine cutout of a living room to the back of the box to make it look like a house.
- For a solar system diorama, glue dark blue or black construction paper to the box and paint small white or silver stars on it.
to Make a Diorama2Build up the ground or landscape. A realistic diorama should include details on the bottom of the box as well. You can use pictures, paint, or modeling clay to create a realistic ground or floor for the diorama. Leave it flat or add hills or depressions as appropriate.
- For instance, shape a hill with a depression at the bottom from modeling clay. Once it’s dry, fill it with blue nail polish to make a pond or lake.
- Glue sand or gravel to the bottom of the box to simulate the ocean floor if you’re making an underwater scene.
to Make a Diorama3Add details to make the scene realistic. Work from the back of the box toward the front, and place smaller items in front of larger ones. Space your items out from the top of the box to the bottom to make it visually appealing. Lay everything out, but wait to glue it down until you’re sure things are where you want them.
- For instance, make clouds from cotton balls for the walls, then spread small rocks and flowers on the ground for an outdoor scene.
- Place scraps of fabric on the bottom to act as rugs or make a mirror out of aluminum foil for the wall of an indoor scene.
to Make a Diorama4Set up the miniatures, if applicable. Complete your scene with the addition of miniature figurines, furniture, or models. Make sure that these items are to scale with the rest of the scene! Or, print and cut out simple photos of figures or furniture and place them throughout the scene.
- For a nature theme, add small toy animals or bugs to the ground or hang birds or tiny airplanes from the top with fishing line and hot glue.
- For an indoor scene, place a tiny table and chairs in the diorama and add small figurines for the people or characters.
to Make a Diorama5Glue everything down when you’re happy with the arrangement. Take a few moments to inspect the diorama. Make adjustments until you are pleased with the overall look. Try to space out the objects evenly throughout the diorama so the scene is balanced. Now, go ahead and glue everything into place!
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