How to Make Diorama Groundwork

Written by suzie faloon
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A diorama is an artistic piece that is made to reflect history, fiction or a fantasy world setting. The groundwork can bring your diorama to a higher level of quality when a realistic scene is created. Model railroading or crafting supplies and natural materials are blended together to artistically form a miniature scene with landscaping or ground work. Ground work can consist of some of the elements of the terrain in the form of hills, bodies of water, grass, rocks and ground cover.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Unfinished wooden base, flat rock, plywood, slate or tile
  • Stones
  • Sand
  • Celluclay
  • Craft foam
  • Twigs
  • Lichen
  • Trees from railroad craft supplies
  • Dried flower stalks
  • Tweezers
  • White craft glue

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  1. 1

    Sketch the idea you have on a piece of paper. Refer to your sketch throughout the project to help you maintain perspective.

  2. 2

    Set the base piece on your work surface. The base should be the appropriate size for the scene. If you are using a model vehicle or building, test it by placing the item on it. If the base is too large, choose something smaller.

  3. 3

    Form the ground terrain with pieces of foam or the paper mache product Celluclay, working from the back of the base to the front. Sculpt with a plastic spoon, craft stick or knife and your fingers.

  4. 4

    Add sand and small rocks to the surface of the base and terrain compounds using tweezers. When using Celluclay, dab sand on it before the product dries, pressing it into the surface with the back of a spoon or your fingers. Brush a thin wash of craft glue on the foam or the base itself with a sponge brush and sprinkle sand or stones onto it.

  5. 5

    Paint areas of the Celluclay or foam that may show through the natural materials you are using. You can use slow drying, rich oil paint or the faster drying acrylics. Use a mixture of colours to create texture, shadows and highlights.

  6. 6

    Position small pieces of twigs and bark to represent fallen trees. Use small stones to make stone walls or to represent a rock at the side of a tree or road.

  7. 7

    Push trees into the terrain and add lichen for greenery on the ground. Tiny dried flower stalks, such as German statice, glued on lichen can be used for bushes in your diorama landscape. Break off any flowers before use.

  8. 8

    Place the model or buildings on to the base. Look over the diorama groundwork to see if more materials are needed to complete the scene.

Tips and warnings

  • An ocean or water scene painted in acrylics or oil can be sculpted on a plywood base using slower drying materials including polymer clay.
  • Keep size in perspective when making creating the groundwork for a diorama.

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