Diorama Ocean Effects

Written by kay miranda
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A diorama is a small-scaled replica of a scene or landscape. It is used to depict historical periods and events. Most students will need to make at least one diorama project in their elementary career and more in later grade levels. Creating realistic effects such as ocean waves, storms and tsunamis is fun and will get you a better grade.

The Materials

Most people don't add water elements to dioramas because they simply seem too difficult. Don't let this intimidate you. The most realistic material in creating ocean affects is resin that you can find at any craft or hobby store. Keep in mind that resin is expensive and toxic and is often used for high-end projects with ample ventilation and safety equipment. If you can get away with your ocean effect not being perfectly realistic, you can create ocean effects with safer, less expensive materials such as crepe paper, candle wax or crayons.

The Base

Most dioramas are made on a firm posterboard or within a box for stability. For an ocean effect, a shoebox is a good medium to create the backdrop. This will make your ocean more like an aquarium with a slice of life coming out. If you are using paper as a backdrop instead of a resin or melted wax substance, you will line the inside of the box with the paper and add your subjects over it. If you are using crayons or candles, head the substance up and lay it in systematically. You may even want to use paper as an outline of where the wax layers should be added.

Floating Subjects

There is a rule in diorama making (well, more of a guideline) that says if it isn't supposed to be floating, glue it down. This keeps everything in place and makes the diorama a complete picture. But if you want to add a floating effect, you can use a string from the top of the box to hang fish or other objects in place. This additional movement may help you convey a message within the diorama.


The ocean is filled with many colours. You will want to do your best to match the colour for the location and situation of the ocean effect you are matching. For example, a shoreline ocean would be lighter with more green and perhaps sand layered at the bottom. Deeper ocean colours would use deeper blues. If you are creating a storm diorama, you will want to mix grey into your colours to show the movement. Don't forget white as a tip on wave caps and whitewash to make your diorama more complete.


A diorama is a 3-D project that has layers. If you have a boat in the scene, you will want to create a model boat. That being said, some very elaborate and beautiful dioramas use two-dimensional artwork and raise it layer by layer to create a three-dimension effect. Check with your teacher to see whether this is acceptable for your ocean diorama.

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