How to Build a 3D Plant Cell Model

Updated March 17, 2017

Plant cells are made up of microscopic parts that allow a cell to take in water and light and create energy for health and growth. You can represent these parts, known as organelles, in a three-dimensional representation of a plant cell. A model of the plant cell can be placed inside a square box, with the box itself acting as the cell wall with the organelles existing inside.

Paint the outside of a small, heavy cardboard box green; this acts as the cell wall for your plant cell. Poke holes around the box with a pin or skewer to create the plasmodesma of the cell.

Paint the inside of the box with blue paint for the cytoplasm. Dot the inside with black paint for the ribosomes.

Cut in half a styrofoam ball that measures about one-quarter the size of your box. Paint the half of the ball a light purple or orange colour to represent the nucleus. Draw a circle in the centre of the flat side of the ball. Paint the inside of the circle a darker shade of the same colour as the nucleus to create the nucleolus.

Roll a handful of coloured modelling clay between your palms until it forms a long, thin strand. Snake the strand along the outside of the nucleus to create the rough endoplasmic reticulum.

Mold a chunk of modelling clay into a bean-shape that measures the length of the nucleolus of the cell. Etch a squiggly line around the centre of the shape to create the mitochondria of the cell. Mold two more for the cell.

Roll out modelling clay so it becomes a long, pancake shape. Fold the shape several times over on itself so it resembles a stack of pancakes all connected. This creates the Golgi complex.

Mold enough modelling clay into a cylinder that measures just less than the length of the box you are using for the cell and as wide as 1/4th of the box. This cylinder becomes the central vacuole.

Mold several quarter-sized shapes with light green modelling clay. Place several pea-sized dark green pieces of clay in the centre of the clay for the chloroplast.

Roll several pea-sized pieces of modelling clay for vesicles within the cell. Roll quarter-sized dark green clay for plastids.

Glue the nucleus into the bottom left corner of the inside of the box with the flat side facing outwards. Glue the central vacuole on the opposite end of the box.

Secure the rest of the organelles within the box using glue. Spread out different organelles throughout the cell.


When not noted, modelling clay colours can be of your choice as long as you keep each of the organelles a different colour for easier identification.

Things You'll Need

  • Cardboard box
  • Green paint
  • Blue paint
  • Pin
  • Styrofoam ball
  • Knife
  • Purple paint
  • Orange paint
  • Modelling clay, various colours
  • Craft glue
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About the Author

Dan Chruscinski has written pieces for both business and entertainment venues. His work has appeared in "Screen Magazine" as well as websites such as Chruscinski graduated in 2006 with a degree in English literature from Illinois State University.