How to Make Realistic Diorama Terrain
By Will Kalif
Whether you are making a diorama for wargaming, fantasy scenes, or model railroads having woods, forests, cliffs, and other terrain that really looks good is the most important part of the project. This article shows you the eight steps to take for making great looking terrain.
The most important part of making really good looking terrain is the materials and if you want your diorama to look very real and authentic I recommend you use store bought materials from a company called Woodland Scenics. They have a wide range of products that are inexpensive and very realistic. But, if this is impractical for you and you want to keep the cost of your diorama down you can be creative and make much of your own materials. This takes a little bit of imagination but if you think about it you can come up with some great materials. As an example you can use plain sand as a base in your diorama and you can dye it different colors with water-soluble paints to get different looks from grass to dirt. You can also dye the bristles of a small paintbrush green, then after it dries cut off the bristles and use them as stalks of grass. If you just look around your house and basement you can find lots of ways to make great diorama materials without spending money.
The Eight-Step Process to great diorama terrain
Step 1: Design your diorama on paper first. Sketch out the different areas and put marks where you want the main terrain to be and where the various objects will be. Show any water, rocks, trees or figures. This sketching is important because it will help you as you build the actual diorama.
Step 2: Create a base frame for your diorama. Use strips of cardboard and crumpled newspaper to form a base. This use of materials will give the diorama a three dimensional landscape. Refer to your sketches so you know where the high and low points are.
Step 3: Cover the base with strips of paper towel that have been soaked in papier-mache, Hydrocal, or Plaster of Paris. This forms a beautiful hard shell that you can paint and add items to.
Step 4: Paint the base shell different colors based on your sketches. These colors could range from green where the grass and trees will go, to blue where the water will go. You can be liberal with the color because terrain materials will cover it. The color acts as filler between particles.
Step 5: Add the ground cover materials. Sprinkle on sawdust sized materials in the colors desired. Put green where the grass is and gray or brown where bare ground will be.
Step 6: Add mid level texture and items. At this point you are transforming your diorama from a flat object to something three-dimensional. Sprinkle on thicker terrain materials. These could be small pebbles, or thick brush.
Step 7: Add the taller items such as trees and large bushes.
Step 8 Add the finishing touches like animals, figures, creatures, or buildings.
This eight-step outline is just a guide to help you understand the process of making realistic terrain for a diorama and the important thing to remember is that you work from the bottom up. Each step adds another layer to the scene and each step is a bit taller than the previous step. You don't have to be a professional artist to make professional looking dioramas. With a little practice, some good materials, and by following these steps you can make some really attractive and realistic dioramas.
For complete tutorials on diorama making with pictures and videos: Have Fun Making Dioramas
For other fun, creative and interesting projects including how to make a catapult, a trebuchet, a terrarium and even a video game visit his site at: StormTheCastle.com - Creativity with an Edge