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How to Make a Diorama - Part 4

The Making of the 300 Spartans Battle of Thermopylae Diorama- Part 4 Building the Terrain Shell


Now that the base is completed its time to start filling in the shape of the terrarin. To do this I use lots of strips of cardboard and plenty of newspaper. When doing this part of a diorama it is important to follow the same rule ofdoing a little, looking at it then making adjustments as you go. Just as you did this in two dimensions with paper now you do it in three dimensions with cardboard. And don't be afraid to change things from what you originally planned. The whole thing is a work in process and you will make improvements and changes as you go and as you see it materialize.


Laying in the first strips of cardboard

You can see here that I have laid in a few strips of cardboard pointing straight up. The first thing I am looking at is heights. How high will the cliffs be? How far down will the water be from the battleground. I set in these test strips and tried different heights until I was satisfied with the size and scale of every thing.


More Strips of Cardboard

Once I am satisfied with the overall height and scale of things I start laying in more strips of cardboard to build up a frame. This illustration shows some of the tools that really work well with cardboard. They include a paper stapler (black), masking tape, and a heavy duty stapler (silver). Make the frame of cardboard nice and strong and try to configure it so it has a nice terrain look - which will depend on the type of terrain you are trying to make.


Frame Is complete

The cardboard frame is complete and everything is pretty much the way I want it. The Hot Gate, where the spartans will stand, is on the left and the battleground is the large flat area. At the low end of the diorama nearest us is where the water will be. I have a larger version of this picture here if you want to take a closer look.



At this point in the framing it is usually a good idea to run any wires that you intend to run. In this diorama I have mounted a speaker in one of the walls of the hot gates and I have run wires for a variety of different lights to illuminate different areas. I am thinking I want some dull blue light to give a really nice night scene. But I may change that at some point. The important thing is that I have the wires run in now before I start applying the shell to the diorama. It is kind of like wiring a house when it is just a frame. It is so much easier. If you wait until the house is complete it is very difficult to run wires.


Stuff with Newspaper

Now stuff the frame with lots of balled up newspaper. Stuff it in pretty tight so it lends strength to the cardboard structure. And it is quite alright if the newspaper adds terrain like bumps to the diorama. You will by laying the terrain right over this and the bumpy texture will make it more realistic.


Let's Make the 300 Diorama (Part 5: Applying the Plaster Shell)

Here it is on video - I have an explanation, in video, of this whole first part of the process. I explain all of the things we covered so far about research, designing the diorama, making the base and creating the cardboard frame.


The History Channel Presents Last Stand of the 300 - The Legendary Battle at Thermopylae