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How to Make a Diorama

The Making of the 300 Spartans Battle of Thermopylae Diorama- Part 5 Applying the Plaster Shell

This diorama is starting to come into shape and look like an actual piece of terrain. Now that the frame is completed we can build the actual shell that will be the land and surface of the whole thing. There are three different materials you can use to make the diorama terrain and I will explain a bit about each. The first picture you see here is of the terrain shell completed. This is the final product in this stage of the diorama making process.

 

This diorama is starting to come into shape and look like an actual piece of terrain. Now that the frame is completed we can build the actual shell that will be the land and surface of the whole thing. There are three different materials you can use to make the diorama terrain and I will explain a bit about each. The first picture you see here is of the terrain shell completed. This is the final product in this stage of the diorama making process.

 

The 300 diorama shell completed

Here is the completed shell. The object lying on the surface is a pen. This gives you an idea of the scale of the diorama. (It's two feet by three feet)

 

The Technique for casting the Diorama Shell

laying strips on the diorama

The basic premise for making this shell is to place strips and pieces of material right on the frame you built. The strips are soaked in some kind of a material like plaster. It really is as simple as that. Soak a strip of paper towel in plaster then lay it on the diorama. Overlap the strips so about half the strip covers the strip under it. Continue this process until the whole diorama is covered. It will make a nice hard shell that is ready for painting and landscaping. If you are using plaster of paris or Hydrocal you cut yourself lots of strips of paper towels In a variety of widths and use them.

Soak The Strips

You simply soak the strips of paper towel in plaster then appy them to the diorama.

 

The Three different materials for casting the diorama terrain shell

The basic premise for making this shell is to place strips and pieces of material right on the frame you built. The strips are soaked in some kind of material that will harden and there are three materials that I commonly use for this process. Let's take a look at the materials.

The first material is Plaster Cloth

Plaster Cloth This is the best option if you want strength, ease of use and speed. The cloth is already embedded with plaster so all you do is soak it in water for a minute then apply it right to your diorama. One bag (shown here) will do 10 square feet of diorama which is plenty to do the whole diorama in this project. This is also very fast because there is no mixing or fuss with plaster. If you want the easiest way to go then get some of this product

The second material is Lightweight Hydrocal

Lightweight Hydrocal

Lightweight Hydrocal

This is my preferred method because it makes the absolute best terrain and is very easy to work with. Can be carved, painted, sculpted and just worked with. It also has the smoothest look when dried To use this material you mix hydrocal with water in a container then you soak strips of paper towel in it and appy the strips to your diorama. The downfall of Hydrocal is that it dries very fast so you can only mix a small amount at a time before you have to clean up and make another batch. To do a diorama of the size I am doing here takes about 8-10 small batches of hydrocal. This single carton has more than enough in it.

PLASTER OF PARIS 5 LB.

Plaster of paris is very similiar to hydrocal but with a couple of differences. It is less expensive which is a plus and it dries a tad bit slower which gives you more time to work with it. But it is caustic and you need to take reasonable precautions not to get it on your skin. Wear long sleeves and gloves and follow all safety instructions Otherwise it is fine and gives a nice shell on your terrain. You do it the same way as hydrocal: Mix it with water then soak paper towel strips in it and appy to diorama.

Okay, we can now move on to the next tutorial in this series where I will show you how to paint and texture the terrain. I also have a video below that shows the plastering process.

Let's Make the 300 Diorama (Part 6: Painting and texturing the Terrain)

 

This whole process is explained right here in my video

 

300 Series 1 King Leonidas Action Figure