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Making A Diorama With Styrofoam


Here are some pictures and tips from a fantastic diorama maker (Lorena S.) She gives us some great tips and trick on how she hand carves her own dioramas. Below are lots of pictures showing her work. She uses a wide variety of materials including styrofoam, balsa wood, cork, polymer clay, and plaster. Below I have some resources for you if you want to make your own styrofoam dioramas.


StyrofoamIf you are looking for styrofoam tools and materials I have a page with all types and sizes of foam and the various cutting, heat cutting and gluing tools Styrofoam for dioramas I also have a page with lots of tools and supplies for making dioramas out of styrofoam. I also have a tutorial on how to use cork in your diorama to make realistic looking rocks and rubble




Here is what she has to say about how she makes her dioramas:

1. Most of the construction is made from Styrofoam (expanded polystyrene- the harder the better) which I glue together (I use wood glue), carve to desired shape and cover with premixed gypsum based compound like plaster.

2. Before applying plaster onto Styrofoam it's good to set the foam with bit of a hot air from heat gun. That stops Styrofoam from crumbling (it needs some practise but heat gun is very useful tool when working with polystyrene). To get realistic look for walls for example, the texture is very important. I personally like the rustic look, worn out, damaged walls with lot of character. Plaster can be textured while wet or sanded smooth when dry.

3. After it dries I use dry brush technique to paint. Are you familiar with dry brushing? It gives wonderful results.

4. For ground I try to use natural materials as much as possible as that gives dioramas more realistic look. Sometimes it's good to mix some river sand with plaster or small gravel before it dries, then let it dry and paint on top of it. On the first photo (2006-1) you can see different stages of my "Nativity" project. The ground and steps are still just bare Styrofoam, the arch is covered with plaster and the cave is dry brushed and finished. Photo 2006-2 is detail from the top of the cave with some grass and moss.

5. Greenery is from model railway hobby shops even thou most of their products are too small for my scale. I also use a lot of balsa wood (gate photo) as it's soft and easy to carve.

6. Cork in it's original shape is very good for building mountains or rocky terrains, all you need is some moss and it looks very natural. I found that one of the most difficult elements to make is water. On the photo "chicken detail" I have used two part epoxy resin. One of my future projects is an old fisherman in the boat with some sort of water so I will have to do some more research on that subject.

7. I have made "old lady feeding chickens" from Polymer clay. She was my first sculpture and I wish I had more time to try to make something else.


Styrofoam structure

Detail work

Miniature details

The Gate

Wooden details and miniature ladder

The figure

Stucco over foam