Diorama Plan More Important
Than Craftsmanship

Next time you get the desire to try your hand at building a diorama, give a little thought as to where it will end up, if you don't know this, don't expect much in the way of quality results.

Much to often, we begin one of these projects without very much in the way of planning and research.

Planning and organization have always been a sore spot in my modeling efforts, you only have to ask my wife.

But this one will be different as we will be using a key piece of furniture in a conspicuous place and I do want to show off my work.

I have been looking for a meaningful modeling display for my "man cave" beyond simply sticking a finished model on a shelf. Instead, I wanted my modeling efforts to tell a story, and not always the same one.

Diorama Stacker

In furnishing our condo, a five- level corner shelf system ended up in my room. Each shelf measured about 18 inches to the inside point with a Concave front edge that's about 170 square inches. Plenty of space for a 1/48 scale (or smaller) scene.

The trick is to keep within the borders (in this case, on the shelf) and not outside, relying on solid air for support. The fun of building dioramas is adding details, subVignettes and pure scenic additions like waterfalls, or broad sweeping beaches.

I am not sure what I will do with the top and bottom shelves (not exactly prime real estate), but the middle shelves are committed. A triangular shape is interesting for a diorama as it gets away from the square look.

Instead of simply making it up as you go, cut out a pattern of the shelf and plan placement of the major objects/vignettes. Remember the main viewing point and try not to hide your light under a bushel.

It makes sense to draw outlines of the primary objects so you have a map of the important features. It will help you keep colors and light sources in mind.

If you are planning to utilize all shelves available, keep their height in mind when picking the scene. On one of the shelves I am working on, I am planning a ship "afloat" with a submarine attacking from under the "waves".

I am utilizing a sheet of rippled ABS plastic for the water surface and want to set the scene at viewer's eye-level to see beneath the surface.

After you have your plan down on paper, consider making a mock-up of the scene with cardboard structures and/ or vehicles and place them in your planned locations. You want to envision the light blocks, both for the viewer and the camera.

Don't lose sight of your primary goal in this project, is it to recreate a historical scene in miniature? Is it for future placement in a model railroad layout? Maybe you are helping a son or daughter illustrate a concept learned in school?

Keep your goal in mind as you build your scene. There will be obstacles and knowing your goal Will help you keep the project on the straight and narrow.

You can always make adjustments like object or figure placement, changing details, or background colors as you go. By keeping your primary goal in mind, the end result won't be a disappointment.

Enter your E-mail Address
Enter your First Name (optional)

Don't worry — your e-mail address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you Scale Modeling Tips & Tools Monthly.