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Diorama Base from a Picture Frame

There are a lot of choices for the kind of bases you can use when constructing a diorama, a lot will depend upon the size of the project and of course the space you have available to store them once done.
Another consideration is the cost, which can range from cheap to expensive; the use of picture frames comes in the first category.
There are a few good reasons to use picture frames other than cost, they are a good selection of sizes and designs and you can pick them up from anywhere.

What to do
First pick a picture frame to suit the size of the diorama you are building.

Remove all the packaging, glass and rear of the frame, this will leave you the basic frame.

Next using the backing paper from inside the frame cut a piece of plywood the same size as the backing paper. (Again ask help from an adult if you don’t have the use of power tools). Some people will use the glass but I feel this is unsafe and fragile when loaded with the groundwork so I replace it.

Turn the picture frame over and run PVA glue around the edge where the glass would have gone.

Insert the plywood piece into the frame, because you have used the backing paper as a template it should be a perfect fit.

Next bend the tabs over to help secure the plywood to the frame.

Once the glue has had time to set the base is ready to use

So there you have another method of constructing a simple base, cost effective and simple.

Happy modelling
Keith Forsyth
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About the Author

About Keith Forsyth (docdios)

Keith Forsyth (docdios) comes from the small town of Stafford in the United Kingdom. He began his interest in modeling at an early age with armor being the main focus. It was not until finding himself between jobs in 1995 that he really got hooked. It was during a shopping visit to another town when...


Thanks for the feature - a well known, now well documented tip.
JUL 30, 2005 - 12:01 AM
Very nice...... Not having access to a table saw to cut the plywood, I have found that foamboard ( I get that at the art store, or a craft shop) works just as well. I use the glass itself to guide the knife for the cutting. Always get the right size, snug fit, and glued and clipped in place, never had a problem.
JUL 30, 2005 - 12:50 AM
I have never bought an actual diorama base from a store. I've always used whatever I could modify: picture frames, hat racks, even slabs of slate. So why does anyone buy these expensive bases when there are such cheap alternatives. I'd rather spend the difference on another kit. :-)
JUL 30, 2005 - 01:13 AM
Hi guys I'm sorry if this is a stupid qustion, but why can't the glass be used. The dio itself is not heavy enough to break the glass. I normally use wood scraps that are cut to size then finished, but picture frames would be cheaper and easier.
JUL 30, 2005 - 10:39 AM
A really cheap source of picture frames is your local charity shop. They usualy have boxes full of c##p paintings, for as little as £ 0.50.....Buy a job lot and they'll usually drop the prize a bit. But if it's for a good cause, why haggle? Whilst you're there, the figure painters and braille scalers amongst us might want to check out the horrid little statues... they are dead cheap, and are mounted on nice little bits of turned wood.... Like so Look on peoples face when you buy one of these 'heirloom figureens' and snap it of the base is priceless.. Cheers Henk
JUL 30, 2005 - 10:53 AM
Doc Dios was the first modelling site I found, when I got into the hobby, and has influenced me quite a bit. I still use photoframes for nearly all my bases. I use the glass though and never had any problems. If I dropped a whole base, breaking the glass would be the last of my worries. Hopefully keith might put forward more of his articles, as so many new modellers, would benifit of a "one-stop" build a dio, instruction.
JUL 30, 2005 - 02:06 PM
HI Guys Thanks for all the support, one of the main reasons for releasing a lot of these articles has been the fact that i still get enquires from various modellers regarding my old web site. I hope there are still new modelers who find them intresting and useful. The whole principle behind Doc Dios was to show how easy modelling can be by showing everything step by step using pictures. In this day and age where everything is produced by one company or another, it is always nice to be able to do it differently. The reason behind not using the glass is a safety one, with the age gap in modelling being quite large young to old, i felt that it would not have been a good idea to advercate the use of the glass in case sombody got injured also i find everything bonds better to the rough surface of wood than the smooth glass. i will contiue to submit more of my older articles over the next few weeks, if people are intrested cheers keith forsyth
JUL 30, 2005 - 05:55 PM
Hopefully you will Keith, as there is an interest. If you look through the questions in the dio forum, you´ll see how many basic questions there are about basic base building. Those two "step by step" dios were a treasure trove of useful tips with clear and precise images to follow.
JUL 31, 2005 - 01:10 AM
Nice article. Very simple yet very useful
JUL 31, 2005 - 02:16 AM
A great tip.Any ideas on camnets that are deployed
OCT 16, 2005 - 08:37 AM