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A Simple Diorama

One of the first questions I'm usually asked when people see my dioramas is "where did you get the idea from?" In all honesty, I don't really know how to answer it.

Generally speaking, the idea comes from seeing a model I would like to build and then looking for ways to incorporate it into a scene. Once I have an idea for a diorama story, I go about finding figures and buildings that I feel will go well with the model and help depict the theme I have in mind.

Another source for ideas are history and other books, especially those with lots of pictures as these can stimulate the grey matter and give rise to some great ideas. Of course, work done by other modellers can also be a great source of inspiration.

Planning the diorama

I usually start any project by doing a small sketch. This allows me to better visualize what I am trying to end up with. It also allows me to roughly work out the size of the base I'll need. The sketch only needs to be a rough outline, it need not be a work of art. Its purpose is only to put your thoughts into black and white and create a visual reference for the initial stages of the project's construction. It is very rare that the final diorama will look like the first sketch but at least now you can see if the idea will work [figure 1].

Once you've decided what your diorama will consist of you need to get a better idea of the size the base will need to be. The easiest way to do this is to put the main components on a piece of paper then use a ruler to work out the dimensions.

Once you have the dimensions you need to decide what material the base is going to be made from. For this project I will use medium density fibreboard (mdf) because it is cheap, readily available and easy to work with. I've determined that the best size for this project will be 12" x 12" square.

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 Keith. I am now waiting in anticipation for the plaster mold article!!
AUG 16, 2005 - 08:03 PM
It is very nice to see this article again. This article helped me to form my basic skills for making a diorama once upon a time. Thanks Keith for this great article.
AUG 24, 2005 - 01:00 AM
Hi Keith You say in the article that teh raised ground is made of polystyrene ceiling tiles. However the only polystyrene ceiling tiles I can find are less than a centimetre thick!! Therefore I was wondering if either, do you stack lots on top of each other or do you use insulation blocks. Cheers. Nick
AUG 28, 2005 - 07:55 AM
i generally stack on top of ack other, as they are quite thin, it also easier if you wish to produce a slope as you can cut each individual tile slightly smaller to create the slope and it produces less mess HTH keith forsyth
AUG 28, 2005 - 08:24 AM
Fantastic! Awesome! This is all I can say about it! Cheers and happy modelling! Prato
AUG 28, 2005 - 09:37 AM
Hi Keith, Well written and informative article and an excellent build. Thanks for shaing. Al
AUG 07, 2007 - 07:17 AM
Glad you resurrected this thread Alan and I hope a lot more members check this out it really is a classic.
AUG 07, 2007 - 07:31 AM
The link doesn't work.
AUG 07, 2007 - 07:42 AM
Works for me I just checked it.
AUG 07, 2007 - 07:52 AM
Nice article. Thanks for sharing.
AUG 07, 2007 - 08:19 AM