Jump to content

Diorama newbie question

Michael Morris

Recommended Posts

I'm new to dioramas.  I've bought some styrofoam to act as a base for my first diorama and some scenic materials for the landscape features.  The only thing I need to sort out before I start on some test pieces is what to use to model the ground itself?

I see some using hydrocal, some plaster of Paris, some plaster and others a mixture of plaster of Paris and sawdust.  What are the best materials for producing a surface to cover styrofoam and produce a durable realistic surface in 1/144 and 1/72 scale?



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Poundworld - a tub of grouting for all of £1

It can be spread with a knife or piece of card. Remains very flexible for a while allowing it to be worked. Thick enough it doesn't run but it will settle smoother as it dries so  you need to keep working it a bit to form shapes such as waves or field furrows


It was used here for both the sea and land (over card and polystyrene shape bases)





This was a base at the early stages. Covered in the grouting and worked



and later



and with grass



and the end scene


  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

@Michael Morris, while I haven't made ground surfaces at the scale you're asking about, I have at 1/35, and think that some of this info might be useful for you and your project.  I'm sorry about the photos, they're old and might not be the best size for this, but here we go!


I start the base with rigid insulating foam - 




After cutting up the general shapes I want, glue it together with wood glue (carpenters).  Yes - this process, cutting, carving, sanding etc makes a BIG mess!  Pink dust and chunks fly!


And then, first trowel on light weight joint compound (it's the white color) to smooth it out a bit, then follow with pumice gel.  You can find the latter at art stores, but, it is expensive - worth it tho.  You'll find various gradients of the pumice gel - from very fine to coarse - you might experiment with it so see what you prefer for your scale.   Also, it dries a bit slowly, so on one hand patience helps, and on the other, you will have time to adjust as you see fit.




The various gaps in the pink foam is fine.  You can barely see the pumice, its the gray colored texture, over the white  colored, lightweight joint compound.  


Then, I sprayed Vallejo IDF Sand primer over all of it:




Sorry it looks like a lunar landing site in this awful pic!  😁  See below:




Above is a better pic - the primer color was a good match for the ground I was trying to copy.  This image is before adding more fine grained ground texture.  This is a dio recreating the Battle of Debecka Pass, in northern Iraq, ca  April, 2003.


Yes - there is a LOT of grass and it was very tedious and slow going to install - like watching the grass grow!!  😁 


And on to adding lots of real sand and pebbles, glued in place with diluted (with water) pva glue, or, you can use a product made by Woodland Scenics, which I believe is pre-diluted PVA.  Model railroaders use the for ballast installation.









Again, like planting my "grass" adding and gluing the rocks in place is slow going.  I tend to install bigger rocks first, with glue, then add layers and layers of finer material - which, would be pretty fine for the scale you're working with.   Again, the pumice gel might help you get an overall texture you like as a base.  Dirt works too - - just regular dirt, glued in with a wash of diluted PVA.  


OK, hope this is of some use!


Happy dio building - 




  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...