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fifthconspiracy 01-24-2008 08:59 PM

Creating a Diorama, step-by-step
Hey There!

I decided that before I start taking some pictures, having a schweet backdrop would be mucho helpful. Instead of using an existing playset or some plain "printed" backgrounds, my son and I decided to make a Ranger Station diorama (to be used for all sorts of violent gijoe happenings ;-)

It will consist of a building with bricks & wood. It will have an inside and an outside. We will also have a surrounding area made from gravel, wire fences and possibly some lighting.

So with this thread, we will keep updating our progress for your viewing and fanciful pleasure. Keep in mind that I have never done anything like this (even remotely) before so please feel free to raise any comments or questions.

Let's get started...

Here's the general overview. I cut the building from cardboard, covering all edges with masking tape. It will consist of a door, window (far side) and a blast hole. Firefly checks out the progress.

The bottom half of the building will consist of brick. I looked at a few craft stores for something to use as bricks, but everything I saw either sucked, or was too expensive. So I decided to use balsa wood. $1.89 per 4 foot segment (0.5cm x 1cm). I'll cut the brick to size. Not sure what I'll do about the texture/paint to make them appear like bricks, but bah... whatever - I'll sleep on it.

Here I'm using an xacto razor saw (crazy sharp - zinger!) and a jig setup. I cut each block at 2cm. Looks relatively in scale to a 1:18 cinder block. Woot! This took awhile but was rewarding. Cutting stuff is exciting ;-)

I applied auto rust primer to the whole structure. This was to mainly hide the look of masking tape on cardboard... plus it provides a good solid base color between the bricks in the final product. Used standard tacking glue from a craft shop to apply the bricks. I was stressing over placing the bricks on completely uniformly (distance between, gap etc)... but in the end decided that some ad-hoc uneven blocks add to the character and don't look craptastic.

Painting - I test painted a bunch of bricks. Used acrylic paints... looked too plain - then tried adding some dark hand-painted edging which looked too cartoony. I then tried using a sponge to add a darker color, but the sponges I have didn't add enough finite detail... so I used some stone-textured spray paint. Looks good I think ;-) This is the very first coat, so I'll apply a lighter coat to catch any unhit areas next.

So that's where I'm at after 2 nights of messing around.

Next comes the top half which will be wood slats. I'll be doing a wood transition ledge between the bottom bricks and the top wood slats. And I plan on making a full doorframe and windowframe etc.

Anywho, comments welcome. Have at her!

Cheers! ~ Paul.

Sonneilon 01-24-2008 09:03 PM

HEY! Thanks for doing that because I wasn't about to go into a how-to-make-bricks step along. However, unlike cutting 'em up, I'd buy 'em from my store or hobby store. I believe the equivalent would be roof tiles for doll houses. ;)

fifthconspiracy 01-24-2008 09:08 PM

Originally Posted by Sonneilon
HEY! Thanks for doing that because I wasn't about to go into a how-to-make-bricks step along. However, unlike cutting 'em up, I'd buy 'em from my store or hobby store. I believe the equivalent would be roof tiles for doll houses. ;)

Just applied a heavy second coat to the bricks with the stone-texture spray paint, and wow it looks fantastic.

I went with Balsa wood mainly because it's crazy easy to cut to fit. When I was applying the bricks to the main cardboard structure, I was custom cutting pieces often ;-)

I'll post some pics once the paint application is dry.

Cheers! ~ Paul.

vader9900 01-24-2008 09:55 PM

Man thats gonna look hot!

General Scarlett 01-25-2008 06:32 AM

Most Excellant 'How-To'!!!!!!!!!

Prince Adam 01-25-2008 10:08 AM

This is really cool! I might have to try this for brick work. I'm looking to delve a bit further into the worlld of set building. Awesome stuff, man!!!

Flatline 01-25-2008 05:18 PM

i Too Will Be Trying This Out. If For Nothing A Wall Or Two Nice Job And Thanks.

Da Talent 01-25-2008 05:33 PM

This is a great thread, well done paul. I'll be giving this a shot as well. Yay! no more cutting popcicle sticks!

fifthconspiracy 01-25-2008 10:08 PM

Update from the back section!
My son and I put in a few hours today working on this project.

It's looking good. Here's a tasty update!

Picked up the staple craft supply "Popsicle Sticks" - then cut the round ends off them to make them look like proper planks/boards. Then my son and I painted them up with acrylic green "olive" paint. Just a light coat - wanted the grain of the wood to show through. Dried quite nice, each board has character.

Stuck all the pieces on, cutting them to fit the structure where necessary. You'll notice that we used smaller sticks as a transistion between the bricks and the wood planks. We also used these smaller sticks for the door frame and window frame. Painted them up just everyday brown prior to cutting and glue. We completed all sides, here's a shot...

Here's a close-up of Snake Eyes against the wall. I'm finding the brick texture a little too-much but we'll see if it works out in the end ;-) The wood wall looks good, with the color and wood grain. Zinger.

Here's a shot of the hole blown through the structure. I positioned the bricks a little out and inward. I snapped the planks after painting. I'll leave the scortch marks until the end. Woot!

Here's the window on the other side. I still have to touch-up the brown wood trim everywhere to hide some imperfections. Should make a nice machine gunners nest.

So, all-in-all this project is moving ahead fine. So far I have 5.5 hours into this little project. Having never done anything like this before, my guesses and hunches are paying off in the end.

The building is turning out to be more of a "shack"... but I guess that's the appeal.

The only thing I'd do different is find a better way to texturize and color the bricks, using the stone-texture spray paint is easy and quick and looks ok, but it covers too much of the brick gap and the texture is out of character with the figures. But maybe that's just me - you decide.

Anyone have any suggestions on a roof type?

Until next time,

Cheers! ~ Paul.

Sephron13 01-26-2008 12:09 AM


I can't wait to try this! Thanks a lot fifth! I'd love to see you tackle a 2-story...I know you guys have it in ya! Your current project is coming along beautifully. I can't wait to see some rubble and scorching around that blown-up entrance. Such an awesome creation! Kudos!

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