Easy Ways to Make Dioramas or Models for School or Group Projects

Build your own roomboxes, backdrops and miniatures

Father and son working on dinosaur project
Jamie Grill / Getty Images

Dioramas and models can be a fun way to meet course requirements or display a concept for a class project. This list of miniatures and displays can help you create a range of inexpensive parts to fill out your diorama or model scene. 

  • 01 of 12

    Easy Roombox or Display Box From Book or Illustration Board

    The exterior of a book board box is covered with paper for strength.
    Lesley Shepherd

    Instead of using a shoebox for your model display, build a custom sized display box or roombox from bookboard (Davey board), an inexpensive form of cardboard available from art supply stores. A custom built roombox is easy to make and lets you show your skills while you create a custom sized showcase for your model.

    If you need to use ​roombox building components (windows or doors) decide on the scale you will be working in, based on the main pieces you need for your model. Common scales for school and club projects include:

    • 1:12 Scale - Common dollhouse figures and accessories are available, as well as common building parts, windows, and doors.
    • 1:24 Scale - Smaller dollhouse figures and building parts are available, or you can use a range of items from toymakers Playmobil or Schleich, or "G" scale railroad items.
    • 1:48 Scale - Smaller scale dollhouse buildings and parts, "0" scale train buildings and scenery, as well as 28mm gaming figures, can be used.
  • 02 of 12

    Breakaway Box With Hinged Sides

    Open breakaway box for a scale display showing two hinged drop down sides.
    Lesley Shepherd

    If your display or model project needs to be stored between displays, a breakaway box with hinged sides that fold up to fit under the lid is often a good way to display model scenes. This breakaway box is built from Davey board or Illustration board like the roombox but has fold down sides which can be used for extra display space. You can use leftover wrapping paper or simple brown paper bags or newspaper to cover your box.

  • 03 of 12

    Simple Backdrop Support for a Miniature or Model Scene

    A flat wall made from foamcore against a backdrop support makes a set for photographing miniatures
    Lesley Shepherd

    This basic backdrop support was designed for use in photographing miniatures. You can use it to photograph model scenes, or as a backdrop for indoor or outdoor scenes and dioramas. Made from inexpensive foam core board, it is easy to build in the size you need for your display.

  • 04 of 12

    Poseable Miniature Dolls and Figures

    A doll house doll showing the wire armature wrapped with batting.
    Lesley Shepherd

    If you need a particular figure for your scene, there are several easy ways to model people or just make heads and hands you can attach to pipe cleaners before you add clothes. You can model figures in several scales from polymer clay, air dry clay, or two-part epoxy putty to add to your diorama. If you need to make a particular person, Shakespeare or Lincoln, for example, make sure you have a photograph to look at while you work.

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  • 05 of 12

    Custom Miniature Doors

    Simple dolls house door with window and panel trim.
    Lesley Shepherd

    You can make miniature doors which you can use for opening, or fixed doors in a dollhouse, or other scale model scenes. If you are working in smaller scales, you can make the doors out of lightweight card or illustration board.

    You can also modify the design to make paneled doors with simple beveled panels or make french doors with muntins, or full glass panels.

  • 06 of 12

    Fixed or Opening Windows

    Opening casement window for a dolls house
    Lesley Shepherd

    Miniature windows are constructed very similar to doors, and the pin hinging system for windows also works well for doors. You can make fixed or opening windows which can be made with regular strip craftwood, lightweight card, and thin plastic. By adjusting your technique, you can make the windows in many sizes and scales. You can make modern windows or add tiny wooden muntin strips to mimic older windows.

  • 07 of 12

    Simple Water Features With Easy to Find Materials

    Scale 'fish food' on the water surface makes this simple dollhouse pond extremely realistic.
    Lesley Shepherd

    You can make realistic ponds and water features for model displays using acrylic paints, a sheet of recycled plastic packaging and some dry floral arrangement foam. If you need the effect of water in a model, this is an easy way to build rivers, lakes, and pools. As the 'water' isn't solid, you can arrange fish and plants on the bottom of your pond before you finish it off with the upper water layer.

  • 08 of 12

    Simple Miniature Furniture Pieces

    Dolls house scale kitchen table ready for final sanding and finishing.
    Lesley Shepherd

    Simple pieces of miniature furniture include beds, armoires, tables, chairs, bookcases, and fireplaces that can be made from craft wood, as well as tables and chairs made from twigs or craft sticks. You can use a range of ​simply painted finishes to help you turn wood or plastic into faux mahogany, granite, or traditional antique finishes for wood.

    Continue to 9 of 12 below.
  • 09 of 12

    Printable Miniatures, Including Shop Boxes and Wallpapers

    Dollhouse scale table decorated for a fair with flag themed draping in red, white and blue.
    Lesley Shepherd

    You can print a wide range of miniatures using a printer and fold and glue them into three-dimensional models. You can utilize everything from free wallpapers and photo backdrops to go behind windows, to fabric designs, flag drape bunting, paper plates, photo cakes, kitchen containers, and a popcorn machine. To print the miniatures, you need to determine which scale you need and whether you should print the miniatures out on regular paper or lightweight card or photo paper.

  • 10 of 12

    Miniature Animals and Birds

    The wire legs and feet of a miniature seagull are set in place under its body.
    Lesley Shepherd

    Miniature animals can add life to a model scene. Get creative and create everything from small stuffed bears and a hippopotamus, needle felted sheep, dogs, and raccoons, and birds, and fish and animals modeled from air dry or polymer clay. The possibilities are endless!

  • 11 of 12

    Miniature Plants and Flowers

    Quarter scale garden arbor set in a miniature garden scene in a tea cup.
    Lesley Shepherd

    Lots of details can be added to your diorama by 'landscaping' it with simple plants. You can craft a variety of miniature plants from paper and wire.

  • 12 of 12

    Printable Backdrops and Wallpapers

    'Tiny tourist!' White salt desert backdrop. Maharlu Lake is a seasonal salt lake, Sarvestan County, near Shiraz, Iran
    Jamie Marshall - Tribaleye Images / Getty Images

    Download backdrops and wallpapers to print on letter-sized paper to make outdoor backdrops or indoor wall finishes.