Creating the Diorama

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Inexpensive Details

The diorama itself is as old as any three dimensional story. There have been dioramas found in Egyptian finds, in ancient Chinese finds, even the Norsemen themselves created recreations of ships and crew, that were clearly not toys for children.

All diorama tell a story, whether it be a frozen moment in time, as seen in our museums, or in our endeavors, the continuing sagas of an established toy line.

There are many ways to craft the diorama. Each way depending of course on personal preference of materials, and disposable monies to invest in such. Whether you use wood, metal, foamboard, cardboard, or even a hat thrown on a table, all diorama start with the story one wants to tell.

Once you have an idea or story, the next thing is to decide how it should be represented. Of all the ways this can be done, physically through craft, or electronically(Photoshop and other programs), all should start with a simple floorplan or sketch.

Since we are dealing with a specific scale here, I will address the craft of manually creating items in miniature, and how to do so when on a budget. Hopefully, this can be a series of installments to help set, prop, foundation, and diorama builders of all levels.

Fig. 1

Recreating detail based on the things we see around us, for me, means that I am constantly looking for similarities in miniature. When I wanted to create a series of gauges, it was upon throwing out the blister pack of a series of lights for someone's dio I was creating when I stopped myself cold. There, in my hands were the means to create the glass covered gauges in my thoughts. The small tabs were absolutely perfect for what I had in mind. All I had to do was trim them, computer print some gauge faces from scratch, and adhere them to the foundation. (see Fig. 1)

It doesn't stop there. Toy twist ties become wiring. Disposable shaver covers become industrial light fixtures. The endcaps to my wife's box of food cling wrap become the dynamos to turn a Stargate(fig 1a).

Empty pill and cold remedy blisters become Joe scale action figure blisters. In short, my trash has now become my supply bin.

Fig. 1a

You'll find no better and inexpensive window material than the outer blister shell of our very own action figures. They come not only clear as well, glass, but some come frosted, with graphic details, and some, come even embossed with excellent textures. Samller blisters, such as any tool, nail, or accessory electrical pack, make excellent roof or sunlight windows. (see Fig. 1a)

Fig. 2

Need a graphic for a glass door? Look no further than those window stickers you often get from donating to the city services. I donated a few dollars to help the police, EMT's, even the fire services, and now I have window stickers with miniature graphics, which were used to create paramedic offices (see Fig. 2), hospital entries(Springfield diorama), and even police stations.

One of the biggest problems I have with home printed graphics and details, is that they are easily smudged by any fluid contact. A wet sneeze can ruin any printed item. To protect them, I almost always cover these in laminated sheeting. That said, I found another avenue from looking around me....the sport and non-sport trading card.

Fig. 3

When I needed to get the screens for my SGC to be just right, I thought like all to go through the tedious deal of screen shots and image printing. But, while doing some research, I came across the trading cards, and found everything I could have possible wanted online(see Fig. 3).

The same for Joes. More than a handful of those GIJOE trading cards, especially with the live action actors have a use in giving your dio that something extra. Want to give your props and pieces movement? Try using lenticular items, as you find them sometimes on advertisements, gaming boxes, even DVD covers. Early RAH Joes and Cobras had accessories or accents that used lenticular items. If you are more daring and have better funding, there are various web based lenticular printers who will print lenticular items from your designs. Imagine the coolness factor of a Joe or Cobra vehicle with actual moving RADAR screens, thermal imaging, or even images of armament firing? These ideas are far from impossible, and only limited by imagination and of course, funds.

Nearly everything mentioned above was either free, refuse, or of miniscule cost. To get impressive details for any diorama, you need not always have to expand a budget to do so. Often, it just takes the ability to look at the items around you, especially those that are often discarded, and rethink their original uses.

I hope with this first installment, you can try to find some unexplored avenues to bring a little bit more to your creative endeavors.

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