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Making a Rock Climbing Diorama


This is a fantastic diorama that was made by Christophe. My thanks to him for submitting the pictures and information for this project. He uses a product called foam coat to make the shell of the diorama. If you like his work you might want to check out another project that I have pictures of here on my website. He also gives us a great walk thru of how he makes dioramas which include some great water effects. And if you want to see more of his work you can check out his website: CIDesign.com.


This tutorial is a great example of the wide variety of terrain you can get in a diorama. Christophe has, of course, the actual mountain for the rock climbing. But he also has soem well placed pathing, water, grass and some very effective details. This whole process is quite easy to do and I have a complete tutorial that shows you all of this step by step: How to make a Diorama

Here are some tips from Christophe on how he made this diorama:

"The figures that I used on the diorama are regular architectural fugures that I used. I cut off the arms and heads (realy gruesome!) and glued them again in the right position. Then the bridge and pile of wood. For this I used branches from some shrubs I have in my garden and used a knife to form them in the right form. For the attachment of the rock climbing rope i just used regular neadles wich I punched into the shell."

Note from Will: The tips we got from Christophe are an excellent example of how you can improvise materials to make your diorama look terrific. Real branches, thread and some regular needles all work very well. Look around and collect up things that would work well in your diorama.

Here is the basic process of how to make this diorama shell.


The cardboard frame

You probably started out with drawings of what you want. Once you have a good idea you should build a rough shell out of pieces and strips of cardboard. Any kind of cardboard will do. See how the basic shape is installed?


Stuff the shell

Now stuff the shell with crumpled newspapers. This serves two functions. First it adds strength to the diorama. The newspaper should be packed a bit on the tight side so it won't distort too much when you add the shell which is a bit heavy.

Second you can use the shapes of the crumpled newspaper to achieve the rocky effect. It works very well for this kind of diorama.


Cast the terrain Shell

Next you cast the terrain shell. Christophe uses a product called foam coat which works very well because it is strong and it has a long enough drying time so you can continue working on it.

I have more information about foam coat here

And if you want to learn how to make this kind of a shell with plaster of paris or hydrocal that is in my tutorial here: How to make a diorama: casting the shell

Close up of the rock

Here is a close up photo of the rock to be climbed.

Don't hesitate to use the unique properties of the materials to your advantage. This is a great example of a very climbable rock.


Apply the base colors

Once the shell has dried you paint in the base colors. Notice how nothing is just a plain color. The rock itself is composed of a lot of different shades of grey. Same thing goes for the grass, sandy areas and river bed. This is a very important way to achieve a very realistic look.

A couple of painting techniques used here are called Dry Brushing and Washing. I explain these techniques in my tutorial on how to paint miniatures.


Next you add your various terrain features like grass, shrubs, trees, sand, dirt and water. And build and add any structures that you create. A good example of a home made feature in this diorama is the bridge across the water. Finally add your figures and you are done. The figures in this diorama are 1/100 scale.

Add the terrain features

NextI have more pictures of the completed diorama here


The Alps

Another wonderful diorama in the form of a shadow box. This one is called "The Alps" And it is a nostalgic scene of an old automobile traveling one of those narrow roads in the Alps and going over a bridge : The Alps shadowbox diorama


The Water Wheel Diorama

I love dioramas with water effects. And Frank has done an amazing job with this one. He used a lot of common materials to make it including the water and the waterfall. Check it out here.