Make a Diorama Using Foam




Introduction: Make a Diorama Using Foam

About: EET student at Broome Community College. Amateur Radio Operator. Model Railroader.

Make a picture perfect Diorama using Extruded foam from your local hardware store and some modeling supplies! This diorama is 1:87th scale, or as it's better known, HO scale.

Supplies needed:

Extruded Foam Sheeting (Hardware Store)
Thin Wood Sheet (Masonite scrap, plywood)
Modeling Grass (Hobby Shop)
Modeling Trees (Hobby Shop)
Green Paint (I used Latex wall paint, however better paints are available)
Ready-made Road (Hobby shop)
Ready-made Building (Truck depot in HO scale from local Hobby Shop)
Glue(either Scenery Glue from Woodland Scenics, foam glue from a craft shop, or Liquid Nails from a hardware store)
Accents(cars, telephone poles available at Hobby Shop)

You can find the Grass, Trees, and Ready-Made supplies at most craft stores or Hobby shops. I got my supplies from a local hobby shop. If you want to order the supplies online, A good site is They provide tons of materials for dioramas and model train layouts. Browse scenery and different scale buildings to match your dioramas needs.

Tools needed:

Foam Knife (Woodland Scenics, Hobby shop)
Sandpaper (rough grit for terraforming, fire for sanding wooden base, hardware store)
Wire Brush
Hot Foam Cutter (Hobby Shop, Craft Store)

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Step 1: Base Foam Layer

Lay the foam sheet on your workbench and use your wood sheet as a template to cut it out. Use the glue to attach the 2 pieces of material.

Step 2: Layout Building and Road

Layout your building and roads to match what you would like for your finished product. Outline them with a sharpie so that you don't remove any foam where they will be, or add foam where they will be.

Step 3: Terraforming

Now that there is an outline for the buildings, we can shape out our terrain to what we would like. For this Instructable, I am going to have a downward slope on the opposite side of the road from the building and a hill behind the building. Using a Hot Foam Cutter will make the process quicker, but isn't necessarily needed. After shaping with the cutter, use sandpaper or a wire brush to scrape away the terrain to a natural feel. Vacuum this up often as the foam creates a huge mess if unchecked.

Step 4: Paint the Town Green

Using some green paint, thoroughly cover the foam terrain. Use a normal brush and make sure you get into all the cracks and dips so that no white (or blue) foam is able to be seen. There is no need to paint where the building or road will sit, but overlapping them will result in a cleaner finished product.

Step 5: Time for Grass

While the paint is still wet, cover the terrain with modelers grass. A good tip is to use an old spice shaker.  This will help keep the flow of grass steady and even. Cover only where you painted. Use other types of grass and dirt if desired to change the terrain texture.

If you want your grass to stand the test of time better, you can use scenic cement from Woodland Scenics. I use this product heavily on my layout, so I had extra cement sitting around. Spray it in a spread pattern on your grass from about 2 feet away. Do this with the diorama on a shop floor or outside to that cement that misses the diorama doesn't ruin your floor.

Step 6: Roads and Buildings

Once the grass is on the terrain, it's time to put the buildings and roads back onto the diorama. Add glue to the back of the roads using  a paint brush. Stick them to the diorama and weigh them down if needed. To get blank pavement like in the parking lots of the diorama shown, simply flip the road over and treat the bottom as the top and vice versa!

Adding the building is a simple as placing it where it belongs. You can glue the building down if you so desire (I did not because I was borrowing the building from my model train layout.)

Step 7: Final Touches

Now that the major components are finished on the diorama, the next step is to add trees and other accents. These can be found at most hobby shops. It is possible to construct your own trees using kits or natural materials from around your house, but ready-made trees are available. Adding cars and telephone poles helps to set the time era that your are trying to replicate.

You can use these skills to build dioramas of any kind and any size.

The final picture is a picture of my model train layout, which contains the same style of terrain that is shown in this instructable!

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4 Discussions


7 years ago on Introduction

dioramas could be done with many materials. Usualy i use leftovers of materials from wrapping materials like foam, cardboard, and wood like balsa....are ideal for making houses or other buildings. Also almost never i buy materials to make trees. I use my imagination and i create objects from other materials....An easy way to save some money when making a tree is to use a painted wooden stick of the size of the tree you want then glue on it some pine leaves and you can make a firtree for your diorama


8 years ago on Introduction

I like the final result. Very ambitious for your first 'ible. Good job.

If you don't mind a suggestion, perhaps you can clarify a few of your materials. Having worked with foam myself (I'm also in the foam challenge), I know that the type of glue one uses is important (as many don't stick). Also "green paint" is a little vague, could you include the type (oil, acrylic, etc) that you used? Lastly, the "ready made materials" should have "suggested buying locations" or suggested materials if someone wanted to make the parts themselves. (Just a thought).

I hope you don't mind the feedback. I'm new here too, and I appreciate when other members take the time to give suggestions.

BTW, I love your train set up. It looks great.


Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

Thanks for the Information. I will make the appropriate changes so that it covers that information.