Rain Forest Diorama




My third grade son came home and told me he had to do a project for school. He chose to create a diorama of a rain forest. We previously made the mistake in a prior project of utilizing my 3D printer to help with parts. His entire class knows we have one and he is sort-of "expected" to use it, at least by his classmates. So I told him to design and create what he wanted the scene to be and we would use some 3D printing to help make it cool.

Step 1: The Start

After he drew out what he envisioned in his head, we started to plan out how to make it come to life. Since it is his project I made him do most of the work. He created a blueprint (which he later destroyed so I cannot post an image of it). We used a file box from my office, cut out the front of it, placed some foam on the bottom, and he set out markers of what else he wanted.

Step 2: Thank Goodness for Thingiverse

My very sincere thanks to everyone who posts stuff and shares on thingiverse.com. Otherwise, I would have never been able to make the animals and some of the elements for this project. My son decided he wanted to include a tiger, an okapi, a gorilla, and a parrot. The STL files we found on thingiverse can be found here:





Step 3: Raw Prints

The 3D prints came out very well. However, they were still very rough. So I tried a new technique to smooth them out. It's called a warm acetone vapor bath. I was rather impressed with the results.

Step 4: Vapor Bath

After some of my prior instructables yielded rough results members of the instructable's community suggested using an acetone vapor bath to smooth out and polish my 3D printed parts. It's an interesting technique with various instructables explaining the different types. I decided to use a heated bath (mainly because I could not get the cold bath to work right). You should use a non-exposed heat source, like a rice cooker or crock pot. Bring it to warm (not hot). Place a stand or something in the bottom to prevent the printed item from touching the acetone. Once elevated, put the acetone into the pot and put the lid on. I plugged the hole in the lid to keep more vapor inside. Let is sit for about 15 minutes (depending on the size of the print). When it comes out it will be soft so lift it out by the elevated stand. Try not to touch the print. Once it dries it will look a lot smoother and very polished.

Step 5: Paint

Once the animals dried, I had my son paint them the way he wanted them.

Step 6: 3D Pen

My son picked some sticks he felt would make good trees. However, they did not have enough branches to either fill out the canopy or support the Lichen used to create it. So, I used my 3D printing pen to fill out the branches. (My son is not permitted to use the pen, but that's another story). After the 3D printer pen filled out the limbs, we glued the Lichen onto the limbs to create the canopy.

Step 7: Waterfall

My son carved out rock formations within four sections of foam which we stacked together and separated, with two on each side. We painted the foam a rocky grey color with some texture. I forced a popsicle stick in between the two foam rock sections and simply hot clued some blue tissue paper to lay over the stick. It gave the impression of falling water. I wanted to put a blue LED behind it to light it up, but my son vetoed that idea. We used a hot iron to cut a channel into the foam base. We laid tissue paper down and hot clued cheap blue colored stones we purchased at the dollar store. It gave the interesting impression of rapid water.

Step 8: Placement

My son spent a while deciding where to place all of the animals we printed. He finally decided and we hot glue gunned them down.

Step 9: Laser Cut Placard

My son was rather proud of his creation and I was proud of him doing it (or most of it). So I took an old piece of 1/8th inch board and laser cut his name and the scene he picked (rain forest) and the year. He then clued it to the back of the container box.

Step 10: Final Product

I did not take pictures of all the steps including painting the ground and area, printing off photos of other rain forest sections to put on the sides, and a few other details. However, my son was most excited about the 3D printed parts, so that's what I focused on here. So, here is a brief glimpse of the diorama and what it took to create.



    • Tape Contest

      Tape Contest
    • Trash to Treasure

      Trash to Treasure
    • Arduino Contest 2019

      Arduino Contest 2019

    8 Discussions


    Question 7 days ago on Step 10

    Where did you print the backgrounds from? Any links?

    Nice job! I love the way you and your son incorporated the 3D printing and the craft elements together for a fun learning project :)


    3 years ago

    And the 3d printing and crafting


    3 years ago

    Thanks for sharing. Ill keep your tree making method in mind if i have to make a diorama for a school project. Tell your son that he did an exceptional job! You've got my vote in the glue gun challenge. :-)


    3 years ago

    So all the trees are is some stick( in your case 3d pen) and lichen?

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    Yes. The base of each tree is a real wooden stick, but they did not have the branches, widths, or direction I needed so I used my 3D pen to build off. I then clued the Lichen to the 3D printed branches. That is the entire compilation of each tree - wood, plastic, Lichen and glue.


    3 years ago

    Thats really cool, you should be proud of yourself. The end product is very impressive.