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DIY Model Making | How to Make Props | Tutorials for Homemade Miniature Scenes & Sets

Updated on January 29, 2015
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Landscapes & Textures for Stop Motion Movies

I've always wanted to create my own stop-motion movie ever since I watched Wallace & Gromit repeatedly as a child, and as part of my series of web pages on this awesome animation technique, this lens focusses on the creation of sets and scenery. Here you will find advice on making realistic grass, stone, marble, puddles, bricks, rock, roads, foliage and much more, so you can build exactly the scene you want.

Animation sets can be created relatively cheaply, depending on the materials and complexity of the design you choose. On the other end of the scale, professional sets cost plenty of money ...and even more man hours - it's certainly not for the impatient!

I hope you find the links below very helpful for whatever you want to achieve :)

Amazing Derelict Town Set

This is exactly the kind of set I just adore, and the sort of set I want to build myself one day. Isn't it fantastic?
This is exactly the kind of set I just adore, and the sort of set I want to build myself one day. Isn't it fantastic? | Source

Model Making, Set Design & Stop Motion Animation Books

Here is a selection of animation and model making books that have received great reviews:

The Advanced Art of Stop-Motion Animation
The Advanced Art of Stop-Motion Animation

This book is a comprehensive guide to stop-motion animation, including the history of the art form and a section all about building puppets. It provides a mass of information for anybody with a keen interest; from beginners to experienced animators.

 
Model-Making: Materials and Methods
Model-Making: Materials and Methods

Mainly aimed at set designers and model makers, this book covers the creation of clean, neat and detailed miniatures, especially film and theater sets.

Plenty of foamboard and other foam products are utilized in the construction projects, but many other materials are covered too. I like the tutorials showing how to achieve different textures and finishes.

 
The Handbook of Model-making for Set Designers
The Handbook of Model-making for Set Designers

This specialized book provides valuable information on producing models of stage sets, and provides great advice on constructing buildings, furniture, trees and more.

 
Cracking Animation: The Aardman Book of 3-D Animation (Third Edition)
Cracking Animation: The Aardman Book of 3-D Animation (Third Edition)

Aardman are the animation company that first got me interested in stop-motion, and this fun and colorful book gives excellent details about model making and film making processes.

 
Stop Motion: Craft Skills for Model Animation (Focal Press Visual Effects and Animation)
Stop Motion: Craft Skills for Model Animation (Focal Press Visual Effects and Animation)

I own this book myself and can personally recommend it as a comprehensive guide to stop-motion animation for anyone, whether you're a keen beginner or an experienced animator.

All of the practical elements of this type of animation are covered, including how to build sets and puppets.

 

Model Making Introduction

There are many clever techniques used in a vast array of model making hobbies, and most of these techniques are simple enough to carry out at home to make your own mini sets and scenery. I started this page to provide information regarding building a set for making your own animated stop-motion movie, but the same ideas can be used for all kinds of model making crafts.

Warhammer, dollhouse making, model railways, architecture and diorama building are all areas where model making is either the main requirement or is a necessary part of it, and the same methods can be mixed and matched between all of them. Warhammer is a hobby that requires a lot of terrain making skills to set up the battle landscape, with the main themes and models being fantasy landscapes, stone ruins, water features and war themed structures. Doll houses require meticulous accuracy with extremely detailed miniature models of everything from roof tiles to tiny knives and forks. Model railway building often requires the creation of mountains, trees and foliage mainly, as well as structures like bridges. Architects craft buildings using very precise foam cut-outs. And finally dioramas are miniature scenes which sometimes have moving parts and produce excellent realistic results.

I have collected the best online tutorials for scenery-building below. You will find that sculpting shapes often involves the use of foam - because it's easy to shape - but there are many more materials (specialized and everyday) which can be used in your models. These include: paper mache, plaster, wire mesh, foam board/foamcore, clay, cardboard, MDF and other woods, balsa, polystyrene, fabric, paint, flocking, resin, corkboard, moldable pastes and sand. As long as it works for what you want, then you can use it - so if you want to use cereal boxes and sponges then you can, just use your imagination!

Shaun The Sheep

This set is displayed as part of the Aardman Animations exhibition at the Eden Project in Cornwall, U.K. Aardman are the creators of the world-famous Wallace & Gromit films - which got me interested in stop-motion in the first place.
This set is displayed as part of the Aardman Animations exhibition at the Eden Project in Cornwall, U.K. Aardman are the creators of the world-famous Wallace & Gromit films - which got me interested in stop-motion in the first place. | Source

How To Make Trees & Foliage

Greenery is often a huge part of a model set, whether it's for a diorama or a model railway, so learning how to create realistic-looking foliage is very important thing.

There is a huge range of different trees, plants and hedges in existence, so there are many options for you to choose from when making your set. Note that the same few techniques can be applied to form all the different shapes and forms you like, so once you learn them, you can make anything!

Dark Forest Animation Set

stop-motion-animation-set-diy
stop-motion-animation-set-diy

Photo and model by Alex Fionda.

Click Here to check out the final animation using this set.

Model Trees, Foliage, Craft Knives & Cutting Mat

I think that every crafter should definitely have a cutting mat and craft knife if their possession because they always come in handy when you trying to make something, especially if that something is small and fiddly! And if you are making an outdoor landscape you'll most like need foliage which you can buy pre-made or you can make yourself with flock and the tutorials below.

Realistic Shop Facade

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Architectural Model Making Video Help - Instructions For How To Correctly Work With Foam & Other Materials

Cottage Diorama

cottage-model-diorama
cottage-model-diorama

Photo and landscape modelling by Ian McKechnie.

Click here for more photos of the cottage.

The Making Of A Stop-Motion Film For Amnesty International

The Making Of A Stop-Motion Film For Amnesty International

Morph

One of the most famous stop-motion models, Morph, was made of clay and the background props and scenery used with this character were all everyday objects - from dominoes to books and thimbles.
One of the most famous stop-motion models, Morph, was made of clay and the background props and scenery used with this character were all everyday objects - from dominoes to books and thimbles. | Source

Buildings, Houses & Other Scenery Tutorials

Tissue Paper Scenery

Your set doesn't have to be hi-tech or expensive to be effective.
Your set doesn't have to be hi-tech or expensive to be effective. | Source

Terrain & Painting Instructions

Air Brush, Hot Wire Foam Cutter & a Dremel Rotary Tool

There are various tools on the market which are targeted specifically at model makers, and there are some that are handy for all kinds of craftwork jobs. Here is a selection of air brushes (for smooth and consistent painting), hot wire cutters (for making cutting foam easy peasy), and a Dremel tool (for detail work on small crafts).

Rock, Stone & Brick Textures

Animation Set

This stop motion studio set-up shows the scale and the arrangement of the scenery/background/lights etc. Notice that the 'floor' and background sections are not fixed permantently in place so that they can be swapped with others easily. Also notice that the floor piece is thin with a gap underneath - theis is because the puppets are keep upright and stable with either tie-downs or magnets which are used on the underside of the 'floor' level.

Photo by (c) Fiona Dalwood.

Building A Stage For Stop Motion Animation

Magic Water

Woodland Scenics Realistic Water, 16 fl oz WOOC1211
Woodland Scenics Realistic Water, 16 fl oz WOOC1211

This bottle of 'realistic water' is extremely useful for creating ponds/puddles etc. within your model landscape.

Non-toxic, simple to use, and looks great.

 

The Set for a VW Car Commercial

You do see stop-motion adverts on TV from time to time, which I always enjoy. I particularly love the patchwork hills in the above example.

You can see the full range of behind-the-scenes photos if you like by clicking here.

Photo by Jean-Paul Frenay.

Have you created any model scenery before?

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    • villyvacker profile image

      Billy Turnock 13 months ago from Manchester England

      Very interesting hub. I love miniature stuff. I think I lived in Lilliput in a previous life.

    • astevn816 lm profile image

      astevn816 lm 3 years ago

      I've never created model scenery but this looks like a fun hobby