Being a systems engineer and an enthusiast model-maker, I decided to create a streamlined and simplified method for making model people for dioramas. Now, it’s time for me to share this knowledge with others. With that in mind, this step by step tutorial will show you how to make diorama people quickly and easily.
What You Will Need to Correctly Follow This Tutorial
In order to follow this step by step tutorial, you will need to use these items:
- One roll of beading wire
- Block of FIMO soft clay
- Set of acrylic paints
- Fine and small paint brush
- Wire cutter tool
- A set of clay modeling and sculpting tools
- A can of clear coat spray
- Paint barnish
Step by Step Instructions For Making Diorama Trees
By following these instructions, you will be able to create realistic miniature people for your diorama:
1. Make a Sketch
Before getting into the actual making of the diorama people, it’s a good idea to draw a little sketch of how you want your miniature model to look. Even if you don’t know how to draw, this sketch can help you visualize how you want your diorama people to end up looking.
Apart from giving you a better idea of how to go about modeling your miniature figures, sketching them can give you a few good ideas about their looks, clothing, poses and other aspects that you will need to decide on. If you want to go even further, you can add color to your sketches in preparation for the paint job that you will be doing later in the process.
Normally, a diorama will have anything between five and 20 miniature people. To avoid making too many (or too few) figures, it’s important to plan where each of them will be located in the diorama. Even though making sketches of all of them can seem tedious, it will help you get your creative juices flowing.
2. Cut the Wire
Once you have all your sketches ready, it is time to go into it. Start the process by cutting two lengths of wire. First, you will have to cut a long piece of wire. This piece of wire should be twice as long as you want your figure to be tall. You can even add half a centimeter to this length in order to be able to twist the wire more comfortably.
Once you have your long wire cut and ready, it’s time to cut the second piece of wire. To do this, first, measure the long piece of wire. Then, divide the result of that measurement in half in order to get the length of the second piece of wire. Cut it and place it next to the long piece of wire. Take into account that, for every figure that you make, you will need one long piece of wire and one short piece of wire.
3. Bend and Twist the Long Wire
At this point, you are ready to begin shaping the figure of your first diorama person. To do this, first, bend the long wire in half. Do this without exercising too much pressure as you do not want the wire to be forcibly and irreversibly deformed. Instead, what you want is to have the wire bend naturally and smoothly.
After it’s bent, make sure that both ends are almost touching. Additionally, make sure that both halves of the bent wire are as straight as possible. Using the pliers, make a slight loop for the bend, creating two noticeably different sections for the miniature figure.
4. Insert the Second Piece of Wire
Take the shortest piece of wire and insert it in the loop that you just created on the longest piece of wire. The loop should be tight but large enough for the shorter piece of wire to easily fit in. Make sure that both halves of the shortest wire that were created by the loop are evenly sized.
Now, while firmly holding the loop and the loose wire from the bent end of the figure, use a pair of pliers to twist the two wire ends towards the inside of the figure. By making this move, you should be able to create what will be the torso of your diorama person. Be sure not to press both halves of the wire together too much as this would cause the figure’s torso to be too narrow.
After taking care of the torso, make sure that both ends of the wire are evenly and naturally bent, creating a rectangle-like shape. After that, cut the loop with the wire cutter. By doing this, you will have two separate bundles or wire. Use these wires to create two legs. Take into account that, in order to be installed into the surface of the diorama, your figures need to have legs that are slightly longer than you want them to look once everything is said and done.
5. Twist the Wire to Create a Structure
At this point, you should have a basic human figure that consists of a torso, two legs and a head. There should be some wire left, however, that you can twist and bend using the pliers in order to get a full human figure. Patiently model the wire until you get the desired human shape. You can add as much detail as you want, even going as far as to create hands, hats and any other objects for your diorama people.
Make sure to bend all the loose wire ends towards the inside of the figure in a natural way. Make sure not to exercise too much pressure or you could bend a piece of wire in a way that you will not able to undo. Even worse, forcibly manipulating this kind of thin wire can result in it breaking. If this happens, it is likely that you will have to start the whole process over again.
Continue twisting and bending the wire until you have a basic human shape that is well-defined and stable. Make sure that your figure is balanced enough to stand upright
when it is installed on the surface of your diorama. Using the wire cutter, snip unnecessary wire lengths. Remember, however, that the legs of your figure should be slightly longer than you want them to look.
6. Manipulate the Figure Into a Pose
Once you have bent and modeled the wire into a basic human figure, it’s time to manipulate it using your hands in order to get the pose that you desire. You can do this without using the pliers or the wire cutter. Be gentle while bending the figure, however, as it can still break from being over-manipulated. Place the figure on a piece of cork or similar material while you go onto the next step.
7. Prepare the Modeling Clay
Finally, you are through with the wire and ready to being sculpting the external part of your figure. Before doing that, however, get your modeling clay nice and ready. Do this by kneading the clay steadily and vigorously for a few minutes. Once it is very soft and pliable, you are ready to go.
8. Apply the Modeling Clay to the Wire Figure
Use one of the broader tools in your sculpting kit to apply the modeling clay around the posed figure. Begin by covering the torso of the figure, then the legs, then the arms and finally the head.
Take into account that, at this point, you should aim at getting everything covered instead of looking for the perfect human figure. As a matter of fact, at this stage, it’s better to make all the parts of your figure thicker than the final result will require. This will allow you to remove material while sculpting the diorama figure.
9. Sculpt the Wire Figure Into a Human Body
Taking your sketches into consideration, begin sculpting a human figure. You can do this with one of the finer tools in your sculpting/modeling kit. If you don’t have a sculpting kit, you can use any sharp objects that allow precise strokes. For example, you can use a toothpick or a straightened paper clip.
Work from the skin out, shaping the body parts as precisely as possible. You can remove clay as you sculpt your figure but make sure not to take too much. If this happens, add some clay onto the affected part of the figure and sculpt it in. Take into account that, at this point, you should focus on modeling a nude human figure.
10. Add Clothing to the Human Figure
Once you have finished modeling the human figure, set it apart to dry for a few minutes. While this happens, you can knead the rest of the clay as you will be using it shortly.
After waiting a couple of minutes, begin the process of adding clothing to your human figure. To do this, simply take good portions of kneaded clay and place it on top of the human figure. Then, use a broad sculpting tool to spread the clay over the figure’s body.
11. Create Facial Features On the Figure (Optional)
If you want to add more detail to your diorama people, you can create facial features on your figure’s head. Do this by using the smallest, finest tool in your sculpting/modeling kit. Alternatively, you can use the tip of a toothpick or a straightened paper clip. Without a doubt, doing this requires a great deal of precision and skill.
12. Bake the Miniature Person
At long last, your miniature person for diorama is ready to go in the oven. Bake the model according to the instructions laid out by the manufacturer of the soft clay. Typically, this is done by putting the figure in an oven pre-heated at 275°F for 10 to 25 minutes. After the baking process is completed, take the figure or figures out of the oven and let them cool for two or three few hours at least.
13. Paint the Miniature Person
At this point, all the most challenging parts of the process are completed, leaving you free to exercise your creativity. Using the acrylic paint you bought, paint the figure from head to toe. Use whatever colors you want, and be as detailed as you want to be. You do not need to be too detailed, however, because they will not be noticeable from a distance. However, if you are a detail-oriented person, you can go as far as you want with the painting.
14. Apply Clear Coat Spray (Optional)
If you want to, after the paint has dried, you can spray the figure with a layer of clear-coat spray. Alternatively, you can use paint lacquer or barnish. In addition to providing extra shine, this coat of spray will prevent the paint on the figure from becoming damaged or chipping off.
Did you enjoy reading this step by step tutorial on how to make diorama people? In my years of model and miniature making, I have found that adding people to your diorama can dramatically increase its level of realism. What is more, it can be useful to show certain aspects of your model (such as proportion) in a clearer and more relatable way. Do you have a question or an opinion? Do not hesitate to leave it in the comment section below. Please, consider sharing this tutorial with your family or friends!