I’ll start by saying that I am by no means a diorama expert – not even padawan-level truthfully. But I have done some work in the past that helped me do a decent job on the couple that I have built so far. This stone dais/platform is the second and the first time I’ve tried stone. I’ve seen plenty of tutorials and works by great dio makers and had the basics, so I dove in. And it worked out pretty well. Well enough that a few people wanted the step-by-step, so here we are! I built the top two layers of the dais prior to this, so I’ll be going through the steps to build the bottom layer, which you can apply to two more layers as I did or to whatever your needs are.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
- Depending on what you want to end up with, you’ll need at least one 2′ x 2′ sheet of 1″ thick pink insulation foam and as many as two to recreate this. You can get this in just about any major hardware store.
- You’ll need a good cutting blade. There are better out there, but you can get by with a relatively cheap retractable utility knife/box cutter like this one with blades that can be snapped off little by little as the tip dulls. Get the heavier thicker version and buy good blades, like a Stanley brand.
- Tinfoil and/or a small rock with some good texture, but no sharp corners, or at least not many, blunt them a bit if you can.
- T-square, right angle square, or straightedge.
STEP 1 – CUTTING THE GRID
I determined that I wanted the stone blocks to be about 2 inches square. That would make them approximately 2′ x 2′ square IRL. I measured them out and cut the excess. To cut the styrofoam, I use a retractable blade that you can get at any hardware or craft store and a sharp, generally fresh blade. If you get the blades that snap off in increments, breaking off the top section is usually all you need to do to get a sharp enough edge.
One the blocks are marked off using a pen and a square (or measuring multiple points along the edges and using a straightedge to connect them), You’ll start cutting the spaces between the blocks.
To do this, I use the same blade. Sometimes I break off another section, depending on how the blade performs – you want it to glide smoothly without resistance through the foam. I place the tip of the blade at about a 45º angle about 1/8 of an inch to one side of the line I’ve drawn and run it along the line, keeping it at that angle and sometimes varying the distance from the line about 1/26th of an inch closer or further from the line. Then, flipping the piece around, I do the same on the other side of the line. The idea is to create a “V” groove with the point being centered loosely around the original line you drew.
If you’ve managed to connect the two angles when you did this (it gets easier with some practice!) You should be able to lift the resulting piece out, leaving a “V’ shaped groove. If it doesn’t come out cleanly. just retrace the cuts a bit to get the remainder out. Don’t worry if it leaves some rough spots – you can either cover these later with “moss” or leave them – this is meant to be rough stone after all!
STEP 2 – ROUGH IT UP!
So far, we’ve got a nice looking tile floor. This is where we start making it look like rough, worn stone.
You can go as far as you want with this step (and you can go too far in my opinion), but there are no hard and fast rules. Personally, I start by using the knife to chop up some pieces of the stone tiles, especially on the edges, but also here and there I’ll take a good part of the surface of one tile off, or dig some chunks out of the interior of the stones (though not too deep, generally). I add some cracks here and there, some running across multiple stone tiles.
After I’ feel I’ve done enough (for now), I do some sanding of some of the chips and chunks I’ve taken out. Again, don’t overdo it, but these are meant to be worn rocks, smoothed over by use. Then I go through and sand the edges of the stones down to make them rounder, for the most part. I fold a piece of finer grain sandpaper in half to do this, but I’m sure there are other, maybe faster techniques out there. I also use this sandpaper to make a few cuts in the edges.
Then it’s time for the fun part and where it really starts to look like rock. For this step, I use two easily attained tools; balled-up tinfoil and…a rock! In my case, it’s a piece of a driveway that broke off and has some great pieces of gravel sticking out and some less, rocky sides. You can use both or either of these to achieve the look, but I found rounder pieces with less sharp corners work best rock-wise.
We’re going to do two things with these; roll them and press them. I usually start with the rock and roll it around the surface with varying pressure and direction – more here less there. I will take the foil and do the same which creates a softer surface texture. I do the same along all of the edges and I generally apply more pressure there to really get some varied texture on these very visible surfaces.
After that, I start pressing – and occasionally outright hitting – the foam with the rock. Again, especially along the edges – top and bottom of the segments and in random cross points in the grooves, as if the rock has cracked/splintered at it’s most vulnerable areas.
You almost can’t make too big of a mistake here and if you do something you don’t like, you can always sand it a bit to reduce the severity. I would say though – have some restraint and don’t texture every bit of surface. You can even go in and press in a few places with your palm with random pressure here and there to add more variation to the surface.
When you’re happy with the result, sand it a bit more – you want the corners of many of the edge stones to be rounded off, but not uniformly so. This is where I stopped…
So this is where we stand. Our next section is where it really starts to take on some life! Follow to Part II: Painting
For more Tutorials from across the toy community, be sure to check out our resource and stay tuned to Exclu.
Trevor is a New York-based Creative Director and owner of The Brand Counselors. He has a growing collection of 150ish 1:6th scale stock and custom figures (and more and more Lego sets). Toy photography melds his childhood dreams of comic book illustration and film directing with his design talents and – in his mind – justifies the ridiculous money he spends on these things. When he’s not shooting, he enjoys kayaking, catching up on good TV and building seemingly endless custom figures.
Last modified: June 4, 2019