Home Painting Guide Terrain and Diorama – Getting the Basics

Terrain and Diorama – Getting the Basics


Gettting started to building your own terrain or diorama scene? Here are the basics you will need to know and get. Firstly terrain and diorama are 2 seperate things. But the tools and materials are mostly the same. That is what we will be covering here in our article.

Before you start…

  • Planning
  • Gathering Supplies and Materials
  • Selecting the tools


Decide on what you want to build. Either a diorama or terrain piece. A diorama is a “”cut out” or a slice of a larger scene. What and how much representations that will appear on your diorama will depend on the scale of your point of interest (which is usually your model tanks or figures).

Examples of a Diorama. On the top is a depiction of a Turtle Civilization made by 3d artist Karl Ă…bom. On the right is a simple WW2 scene capture where the germans take up a strong hold on the outskirts of Poland.

Terrain pieces are stand alone items that you can use to add onto a larger collection of terrained landscape. Most common examples are stones and rock faces or a hill piece which you can use to add on to a forested landscape. Terrain pieces mostly when made are less detailed but are favoured by wargamers for its flexibility and durability.

Gathering Supplies and Materials

You are going to need the following basic materials. I’ve split the list into 2 columns between MUST HAVE and OPTIONAL (but good to have).

Must Haves
  • Extruded polystyrene (Blue Foamboard but in some places sold in Pink)
This is a basic building block of our landscape. Without it… its like cooking without fire.
  • Fine Sand
  • Cork ( the ones you use to put a hot pan on top)
  • Wall Plaster
  • Latex or PVA glue. (Latex is better)
  • Artist’s Arcylic Paints (Browns and Beiges)
  • Rubber rock Moulds
  • sifted grit of various sizes
  • tufts and flocking (usually greens of various shades)
  • casting powder
  • 70% Isopropanol
  • clump foliage
  • model trees / armatures


Various tools will make your life easier in tackling the build. For example, without a painting knife or paint scrapper, you might resort to using your fingers and brushes to spread the modelling or wall plaster. While the job will eventually be done, the quality of the output will greatly differ. Listed below are some of the tools which will make terrain/diorama making a pleasant one.

This is the basic foam cutter. Advanced or vested terrain makers will get multiple versions that will allow possibilities for various cuts.
The pallette knife is use for layering and shapping plaster compound . It keeps the place tidy and your fingers mess free.
Static grass appllicator is a tool that will save you on buying tufts in large quantities.

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