My Lego Dioramas

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A blog where I post ideas and final images of Lego dioramas I plan on creating.

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Meh, very few people will get the reference in the title. Ah well, I find it funny.

Over the last two days the construction of my Alpha Team diorama has been under way. As with my Drome Racers Diorama, my Dad helped me to build this, so a big thanks to him. It's great to learn this way, soon I'll be confident enough to make these things on my own.

ANYWAY, onto what you're here for.

Step 1: The Basics

The first step in building most things is to create its foundations; its core structure. In this project the simple hardboard used in my Drome Racers diorama wouldn't suffice, as the diorama needed to support a large base. Instead a thin wood material was used - too thick and it wouldn't fit in, plus I would lose the vital space I need in this set up. After precisely measuring out each segment using LEGO studs as guides (e.g. one stud is 8mm), the boards were cut out using a pretty mean saw. These sections of wood were labelled and would be glued together to form the core structure.


Step 2: The Core Structure

The second step in this diorama was to glue the wood pieces together. A tri-square (a right-angled tool similar to two rulers stuck together perpendicularly) was used to ensure that all boards were horizontal/vertical. It turned out that the dimensions and positioning were crucial to some areas, for example Cam's sub needed to fit down the side of a tall mountain, and the door/Trouble Tube needed a certain area to fit into. Any gaps in the wood were filled too for smoothness and added bonding.



Step 3: Rock Foundations

Next, once the wood had dried, it was time to add the underlay of the rocks. This would be a simple way of adding 3D formations in the next step. To do this, chunks of cardboard were cut out and stuck to the wooden structure using masking tape. Simple yet effective. In addition, various bits of tissue were stuffed behind some cardboard segments for padding.



A temporary LEGO door was built to ensure that the final one would fit in. Other LEGO bricks were used to measure out different areas and make sure that the models they housed would also fit.

Step 4: Mod-Rock Terrain

Lastly the terrain was bulked out and made to look realistic. First, mod-rock was dipped in water and laid over the cardboard rock formations. Double/triple layers of mod-rock was required for strength and to mask the cardboard and wood underneath. Then tile grout was brushed and spread around areas of the mod-rock where gaps and edges were overly clear. Tile grout was also shaped around the sides of the river to create its edges, and a large chunk was placed where the river dam was to be. While this was still drying, large stones (from our garden) were placed in the tile grout, and modelling stones were sprinkled at the highest mountain for added texture. Finally, some spare model kit sprues were cut out and glued onto the supporting beam at the front of the cave overhang to give it detail.





And there we have it, the structure of my Alpha Team Diorama. Next I will paint it, and finally the sets will be positioned. I'll be sure to post a topic for the final product.


LEGO Alpha Team Diorama - The Layout

As I await the arrival of parts for my Rock Raiders diorama, I decided to plan out the Alpha Team diorama I also aim to produce. This diorama will feature all the LEGO sets from the original product line (six sets in total, 6771-6776), and may or may not have extra LEGO features as the terrain will be made from scratch.

Unfortunately the space I have for this diorama is very restricted, at half the size of my Rock Raiders diorama space (approx. 40-50cm all around, or 50-60 studs). This would be fine if the six sets were just vehicles, but one set happens to be Ogel's 32x32 brick HQ. For this reason I decided I'd make the diorama levelled, allowing sets to be placed under each other to conserve space. But I still wasn't sure if I'd have enough space, so I first drew a rough sketch of what the diorama would ideally look like. I then took accurate measurements of the space I had available - width, length and height - and created a box from this in LEGO Digital Designer.

Next I created a rough idea of the terrain I would be making. Finally, I added in the sets to see how they would fit. I used models of sets 6771-6775 made by PeabodySam, and a model of set 6776 by penguinz, both over on Eurobricks, so I'd like to thank them both here. The results are in the screenshot below:


The terrain will instead be made with paper mache around a wooden structure, and will be more natural than the straight up/across walls here. The ATV is lowering the sub using its string, and Dash's helicopter (not in the screenshot) will be hanging above using fishing wire attached to hooks. There will be a cave painted/cut into the wall from which Ogel emerges. Unfortunately, it's still rather compact, and the layout can probably be improved.

What do people think? If anyone has suggestions to improve it (remembering that the space cannot be made any wider, longer or higher) I'd be happy to read them.

[28/05/13] EDIT: I have taken on board BobaFett2's suggestions, and added some more elements to the diorama. It's nothing major as I didn't want to make the diorama any more cramped than it already is, but definitely helps add to the overall picture (or certainly should do when it's actually built).

The updated diorama is shown below:


I took screenshots of various objects in the game and recreated them. Luckily the objects in LEGO Alpha Team are much more realistically buildable than those used in Rock Raiders, which seem to use a bit of an artistic license in places. In particular, I added a door beside the cave entrance, some crates, a jail cell (which can rotate 360 degrees), and a plunger. Here are some more detailed images:

The plunger in the game is stretched slightly at the sloped bricks, so an additional 2x2 black brick was added beneath them.


With the exception of the exposed holes at the upper corners, this door is identical to the in-game model.


A prisoner is held within this rotating jail cell. I used transparent bricks to hold him up, but am also considering tying him in place with thin invisible string/fishing wire. Some crates are also visible.


Do these additions make the layout better, or is it still lacking something?


This weekend my dad and I worked together to build the board for my planned Lego Drome Racers diorama - please see my previous blog entry for more information on it. Having received the cars already, and due to the restrictions of my shelf space, it was decided that the board would be a 42cm square. In this blog post, I will go through the steps I took to create the board - for the final product, just scroll down to the bottom of the post.

We used the two images below for reference:


Step 1: Building the Structure


The first step in building almost any object, is to create the core structure of it - this acts as not only a guide to the rest of the object, but is also used for strength and support. We used some hardboard to create ours, first cutting the 42x41cm shape out, before cutting out the raised sections based on our drawn cross-section of the board. The idea was to have a slope predominantly in one direction, meaning that when viewed from the sides, all cars would be visible. The cut sections were then glued down to the board in place.

Step 2: Paper Mache


Next, the main shape of the board was made with paper mache. First old newspaper was scrunched up and used to fill the core structure, providing a support for the surface. Then, using PVA and a combination of large paper sheets and long paper strips, the landscape was overlaid. Unfortunately due to the use of large paper segments, wrinkles appeared in the board, but this actually helped create an effect as seen later. The PVA was finally left to dry for a while.

Step 3: Base Painting and Model Arrangement


Once the PVA had dried, the basic colours of the board were painted on. An earth-brown was used where the grass was to be placed, while a yellow colour was painted under the sand. My dad, being the epic artist he is, made a nice fade effect from the earth to the sand.

After the paint had dried, the models were placed over to get a rough idea of their positions, so that bricks could be appropriately placed, upon which basic scenery would be added.

Step 4-5: Inserting the Bricks



You'll have to excuse the over-exposed photos here :/

To get the Lego scenery to blend nicely with the rest of the diorama, the bricks were inserted into the diorama rather than protruding from it. A scalpel was used to cut around the brick, and tile grout then filled the hole onto which the brick was placed. Tile grout was also spread around the edge to smoothen the brick into the landscape. When the tile grout dried, it would hold the brick fairly securely in position. The bricks and tile grout were painted over in brown too.

Step 6: Adding Sand


The sand section of the board was covered in PVA glue again, and play sand then sprinkled across it. A brush was used to spread the sand around and create an even surface. The wrinkles left by the paper mache earlier actually created a nice ripple effect in the sand.

Step 7: Adding Grass


The last step was to add the grass. Much like the sand, the relevant areas were coated in PVA (taking care to avoid the bricks) before having modelling grass sprinkled all over them. A thick amount of grass was used to cover the earth colour beneath and emulate the grass in the inspirational pictures. After the grass dried (also after the image above was taken), a brush was used to gently clean off the bricks - too much clutter on them and other Lego elements wouldn't clip on properly.

The Result...


This is actually just the above picture from a different angle, but it looks cooler :P As you can see, the sides were painted black to emphasise the diorama, and because not many other colours would look good around the edges.

The next step is for me to order in some Lego trees and bushes and place them on the bricks, and add the cars in position. At which point the diorama is finished!

So, what do people think of it so far?


The Plans


I've never made a blog before, so I don't know if there's a general 'right' way of doing it, but anyway... This blog will be where I post ideas of Lego Dioramas I wish to make, and finished pictures of them once they're complete. I'll probably post finished pictures in the forum too.

Basically I like to create displays, and Lego is obviously a wonderful way of doing so. But I don't have much experience making MOCs, so for the moment I am making dioramas from sets and themes that Lego has already created. Once I've gotten to grips with Lego, and had some inspiration, I'll move into custom dioramas too.

Some people may be asking, what is a diorama? There are people I know who haven't heard of the term and I find it difficult to explain. A quick Google search defines it as "A model representing a scene with three-dimensional figures, either in miniature or as a large-scale museum exhibit." So it's like a normal Lego model you've made, but it's not designed to be played with, but rather displayed. A lot of people frown at the concept of a toy being on display, but I enjoy looking at a model that is displayed well. I don't really play with Lego (I guess I could say I'm too old for that, but who on this forum really means that?), but design with it as so many people do once they start to mature. For instance, I used to be an avid member on Dakka Dakka, a wargaming forum where I was generally involved in the discussion of the Warhammer 40,000 theme and model kits by Games Workshop. I have images posted there of three dioramas I've built - here, here and here (actually in order of how much I like them, I'm not very happy with the last one).

So there you go - that's a diorama, and the kind of thing I'll be building in Lego.

The Plans

I have several plans for dioramas at the moment, which I've listed below in order of priority (from highest to lowest):

  • Drome Racers (UPDATE - Completed here)
  • Lego Racers, one for each unique circuit
  • Bionicle (UPDATE - replacing with Alpha Team)
  • Rock Raiders

Firstly, the Drome Racers diorama. What I have in mind is a board built from paper mache on a wooden structure, which is painted with a jungle theme in mind. Lego scenery will then be placed around it, and finally four Drome Racers - Hot Scorcher, Nitro Pulverizer, Zonic-Strike and (my favourite) Jungle Monster. While this isn't built entirely from Lego, it follows what most Lego games do by using realistic environment textures and adding Lego elements on top. The board will be an inclining slope so that all vehicles are visible.

The Lego Racers dioramas will be made from Lego entirely, and feature all the racers in the game. Each will be based on a track in the game relevant to its racers. I already have two designs created in Lego Digital Designer, which can be seen in this thread here along with the models. I will be buying the parts for these once the Drome Racer diorama is complete, which should be soon. I'm not sure what theme to use for Circuit 3, but for those who own the game it's obvious that Circuit 4 will be based on the track 'Rocket Racer Run', formerly 'Rocket City Run' which suggests it will be a space city of sorts.

I've always adored Bionicle, and used to have a huge box filled with the sets. As with practically all the Lego I owned up until a couple of years ago, it was all sold off, so I'll have to repurchase it again. Luckily it's not that cheap on Bricklink. The scene I have in mind is a generic Good vs Evil standoff, but I'll be using the earliest of the Bionicles - the Toa and the Matoran against the Rahi and Bohrok. I'd like to have Takanuva and Makuta in there too. It'll probably be a desert setting as it's simple and keeps the focus on the models, plus the most vivid Bionicle environment in my mind is an image of Pohatu's canister buried in some sand.

I haven't given much thought to the Rock Raiders displays. The sets lend themselves well to dioramas in their own right, I just wanted some way to enhance their look in my room. I'll be using buildings from the game so I should have a nice environment created for them.

The Displays

The Lego Racers dioramas and the Rock Raiders dioramas will be shown off in two of IKEA's DETOLF cabinets. Each shelf nicely slots in an area of 32 x 48 Lego studs, so all dioramas will be made for that size. The Drome Racers and Bionicle dioramas will be housed in a shelf inbuilt into my room, with plexiglass attached to the sides to create a cheap but effective display (I'd just like to thank the people who helped me in that discussion thread). I'll upload a picture of the space sometime.

Oh yeah, the reason I'm able to purchase all this stuff so freely is because I'm a teenager with a small 'job' and pocket money, so all my income is disposable income - i.e. I obviously have no bills to pay. Yes, I should probably be saving it for a car, but until I get a proper job I just don't see myself earning enough to do so yet.

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