Scenery Structures Track

Setting the Scene

The Art of Building a Diorama
In this photo from a previous project, depth was created in the water by adding acrylic coloring to change the opacity of the creek. Darker colors on bottom layers will make it appear as light dissipating, the deeper the body of water, similar to the prototype. 

Water can be tricky, at least for me. In the past I was content painting river or lake beds to represent depth, however, I was never pleased with how it looked. A technique I have exterminated with in the past has yielded good results and can be combined with painting to add greater depth to your water. For my diorama I’m using Vallejo’s still water which works well for smaller projects like this.

I begin by mixing a small amount of still water with brown. The first layer should be the darkest and I will lighten the opacity with each layer after; the last one is clear. I pour a thin layer across the bottom of the creek bed making sure to fill the deeper areas of the creek first.

Let each layer dry overnight. The deeper you want your water, the more layers you will want to pour. Each layer should receive less color as you mix it. This will give the illusion of deeper water. If you would like to simulate moving water, you can combine Woodland Scenics water effects to represent moving water or rapids.

With that, I’m calling this project complete. This diorama was a lot of fun and challenged me to look at weathering a bit different than I have ever attempted. I’m happy with the results and can’t wait to build another small project.


  1. Good suggestion for modelers to try their hand at a diorama.
    I think they should follow your lead to keep the scene simple with a single focal point.


    1. I have learned so much through out the years from building dioramas. I remember when I was younger reading fantastic articles in the Narrow Gauge and Shortline Gazette from you and Bob Brown that got me started.


  2. Great little mini project. Since I’m not at the scenery stage on my layout, a small diorama is a great way to get to play in that area of the hobby. I think it’s time to build a small diorama for my office.


    1. You will learn a lot from building them. They are not daunting like a larger layout. I personally have found that I fear mistakes less when I’m working on a smaller footprint. It’s quite liberating!


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