How to Build a Zombie Apocalypse Diorama
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Are you looking to take your modeling skills to the next level? Then why not try your hand at this amazing zombie apocalypse diorama?
For reference, the barn in this diorama has been pre-completed. In this tutorial, we will be building a windmill, building and painting the models, and adding the vegetation "only".
But first, you will need some things before you get stuck in.
Tools and equipment needed
- 1:35 scale wooden barrels and village utensils
- 1:35 scale toolset
- 1:35 scale zombies and farm animals
- Assorted balsa wood pieces for model making or matchsticks
- Used 35ml soda pop can
- Plaster of Paris
- Joint compound (gypsum putty)
- Textured modeling pastes
- Model foliage
- Electrostatic model flock applicator and flock
- Model paints
- Lollipop sticks or plastic rods
- Polystyrene blocks
- Wood veneer
- Wood glue
- 3/64 inches (1mm) thick wire
- Modeling knife
- Modeling tools (file, etc.)
Step 1: Build the windmill
The first step is to grab your balsa wood pieces and begin to make some strips roughly 13/64 inches (0.5cm) wide and 1/16-inch (1.5mm) thick.
You'll want a small pile of these, so create around a dozen or so.
Next, grab some thin wood veneer about 0.6 mm thick sheet, and cut more lengths to of a similar length and width to the thicker pieces.
With that stage complete, take some longer lengths of balsa wood and begin to make the basic frame for the windmill. Arrange them in a vee shape with one point touching and the base about 2 and 23/64ths of an inch (6cm) apart.
Add some wood glue, and then begin to add the balsa wood boards you created earlier. Add four lengths of balsa wood of decreasing length from bottom to top, as shown below. You will obviously need to trim the boards to size.
Rinse and repeat to make a second, nearly identical piece.
With that complete, take your wood veneer strips and begin to stick them at diagonal angles between the horizontal balsa strips.
Add a second diagonal between each horizontal element to make a cross-bracing. Rinse and repeat for the other part of the windmill. Try to make them as similar, if not identical, to one another as much as possible.
Once complete, if not already completed, trim off the excess from the horizontal members so they are flush with the frames.
Next, connect both halves of the windmill together with more cross-members of balsa wood. Keep adding cross-members to match those on the two halves you created. You may also want to tie the legs of the windmill together at their apex with some wire.
With that complete, you can add some details like nails using small lengths of wire. Push these into the balsa wood to imitate them being nailed together.
Next, grab your wire, and wrap it around a random cylindrical object to make some rings. Make one larger ring and one smaller ring.
Glue the ends of the wire together. These rings will be used to make the supports for the windmill blades.
For added strength, you could mesh the ends together with wire and add a ton of superglue. With the rings complete, add another length of straight wire to connect the rings together and provide a means of connecting the rings to the windmill later on.
Also, add a small length of balsa wood to the very center of the connecting straight piece.
Step 2: Make some ladders and the blades for the windmill
With the main windmill effectively complete, we can now move on to making some more details. Take the remnants of your balsa wood strips and cut them into small lengths.
Take two more lengths of balsa wood (the same you used for the windmill legs), and begin to make some ladders by gluing the shorter lengths of balsa wood at regular intervals. Rinse and repeat to make two ladders of the same dimensions.
With that complete, grab your used soda pop can. Cut the top and bottom off, and then make a sheet of aluminum using the main walls of the can.
Cut this piece of aluminum into 25/64-inch (1cm) thick strips, and then cut these strips into 1 and 3/16 inch (3cm) lengths.
Next, trim the blades into roughly trapezoidal shapes. Then, heat them gently using a lighter and bend them around a pen to give them a curved surface.
Next, cut two holes towards the wider end in order to connect them to the blade mounting rings. Using some more wire, tie them to the circular mounting frame you made earlier.
Next, cut out a tail for the windmill from the remaining sheet of aluminum. Glue it to another length of balsa wood.
Next, take a small length of plastic tubing (like an old lollipop stick), cut a slit in one end, and glue it to the center of the windmill blades.
Fill the open end of the tube using basic filler.
Step 3: Assemble the models
With that complete, it is now time to turn our attention to the most important elements of the diorama -- the zombies and other bits and pieces. Depending on the kinds you managed to source, remove them from their packaging and assemble as required.
You will also need to remove any mold lines and fill any joints before painting them. This will depend entirely on the models, and their quality.
Next, grab your farmyard and tools model kits. Remove the pieces you want to display on the model and assemble as required. You can add a few, or as many, as you see fit.
Since this diorama is a farmyard, you will want barrels, assorted tools, bottles, buckets, bags, and sacks, etc. Again, depending on the quality of the molds, you will need to clean them up and fill them as needed prior to painting.
With that complete (which may take a few hours depending on the number of models), you can move on to painting them. For the figures, place them in a model painting handle, or make your own using a length of wire and something like a cork.
This allows you to move and paint the model without touching it with your fingers.
Trust us, this really is worth investing the time doing. It will pay you dividends in the long run. Prime all models as needed (probably in white), and then leave to dry fully before moving on to the paint scheme proper.
For any items you plan on adding (bags, barrels, tools, etc), you may find it easier to glue them directly to your diorama first. This will enable you to paint them, and blend them into the diorama much more easily.
Tape off around the scenery pieces (to protect any complete elements), and paint as needed. Use a mixture of greys, browns, and colors for things like building materials, sacks, bottles, etc. For best results, ensure you make good use of dry brushing for non-living things like boxes, etc.
Use a mixture of washes and thinner-oil paints to add depth to the models too, as usual. For added realism, you can add things like tiny pictures and posters to walls too.
Let your imagination run riot!
If needed, add shadowing, and generally blend in the items you've added to your existing structure. As before, use a mixture of inks, washes, and thinned-down oil paints.
Step 4: Paint the main figurines
With all that complete, we can now move on to the main characters. If not already done so, hold the models in clamps or model handles.
Ensure the primer is dry, and then begin to add the base colors. As always, thin down your paints and apply them as required. For the zombies, you may want to choose some vibrant colors for their clothes, etc, to make them stand out.
You can add things like brand names or band names to t-shirts, etc if you want to give them a bit of realism. Of course, this is completely up to you.
Since zombies are basically undead and rotting things, you will want to paint their flesh putrid colors like greys, greens, and greys. There are plenty of tutorials on this sort of thing, so be sure to check them out if your want some inspiration.
Add reds and browns to simulate blood and gore, etc, as usual. Ensure you also use washes, inks, and thinned oils to give the models depth. Also use dry brushing for things like clothes, hair, etc, as needed.
Repeat a similar process for any animals and human characters you want to be included. You may, as in this case, also want to add a mutilated cow to the diorama for the zombies to feed on.
Step 5: Paint the windmill
With the main models complete, we can now begin to paint the windmill. Use inks, washes, and thinned-oils to stain the balsa wood to match the rest of any wooden elements of your diorama.
Once dry, you can also give the structural parts of the windmill a good going over with dry brushing too.
Next, take the windmill blades, and primer the wood and aluminum, as needed. Paint the blades a mixture of grey and rust colors to make them look used and aged. Using a small piece of sponge, you can also apply a mottled effect to them to really make them look like they have been out in the elements for some time.
Once all the painting is complete, you can then go ahead and attach the blade assembly to the main windmill frame.
Step 6: Build the base for the diorama
Next grab your polystyrene block, or whatever material you want to make the base from. Place the barn and windmill onto it as you will want them to appear in the final piece. Then using a marker pen, sketch out the dimensions and shape of the base to your liking.
Once you are happy, cut the base down to size using hand tools or power tools.
Once complete, you can frame the edge of the board using strips of balsa wood. Tape together and leave to dry. Ensure the balsa wood is slightly higher than the base material to form a lip.
Once dry, mix up some plaster, and fill the cavity, as needed. Leave to dry, and then trim off any excess balsa wood, as needed.
Next, mix up your joint compound according to its instructions. Add some sand and fine gravel too (just source from nature). Liberally pour and spread over the surface of your base to provide it with some texture.
While it is still tacky, press your barn and windmill into the joint compound and leave it to set.
With that complete, grab your textured modeling pastes and add further texture to the base. Again apply liberally over the floor area of the diorama to simulate mud.
You will want to use a mixture of tones -- in this case grey and sandy colored.
Spread it over the entire surface of the model as you see fit and mix the different shades together on the model.
Leave it to dry, and then mix a thinned down mud or clay-colored acrylic paint. Paint over the entire surface to give it a more realistic look.
Step 7: Add vegetation and complete the diorama
Once the paint is dry, you can now begin to add some vegetation. Let's start with some grass.
Cover the areas you want the grass to appear with matte PVA glue. Then sprinkle modeling flock over the glued areas. For best results, use electrostatic flock, and sprinkle using a dispenser. This will make the flock stand on end rather than landing flat on the model.
With that complete, you can begin to manually add tufts of grass and some shrubbery. Apply to the model as you see fit.
Try to make it look as realistic as possible.
With the tufts of grass, try to combine different shades, if possible. If you want to, you can also add several layers of longer flock to give the areas of grass some depth.
Either use your electrostatic applicator or complete it by hand.
For inside the barn, add some hay-colored flock, some random gravel, etc as needed. You can also add other features like some farm machinery, etc, as you see fit.
With that, your wonderful zombie apocalypse diorama is basically complete. You can continue to tinker with it at will, but you have basically now created your own little masterpiece.
If this has excited your model-making side, then why not consider making a train station diorama next? Zombies are optional with this one.