Tropical jungles form the backdrop for outfield exercises and training during NS (National Service).
Those of us who have gone through it will vividly recall the smell of the thick, humid air, the feel of boots squelching through mud, the sight of thick undergrowth closing in around you, and the sound of buzzing mosquitoes and myriad insects calling.
NS training and real-life missions often take place in tropical jungles (Picture Source)
Such is the scene that we try to recreate when making attractive displays for our soldier figurines.
In this post we take you behind the scenes to share how we craft our handmade jungle scene dioramas, as well as the products that we use to make them look as realistic as possible. Those of you who are hobby makers can even try your hands at it after this!
Now, if you are a scale modeller or diorama guru reading this post, no judge please! We’re newbies who are still learning and improving. =)
Form the Base
We start with a piece of plywood for the base. It doesn’t need to be too thick – just rigid enough so that it doesn’t warp under the weight of the materials that’ll go on top later.
A piece of styrofoam is then cut to size and glued on top, so that the plants we add later can be easily stuck in.
To form some hills, we roughly break-off uneven pieces of styrofoam and glue them on. At this stage, it’s important to decide on the layout with the placement of the soldier figurines in mind.
Yeah… not super exciting at this point.
(If we get lung problems in our old age, it’s definitely because of all the spray paint we inhaled…)
The styrofoam is white, and we’re not making a Winter Wonderland. So we cover all that blanc with brown, which is the colour of actual jungle ground. Spray-painting is the best way to go, because we need to be as thorough we possible. The last thing we want is to have bits of white peeking out amidst the greens and browns later on.
Spritz on the Glue
To make sure the ground cover we’re about to sprinkle on sticks and doesn’t blow away with the wind, we cover the surface with glue. But not just any glue. We use Scenic Cement from a brand called Woodland Scenics (more about this brand later). The beauty of this glue is that it dries without leaving any residue, and it’s fluid enough to seep into crevices (exactly what we want).
Apply the Ground Cover
This is the fun part!
To make jungle ground cover that looks realistic, we need to recreate grass, soil, leaf litter, stones and pebbles.
Some people who have seen our dioramas in person ask if we use real material from nature. We don’t – because that would get quite unsanitary after a while. Besides, there are professional materials out there that look just as good as the real thing.
We mainly use materials from Woodland Scenics, which is a US-based supplier. Luckily, we don’t need to order from overseas, because they have a pretty good selection of things available at Art Friend.
Here are some of their products that we usually work with:
These synthetic materials look so realistic that after sprinkling them on, the scene quickly begins to resemble a real ground in the jungle. The key is to layer and try to mimic the actual place. For example, we’re going for tropical jungles, not mossy forests. So we go easy on the green and use more browns.
Add the Plants
And now, the magic touch – inserting the plants.
At this stage, you can actually go as far as your pockets are deep. There are many different grades of synthetic plants out there. Some are handmade with paper and look ultra realistic but cost a bomb – as much as 8 USD per plant! And since we’re creating a jungle scene, we’re going to need lots of plants.
So the challenge is in finding affordable options and putting together the foliage with not just trees (which cost the most), but also bushes, shrubs and grass.
Oh and we also like to add these synthetic wooden logs that look just like the real thing:
Another thing we need to be mindful of is getting the correct scale for the plants. This ensures that they don’t look too large or too small when placed beside our soldier figurines. Figurines come in different scales, so diorama plants do too. Our figurines are in a 60mm, or 1/30 scale, so we need to only use plants that are of the same scale. Manufacturers will usually indicate this information in their listings.
And that’s it! A jungle scene diorama is complete. The final touch is to add a print-out of a jungle backdrop and we’re all ready to reenact an out field scene with our soldier figurines!
Now all that’s left is to clean up the mess so that the wife doesn’t lose her sh*t. (҂⌣̀_⌣́)
Our jungle scene dioramas take a couple of hours to produce (days, if you include time taken for drying), and we make them ourselves. So till we earn enough moolah to hire a bunch of staff to help, we can only offer them at fairs and in limited quantities. Our next fair is taking place on 22-23 Apr 2017 at the Public Garden Consumer Trade Show at Suntec City Convention Hall 403! There will be just 10 pieces up for grabs, so be sure to get them whilst stocks last!