Diorama size question

I’m after some feedback. I’ve built my bulldozer and want to put it on a diorama and I’ve hit a mental block. My question is - does size matter??

You see I have a theory that all my dioramas would be on bases that have a 6 inch unit size. ie 6" x 6". 6" x 12". 12" x 12". etc etc, I based my theory on buying display cases to fit these measurements. ie a bulk buy would get them cheaper. Dust is an issues we live in the sub tropics and windows and doors are often open and dust becomes an issue.

I figured a 6" x 12" base for my dozer. But I’m afraid the diorama will consume details and take away from the dozer. I was going to build it being serviced in the field. But then it would look neat backed into an old workshop.

Would you try and keep to my theory or just say $#@# it and build them to a size that fits the model? Below is a mock up on a 6’ x 12’ base.



Why would there need to be a lot of details to “take away from the dozer”?
A mechanic, some tools, the dozer, ground with criss crossing tracks and that’s it.
The last or top set of tracks ends under the dozer, maybe it broke down when it was pushing dirt so there would be dirt up against the blade or it broke after backing up a couple of feet so that fresh tracks lead forward toward the blade, maybe it was turning which leaves other “foot prints”

I design my bases using a not dissimilar criteria; sometime ago when I first got back into the hobby after a hiatus of some 22 years I joined a club, which meant I was able to display my models (if they were any good - they often weren’t!) at shows. That meant they had to be transported; I hit on the idea of using discarded A4 sized photocopying paper boxes. If I could procure a base sized the same (ie A4 - a standard European size) as the paper, I could invert the box. The base would fit snugly in what was the lid, and if say a model AFV was on the base, then the box itself would give me antennae clearance. This all enabled easier storage as well.

I found that A4 would enable me to display a 1:35 model say an M60 sized-tank, yet still give me enough space to finish off the base with some scenic etc effects or figures. By utilizing these sized boxes I could also use them for smaller bases (for smaller models eg soft-skins etc) as long as they still fitted within the A4 box. I use therefore a mix of 8", 7" and sometimes even smaller square bases depending on the model. All readily transportable within the box.

For larger vehicles, such as heavy tanks or say, I wanted a busier display of several vehicles and figures, I used A3 sized boxes, working to the same criteria as above. My local hobby shop provides me with 12mm deep MDF bases in the sizes I dictate, which is great. I prep these with lots of sanding and varnishing. I finish them off with a standard brass plate suitable engraved, all done quite cheaply at a local shop.

The upshot was, not entirely by accident, was that I really had to think when composing a model/display. Obviously, on the A4 sizes when displaying a MBT, there wasn’t that much spare room, but it did discipline me to think about the positioning, accessories etc, and this is where the size does indeed matter, but as I say, the result is probably a better display as the discipline kicks in; for instance, less is more perhaps.

I hope that, somewhere along the line, this helps.

A couple of (poor) pics:


Leopard 1 - Bw

showing arguably the max that one can obtain without clutter; and an A3 one:

Conqueror 2 (1)

obviously showing a larger vehicle.


Robin I was referring more about details if I built the dozer in a workshop. I come from a model railroading background where detail is consumed in vast amounts!

I guess my main issue is that a 6" x 6" base is too small for the dozer. Whereas I feel a 6" x 12" is too big.

I’ll keep procrastinating for a while longer.


I really like your concept thus far and believe in your case either size could work… Hard to tell without seeing a 6” x 6” mock-up. Could you back the subjects up a bit and lay a paper edge at the 6” length to get a rough idea how that looks?

You might also consider how the subject will look when shooting at low angle (eye-level) photography. The extra breathing room could prove very useful in that scenario.


I understand what you mean about the workshop.
That much floor space would certainly have been used for something.
In a workshop setting the dozer would become “just another part” of the total scene.
In an outdoors scene the dozer could be the “star” of the drama.

A courtyard outside the closed doors of a workshop?

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I agree with @justsendit try a quick mock up of the 6x6 size and see if you can get it to work. If not, then then what you have laid out in the photo above would work just fine, if needed you could add a small work bench or something.

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Composition of the scene should drive the size and shape of the base and not the other way 'round.

Filling space just to fill it or cutting elements out because the base is too small are both compromises that you should not have to make. Compose the scene, then make a base to fit that composition - exactly the way you imagine it should be. Every element should serve a purpose, and its presence should be planned and intended.

Sketch it out, mock it up, revise until it’s right, then figure out where the edges should be and the shape that best holds it all together. Then, and only then, make the base.


The simple solution is to build your own plexiglass covers to fit the base that you end up with. That way there are no compromises on what you want to display

Exactly what SdAufKla said. :triangular_ruler: :memo:

I wouldn’t call that a “simple solution.” That’s a whole lot of work. IMHO :hammer_and_wrench:

I know someone that gets fencing wire and makes a rectangular frame for around the base, then adds wire loops to the ends and middle. Then he lays cling wrap over that. It looks kind of like the old covered wagons in the westerns. It is more a dust preventative than a display case, but whipped up in no time. He can make them to whatever size he wants.

Justsendit 6" x 6" is too small. The dozer overhangs whichever way I put it.

I have a bunch of MiniArt details so a workshop is tempting. I would have to figure out a logical floor. I’m leaning towards what SdAufKla said and should let the composition drive the scene. Thanks for the reality check. As a semi pro photographer, retired, I should have known that.

Thanks everyone for the input.


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Always keep in mind that the purpose of a diorama is to tell a story. Not simply display a model. If you’re just trying to display your dozer in its natural habitat, a small, simple base will be fine. If you’re telling a story, go as large as u need to.
That said, I do my best to design all my dioramas to fit on a normal bookshelf, keeping them to around 30cm (around 11.5 inches.). To me, it’s part of the challenge. Good luck with your project.

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Thanks everyone for the feedback.
Enough of the procrastinating. A 6" x 12" diorama it is. I’ve roughed it out. It will be an in the field repair job.




Yes! Big time!:ok_hand:


We’ll be watching :wink:

I’ve consolidated the diorama build on the build thread.


The best advice I have for a diorama is to give it enough Bass to tell the story without having to fill it with a bunch of clutter to make it look full. The second part of that advice would be what’s called chaotic symmetry please check that out it will be a game-changer for you

That certainly looks the part… Not too big in my eyes at all!!!

Think of all of the modeled elements as the “words” and “vocabulary” that you will use to tell your story and the composition of those elements as the “grammar.”

Just like there are rules for grammar, composition has its own principles, concepts and rules. These slides are from a seminar that I pitched at the AMPS International Convention in 2013. It includes a pretty comprehensive section and discussion about composition for dioramas and vignettes:

Bases and Groundwork::Basic Materials and Techniques