How to Make a Water Diorama on a Budget

As the title would have it, this water effect was achieved more or less under US$10. This is how I made the water diorama that won the BEST in CREATIVITY and MODIFICATION award in a 2008 Gundam modeling competition. Here are the steps.


  1. Styrofoam board
  2. 2 liter PET bottle (optional, for dramatic indentation on water)
  3. Clear folder (also optional for the super splash effect)
  4. Transparent Silicon (the cheapest one you can find in hardware stores)
  5. Paints/ spoon / fork
  6. Photo reference
Mark desired shape on the PET bottle.
Cut and make sure you give allowance for further cutting or fitting later
Trace the shape onto the styrofoam board, cut and make adjustments for the height of the indentation.
Paint the bottom side. I used only industrial spray cans (Pylox) for all my painting needs, yes, including my kits. Pencil the water patterns heavily so that you will have a guide later when applying the silicon
Get a scrap clear folder. Draw on paper the pattern you want for the splash. Trace and cut onto the folder. Make two of these.
Check the angle and adjust to desired effect.
Remove splash pattern. Spray on sea blue and dark green with any pattern. You may also consider adding dark blue. Be careful when applying these types of paints, they eat away the styrofoam. Allow paint to dry for two hours.
Pin the splash effect permanently.
Apply the silicon. Make sure to have your spoon and fork ready as the silicon sets in 10 minutes, more or less. Use toothpick to create the froth of the water under and outside the splash. Consider the water movement when doing your froth. For the inside of the indentation, use spoon for smooth water effect.
Nice Accident
Notice the trailing edge from the end of the indentation, the styrofoam was eaten away by the paint. I brushed (decanted sea blue) onto it, which gave it a really nice effect! First I almost panicked, but seeing the paint eating the styrofoam made me realize, “yeah, I need that effect!”
For this project, I built up the small splash for the leg of the owned union flag (lower right).

For the rest of the area of the water, I used spoon and used only short arching stroke all through out. Dry brushed the froth and the splash with quick drying enamel.
One mistake I made was applying the silicon indoors. It left me a bit nauseous. I would advice strongly that you do this in open air.
And there you have it. I know you guys can pick up on this and make way better water effect.

Gallery here

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