Category Archives: Products

Ground Blur display bases from Coastal Kits

Coastal Kits has come up with a simple and effective way to create a diorama with the illusion of motion. By mounting your model aircraft above a Ground Blur display base, the streaked photo-quality backdrop creates the impression that the aircraft is flying at high speed. This is the same motion blur effect which would be achieved by a photographer panning with a flying aircraft while taking the picture.

The bases are a foam board/plastic/vinyl laminate construction and various backgrounds are available. Although Coastal Kits shows the bases in tabletop configuration on its website, you could mount the base on a wall just like a painting, provided you had a sufficiently strong support rod for the aircraft. Since there always seems to be a shortage of space when it comes to displaying dioramas, the wall mount option is an appealing alternative. Just don’t put it in a high traffic area where visitors run the risk of knocking their heads against your aircraft model! See the Coastal Kits website for more information.

If you like to build dioramas and want to learn more about how to incorporate the illusion of motion into your work, you might like my new book, Diorama Design. It’s available both ebook and print formats at Amazon.

-Ivar

Second Anniversary

The release of my new book, Diorama Design, marks the second anniversary of Creative Dioramas. It’s now available on Amazon in both ebook and print formats.

Diorama Design is a practical guide to design theory for modellers who like to build dioramas. I explain key design concepts and show you how to apply them, using actual dioramas as case studies. Diorama Design will teach you how to think like an artist and increase the visual impact of your dioramas.

If you’re a regular visitor to this blog, thanks for your continued interest. Feel free to browse the catalogue of previous posts in addition to whatever’s on the home page, and use the search box if you’re after a specific topic. Here’s looking towards Year Three!

-Ivar

Diorama Design is now available on Amazon

I’m pleased to announce that my new book, Diorama Design, is now available on Amazon in both ebook and print formats.

Diorama Design is a practical guide to design theory for modellers who like to build dioramas. I explain key design concepts and show you how to apply them, using actual dioramas as case studies. Diorama Design will teach you how to think like an artist and increase the visual impact of your dioramas. Fully illustrated with colour photographs.

-Ivar

Charming minimalist dioramas from Platz

The Miniature Animal series from Platz puts a unique spin on the diorama. These tiny, carefully composed vignettes of domestic cats at play have a unique look, owing to the tall base and single background wall framing the main subject.

What makes these dioramas so refreshing is their very zen-like design. Like a Haiku poem, each scene is stripped to its bare essentials. Although obviously aimed at animal lovers, these products are an excellent case study in design for all diorama artists. Too often, dioramas are crammed to the brim with enough bric-a-brac to fill a small attic. The spare composition of the Miniature Animal series shows what can be achieved with a few elements precisely arranged for optimal aesthetic effect. Truly an example of “less is more.”

Most pre-assembled dioramas come with three walls, in an attempt to create a panoramic background. This type of design is visually clumsy due to the sharp 90° creases where the side walls meet the back wall. Platz has solved this problem by eliminating the side walls altogether. The single back wall is spare and elegant. It works remarkably well.

The Miniature Animal series is available through HobbyLink Japan at https://hlj.com/.

-Ivar

Announcing my upcoming book on dioramas

I’m currently putting the finishing touches on a new book. The focus of this book will be optimizing the visual impact of your dioramas. Whether you’ve built a few dioramas or are just starting out, this book will show you how to think like an artist and take your dioramas to the next level.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may be wondering if the book is simply going to catalogue the posts I’ve written here. I can assure you that the content is all new and hasn’t been covered on this blog. I’ll also be including lots of photos which haven’t been posted before.

The book will be about 75 pages in length and will be available through Amazon. It will be illustrated in full colour. Stay tuned!

-Ivar

Dioramansion prefabricated displays from PLM

PLM has just announced new products in its Dioramansion series for upcoming release: Savanna, Western Ruins and Halloween (August), and Skating Rink (October). These full colour displays are intended to be used as backgrounds for children’s dioramas and include a base and two backdrop walls, each measuring about 10x10cm. Notice I said two walls, not three. The base has been rotated so it’s a diamond instead of a square, so only two walls are needed to create the background. This is a clever design twist which reduces the number of vertical creases in the background. There’s still one crease where the two walls join, which works fine for interior scenes, but not as well for outdoor ones.

PLM’s products offer the young modeller an accessible path into the world of dioramas. They remind me of the dioramas at the Lego Store—colourful and not too fussed about realism—and are aimed at a similar demographic. By adding some action figures or toy vehicles to a Dioramansion, a simple diorama can be created in minutes.

PLM’s Dioramansion series is highly recommended for young modellers and is available through HobbyLink Japan at https://hlj.com. A great introduction to the world of dioramas.

-Ivar

Hydrocal plaster diorama kits from Dioramas Plus

US-based Dioramas Plus was formed in 2008 by Randy Pepprock, who is known for his Downtown Deco model railroad buildings. Dioramas Plus is unique in offering kits with hydrocal plaster castings rather than injection or vacuform styrene parts. Hydrocal is a lightweight casting plaster which holds detail well. In addition to hydrocal parts, most of the kits also include laser cut wood doors and window frames.

Like MiniArt’s Dioramas Series kits, Dioramas Plus kits are aimed squarely at the armor modeller. And as with MiniArt, the kits allow the diorama artist to customize the scene by adding their own vehicles and figures.

What separates Dioramas Plus from MiniArt and other manufacturers is the build process. Working with hydrocal and wood requires specialized adhesives such as superglue and epoxy. And hydrocal is porous, so slightly different techniques are needed for painting and finishing. For the modeller venturing beyond styrene for the first time, there will be a bit of a learning curve. But there’s a benefit: hydrocal is a solid casting and is more suitable than thin sheet styrene parts for modelling walls, rubble, etc. It’s also rigid, and doesn’t flop around like a piece of vacuformed plastic.

Having used hydrocal before, I was impressed with its light weight and the ease with which it can be worked. Hydrocal is so soft and easy to sculpt that it invites experimentation—it will release your inner sculptor!

The Dioramas Plus kits are well designed and provide an excellent starting point for creating a custom scene. For the intermediate diorama modeller ready to expand their horizons and go beyond styrene, they’re worth checking out, at http://www.dioramasplus.com/site/.

-Ivar

The Dioramas Series of kits from MiniArt

Ukraine-based MiniArt is a manufacturer of plastic kits specializing in military subjects. Their Dioramas Series consists of a number of nicely designed 1:35 scale diorama bases, often with streets and ruined buildings, which are ideal for the novice diorama artist. These kits are intended as a starting point from which you can add your own vehicles, figures, etc. and create whatever story you want to tell. Some of the kits have figures already included.

The visual appeal of these kits is top notch. They meet all the criteria of good design, checking the boxes for symmetry and balance, topographical variation, and eye-pleasing geometry. By using one of these kits as a starting point, the novice gets a huge head start towards completing an impressive diorama. By taking care of the sometimes difficult first steps of overall layout, MiniArt does the heavy lifting and helps build confidence for the beginner.

The typical Dioramas Series kit generally contains less than 100 parts, and everything is in styrene, so no special adhesives are required for assembly. Kits include a combination of injection moulded and vacuform parts; while the latter may present more of a challenge, nothing is out of reach for those with basic modelling skills. MiniArt’s website features a helpful how-to page with photos and videos as well.

These kits are of modest dimensions. The one-piece base is generally less than a foot square, so the completed diorama will fit on an average sized shelf. Conveniently, MiniArt specifies the length and width of the base on the box cover.

Although each kit contains all the parts required to create the finished piece shown on the box, there is always room for improvement. For the artist who wants to go a step further, it would be easy to embellish the kit with realistic extras like sprinkle-on grass, loose rubble, bushes and trees. And you could place the styrene base on a nice piece of wood to spruce up the overall presentation.

Most of these kits will end up being populated with tanks and figures, and the proportions are laid out with the armour modeller in mind. One of the kits, a River Embankment Section, could be expanded to include a boat or two. And with a little imagination, an aviation enthusiast could incorporate an aircraft into one of the kits. The 1:35 scale isn’t an exact match for 1:32 aircraft kits, but the difference would barely be noticeable.

MiniArt’s Dioramas Series is highly recommended, particularly for beginners. These kits are a great introduction to the world of dioramas for those who have thought about creating a diorama, but weren’t sure how to begin. See http://miniart-models.com/.

-Ivar

 

Naval diorama kits from Fujimi

Fujimi has a series of interesting products in 1:3000 scale which are a great introduction to naval dioramas. Each kit depicts a Japanese naval port and includes a base with docks and buildings molded in one piece, as well as a selection of ships. Any number of diorama scenes could be created with the supplied parts.

The key benefit of these kits is the professionally designed base, which gives the novice diorama builder a good head start. Coming up with the overall design for a diorama is probably the most daunting task for the novice.

The Fujimi bases can be enhanced in a number of ways. The one piece molding of the base makes painting difficult but not beyond reach for those with lots of masking tape and patience. You’ll want to stock up on fine brushes and a good magnifying glass before detailing the tiny ships. A more ambitious upgrade would involve replacing the sea (which is molded in opaque styrene along with the rest of the base) with clear acrylic or some other material to create a more realistic water effect.

The possibilities for diorama scenes are endless. The small scale of these kits affords the possibility of creating an all-out naval battle involving several ships, without needing a model railroad sized space. The diminutive scale chosen by Fujimi was no doubt influenced by the fact that residential space is at a premium in much of Japan. For those with more space, extra ships and sea level extension panels can be bought separately.

Fujimi’s Japanese language website isn’t the easiest to navigate if you don’t speak Japanese, but their naval port kits are available through HobbyLink Japan at http://hlj.com.

-Ivar

Thunderbird 2 and the “kits versus toys” conundrum

There is usually a clear dividing line between plastic kit manufacturers (like Tamiya) and toy producers (like Hasbro). As far as I know, Tamiya has never produced a toy and Hasbro has never produced a scale model kit.

But some companies make both kits and toys. Bandai, Aoshima and Takara Tomy fall into this category. The quality of kits produced by these firms tends to be less consistent than you’d find with a dedicated kit manufacturer. This isn’t surprising given that their primary target market is children.

It goes without saying that five-year olds have a vastly different set of criteria than adults do when it comes to hobbies. Some five-year olds like to put their prized possessions in the sandbox. Others like to chew on them. I’ve yet to see any adult modellers taking part in either of these activities (if you know an adult fitting this description, please take them to a psychiatrist immediately).

Takara Tomy recently introduced both a large toy of Thunderbird 2 from the new Thunderbirds Are Go TV series, as well as a “Real Kit” of the same subject in 1:144 scale. The former product is aimed squarely at five-year olds. It features opening sections, moving parts, a detachable pod with Thunderbird 4, and built-in sounds. This seems to be a well thought out product which kids should like.

The 1:144 Real Kit, however, has some shortcomings:
1. The kit is hard to distinguish from the toy. In fact, eBay listings for the two products are so similar that it’s hard to tell one from the other.
2. It is a snap together kit with a choice of stick-on markings or waterslide decals. These features indicate that the product is aimed at novice modellers.
3. Like the toy, the kit features a removable cockpit roof. This creates a huge gap at the bottom of the roof and ruins the scale look of the kit. Authenticity was obviously not a priority in the design of the kit.

Considering these compromises, it’s clear that Takara Tomy rejected the idea of a serious scale replica. Instead, the company attempted to create a product that would appeal to both children and adults. This was a mistake for two reasons.

First, the Real Kit is not sufficiently different from the toy in price or appearance. This may result in the two products cannibalizing each other’s sales.

Second, the Real Kit was designed under the assumption that most Thunderbirds Are Go viewers are kids. This fails to take adult viewers into account, who grew up with the original Thunderbirds series and are now enjoying the new reboot as a trip down memory lane. Many of these returning viewers are experienced modellers willing to pay top dollar for authentic kits of their favourite subjects. They have fond memories of the original Thunderbirds series and still admire all its wonderful hardware.

Takara Tomy would have been much wiser to follow the example of FineMolds, whose Star Wars kits set a new standard in quality for sci-fi subjects. Their enormously successful 1:72 Millennium Falcon which I discussed here is a case in point. The FineMolds Falcon was a rarity: a mass produced, high quality sci-fi kit aimed squarely at experienced modellers, with no compromises made to attract younger modellers.

In addition to compromising the quality of their kits, companies like Takara Tomy, Bandai and Aoshima also do a disservice to modellers by associating kits with toys. This tarnishes the image of scale modelling. Buying a kit from one of these companies is a bit like buying a stereo from a guy with a van parked in an alley.

But at the end of the day, having an average quality kit of the new Thunderbird 2 is better than nothing. Given the relatively low demand for sci-fi kits, we have to take what we can get. So if you decide to pick up Takara Tomy’s new Thunderbird 2, be prepared to do some extra work to get it up to standard. The basic shape of the kit looks accurate enough, and most of its shortcomings can be overcome with a little care. Just make sure to throw out the stickers. Or even better, mail them back to Takara Tomy with a note stating that scale modellers don’t use stickers!

-Ivar