I have received several emails after posting the 'Wolf Guard', my first diorama at the 28mm heroic scale, asking me for tips and advice on how to build one. So I thought I'd make an entry out of it on my blog.
Now I do not profess to be an expert, nor do I think I am qualified more than anyone else; but what I have learned from other more experienced modellers I freely share with anyone who wants to listen and maybe learn something new.
So I have compiled some general points which I have lightly christened the Dioramatine Insights, that should hold as good reference when coming to build a diorama or vignette.
The First Insight - Tell a Story
The most important thing about building a diorama in my opinion is to capture a moment in time that tells a story about an event or occasion. This could be anything form a scene from a battle, a retreat or last stand; or a special occasion that stands out in history or the mythos you are modelling - for example a coronation, Frankenstein coming to life, or the Emperor of Humanity being condemned to the Golden Throne.
The Second Insight - Size & Composition
When the subject of the diorama has been chosen, the next thing to consider is the size. This of course depends a lot on the amount of models you intend to include. A good tip here would be to keep the diorama as compact as possible, regardless of how many models you choose to include. The principle here is to keep the eye from wandering. Also the bigger the diorama to more filling you will need in order to keep it interesting.
The Third Insight - The Main Attraction
Every diorama must have a primary subject - I like to call it the 'story mover' or 'main atttraction'. This usually takes the form of one or two miniatures that are the first thing the eye falls on. They are also what holds the viewer's attention the longest. The story should revolve around this figure or figures. This could be a single figure holding up a banner or a Captain raising a sword, or two champions facing off, around a swirl of combat. It could also be a vehicle or building or anything else that the diorama's story revolves around.
The Fourth Insight - Animation
Something else that I find important, but is ofttimes overlooked by many beginners is the lack of motion or animation in the diorama. For example, static figures in a shooting pose tend to be boring if they are not accompanied by other figures doing some sort of action - be it dying, carrying the wounded or running away. Many 'last stands' tend to suffer from this. So remember, it is always important to capture motion.
I have a 'last stand' diorama in the pipe works involving some metal Ultramarines. I do not war-game much these days, so I did not know what to do with them. Since I do not like to animate metal figures due to the extra work involved I decided to put them into a 'last stand' diorama. This is a good way to use the static shooting poses of these minis, but one must make it a point to accompany them with other figures that carry the action without swamping them out. Remember that they will probably be in the center with the main attraction.
The Sixth Insight - Relevant Terrain
This might seem a tad unimportant or obvious and I certainly do not want to insult any one's intelligence, but it is not the first time I have seen a potentially good diorama ruined because the terrain does not match the period or genre. So always keep the terrain relevant and in sync with the times.
The Seventh Insight - Choose a Subject that you Enjoy
This is probably the most necessary insight of all, before one actually sits down and starts a diorama. There is no point in building a diorama of something you do not like or are not interested in, unless you do work on commission. Interest and fun go hand-in-hand, so choose wisely and spend some quality time with your project.
Farewell and good health,