The beach! As summer is approaching and your dolls need some vacation photo shooting, this is a good time to make this diorama. I will show you my latest creation, and the tutorial that goes with it, but be warned, it is a bit tricky for the first time clear cast resin users. If you’ve never used clear cast resin, try making a small pond with it first to get used to it.
I made this beach diorama specially for my son, who this week really wanted this new whale play set from Calico Critters. In the US, they have only recently started selling this whale and the treasure ship, so I didn’t make that big of a diorama. Just enough for these two play sets.
This tutorial will be lengthy, and the time it takes to create this diorama is longer than my other projects, but the technique itself and actual working time isn’t too long. I did most of this with my 3 year old son and he was a great help. It might be fun for your kids to try this with you, too!
1. Find yourself a nice sturdy board that does not bend easily. With rather heavy diorama on top, thin or light base board might bend and curl up as it dries. I had this extra shelf from an IKEA cupboard lying around the house, so that is what I used for the base of this diorama.
2. Cut out two 5mm thick (or one 1cm thick) foam boards of the same shape as the base board.
3. Spread glue all over the base board and foam boards and then stick them together.
4. Once the glue is dry, draw a shoreline on top to design your beach. Cut the part that will become the ocean out. Use sandpaper to sand down the shoreline which gives it a gradual slope down into the water.
5. Cut some plastic strips out of a packaging box, etc. for the walls of the ocean part; this will keep our resin inside the diorama as it is setting. I used the plastic sheet from the Calico Critters family’s box (I save them for my crafts)! You don’t have to use plastic sheets if you can’t find them – just anything hard that will make a wall will do.
6. With a low temperature glue gun, attach the plastic strips to the edges of the ocean where you want to have the water. As I mentioned above, this is so that the walls will prevent clear cast resin from dripping out before it is cure and set.
7. With the same glue gun, seal the corners to make sure there will be no leakage once resin in poured in.
8. In a bucket, put mix some water and glue. Don’t put too much water in at first, we can always add more water in later if needed.
9. In the same bucket, add the sand for the beach, and mix well, adding water and glue as necessary. I used two colors from the craft store’s flower arrangement isle. I figured, with this diorama, the sand will have a permanently wet look, so to avoid making the beach sand color too dark, I should mix some lighter (white) shade.
10. Brush glue on all over the top surface of the diorama.
11. Pour all of your sand mixture on the diorama. Spread the sand with the back of a disposable spoon. Make sure that the ocean part is also covered with sand, but it should have an indentation and be lower than the beach. Once the sand is spread the way you want, pat the surface lightly with the back of your spoon. This will give the surface a rough look when dried, instead of smooth, flattened look. This is also the time to add sand castles and foot (paw?) prints on the beach, if you want.
12. Let it dry over night or longer, until the sand is completely dry. After that I covered the sand with an additional coat of glue to make sure that the sand doesn’t crumble later.
13. Once the top coat is dry, this is how your beach should look like. You can see the texture in the sand. Now it’s time to paint the color of the water!
14. I used rather light turquoise-ish blue for my ocean, as I thought I won’t be making my ocean so deep near the beach. For the color choice, you should definitely refer to a photo of a real ocean for the exact look you want.
Mix your acrylic paint with water. I really thinned down the paint since I didn’t want to make any mistakes. If you used watered down paint, all you need to do it add more coats for the bolder look.
15. Give more coats on the deeper areas of the ocean. I only used this one color for the blue, but was able to achieve the gradation I was going for.
16. It’s time for the white acrylic paint for the waves. For this part, again, I really recommend looking at the real beach photo as you paint.
17. Now that the paint is dry, we come to the exciting part! Get your clear casting resin out. Make sure you follow the specific instructions very precisely. Also, don’t forget to open your windows! It’s not that stinky, but I hear it’s better for your lungs that way.
Since I will be making a large amount of resin, and the resin pretty much ruins any bowl you use to mix it in, I just cut the bottom of the big soda bottle to use as a mixing bowl. You can also use plastic cups if you have them handy.
18. Pour in the resin in the ocean! Ah, it looks so much better! If your water goes off on the beach more than the white waves you painted, don’t worry. That’s also what the beach looks like. It’ll all look fine. Typical resin takes about 24 hours to completely cure, so you might want to wait for that. Me, I don’t like waiting, so I only gave it like 6 hours before I moved on to the next step.
19. Once the resin has set, your ocean will already look nice but there is nothing that designates movement in the water. Don’t be satisfied here, because you can make it whole a lot better! This part isn’t recommended for kids, so tuck your toddler in the bed or something. 😉
Get your 5 minute epoxy out. This is a type of resin (I think) that sets in 5 minutes instead of hours. I got mine at a local hobby store that sells diorama materials. You need to make sure that your epoxy cures clear, not yellow when you buy it. It will be a disaster if your ocean turns out yellow!!
20. Because 5 min epoxy sets so quick, it requires you to work quickly. It is definitely safer to make only small amount of mixtures each time and do these steps little by little. I made 10ml mixture at a time in a small plastic disposable measuring cup. I probably went through 10 of these cups and popsicle sticks for the each mixing session.
Pour out all of your 5 min epoxy on the white wave line you painted earlier. Your epoxy is going to want to flow down into the ocean so, with a popsicle stick, you’ll need to keep gathering and pushing it back to the wave line until it starts to set. Once the epoxy stops flowing and starts to stick, with the popsicle stick start patting the epoxy along the wave line. Do this all up and down the wave line, and you’ll need to do it quickly as your epoxy will set very quickly at this point. By patting and poking the wave line, you are stretching out the epoxy and giving the wave line some lift and texture. Once epoxy is too sticky to work on, stop and do not touch the wave line anymore. Overworking on your epoxy too long will result in some unnatural looking waves.
21. Once you finished with your wave line, move on to the mid area, where you should have a slope. For this area, you will be doing the same patting as the wave line, except you will be doing it in certain pattern like the red lines in the picture.
22. Now on to the deeper water where the color is the bluest. For this part, just pour out the epoxy and spread it out. With a stick draw fine lines of water randomly.
23. Your beach is nearly done! But here is another important step. With some watered down white acrylic paint, reinforce the lines of the waves. Basically, gently pat and spread the paint on the areas of the water that are raised with your epoxy patting. This is really show your hard work with epoxy earlier.
24. OK, this is the last step! Phew!! With some more epoxy, coat all areas you had the white paint on. This will give your waves more realistic watery look instead of painted look.
Once that’s set, you are finally finished!