How to Build 3D Scale Models

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Scale model details can inspire the imagination of the viewer.
Scale model details can inspire the imagination of the viewer. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

You can build three dimensional scale models of almost anything with a few basic art supplies. Scale models are larger or smaller versions of a measurable object. A model that is three-dimensional, or 3D, can be viewed from every angle. Many scale models are made as inexpensive prototypes of large and costly design concepts. A viewer's understanding of an object's proportions can be greatly increased by looking at a 3D scale model as they move around it.

Things You'll Need

  • Pencil
  • Measuring tape
  • Calculator
  • Heavy card stock (100 lb)
  • Ruler
  • Drafting stencil (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Corrugated cardboard
  • Utility knife
  • Balsa wood or craft sticks (optional)
  • Markers
  • Glue

Draw a small sketch of the view of each side of the object. Measure and record all the dimensions of the original object on the corresponding sections in the drawing.

Divide or multiply the largest measurement taken from the object to figure the best scale for the model. For instance, a large object with a length of 100 feet could be divided by 10 to create a model that is ten feet in length. Likewise, a small object that is one inch in length can be multiplied by 20 to create a model that is 20 inches in length.

Apply the scale increase or reduction to all the other measurements from the sketches. Use a calculator to make sure the measurements are correct.

Draw the newly scaled object dimensions on thick card stock. Trace the edge for straight lines and check their lengths with a ruler. A drafting stencil is helpful when drawing curves.

Cut out each piece of the scale object carefully with sharp scissors. Cut corrugated cardboard supports for large card stock panels with a utility knife. Balsa wood or craft sticks can also be cut to create lightweight supports.

Draw details on one side of the card stock pieces with markers. Glue the cardboard or wood supports on the backsides of the panels and allow them to dry. Glue the supported card stock panels together with the detailed sides facing out to create the 3D scale model.

Tips & Warnings

  • Choose glues that dry clear to keep the model looking clean.
  • Create a small scene for the three dimensional scale model that includes scale versions of the surroundings.

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