WWII Airfield Diorama

Create a Realistic World War Two Era Airfield Scale Model

di Alessandro Orseniga
2,140 visite
WWII Airfield Diorama Title

6. Adding Depth

Although a fine runway can do its job, a more complex and detailed diorama can make a difference between a nice scale model and a real masterpiece. Personally, some grassy spots on a barren field, or even an entire grass strip both represent one of the most beautiful detail you can add to your airfield. Let’s have a look at how to create these features.

Preparing the Terrain

Depending on the roughness of the terrain you desire to reproduce, it might be appropriate to modify the flat and smooth surface of the styrofoam sheet. To do so, you can undertake various paths.

The first option consists in adding further styrofoam layers, properly cut and eventually carved to suite your needs. You can easily glue these additional parts with white glue and, if needed, keeping them more strongly in position with some toothpicks. As an alternative, you can put some putty or modeling clay on your diorama and mould it until it fits the result you want to achieve. However, this last tecnique is more suitable for small areas, since it usually requires a considerable amount of putty.

Dirt, Mud and Sand

Otherwise, you can opt for a more “natural” option that can result in very realistic scenarios. This consists in blending water, white glue and fine sand or dirt to obtain a mixture that can be applied where needed. This is perfect for large surfaces as well and, personally, is almost incomparable in terms of realism.

Preparing a mixture to reproduce mud, dirt or sand on a diorama.

The mixture is roughly composed of 60% dirt (or sand), 35% of white glue and 5% of water. Water, however, is not indispensible and, should you notice that your mixture is too fluid, just add more dirt until a mud-like substance is obtained.

I would like to point out that the fineness of the dirt (or sand) you are using is crucial to obtain a realistic effect. The smaller the scale of your diorama, the finer your soil has to be in order to properly resemble reality. This mixture can be easily painted once dry, allowing you to use it to reproduce concrete as well. In this case, using sand instead of dirt results in a better effect.

Reproduced concrete along the runway.

For my model, I decided to create a small “concrete” slope between the runway and the surrounding field. This has been created using a fine river sand with the previously described method. Here is the mixture just applied (not dry yet).

A Colorful Soil

Prior to any application of “grass” and “plants”, it is important to paint the surface intended for this purpose. This is fundamental both to give a less regular aspect to the final result and to provide a first simulation of the grass layer that will be subsequently applied. To this extent, any issue already arose concerning the paint choice is still valid.

As shown in the photo above, an extremely irregular and uneven pattern is perfect for a rough and partially scorched field. Quite the opposite, a flatter and uniform painting can better simulate an airfield which runway surface is a grassy field itself.

Painting the soil

To create this effect I first applied a brownish base, followed by an uneven deep green applied randomly, but more densely far from the runway. Finally, I added a grey-green paint in a spotty pattern.

If you have planned to frame your diorama, this, in my opinion, is the best moment to do so: just prior to apply the grass (or other types of greenery). I indeed think that delicate details such as grass, trees or bushes should be applied as late as possible, to prevent any further process from damaging your model.

For my airfield, I built a thin balsa frame, upon which I glued the model base with a styropor-kleber glue.

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2 commenti

Joe O'Donnell 2 January 2024 - 22:35

Alessandro, thank you for this article, it contains most of what is needed for constructing a model airfield in one place, nicely done. I am atempting to start my first model base. It will be for a 1/72 Me 262B-1a and I have read quite a few articles on such, both the plane and the diorama. The pictures at the beginning are very helpful for the exact reason you call out. From your Who Am I below,” I am a fanatic of precision and, to me, nothing should be left to chance: I want my models to be the result of a real historical study.” You might as well be describing me, I probably spend several months researching before actually pulling the glue out. The aircraft I am building this for is the only remaining German built Me 262B-1a, WNm 110639, only as in there are no others. I am building it as the two seat trainer after some scratch building. All kits I have seen have it modelled as the night fighter which has a different rear cockpit. It is set up for the radar operator and in its trainer from this is where the instructor pilot sits. This plane is currently located at the National Naval Aviation Museum at Naval Air Station Pensacola, FL, USA. Again thank you.


Alessandro Orseniga 10 January 2024 - 18:06

Dear Joe,
Thank you for writing. I am glad my article has been of some help to build your model, and I am even happier to know that other modelers like me spend so much time reserching information about a certain subject before building it. That is pretty much what I do every time I begin a new model. The night fighter version of the Me 262 is a beautiful aircraft, personally, I really like its particular camouflage: a great choice!
Forgive me for not answering your comment right away, again, thank you for sharing your thoughts about my article, I always appreciate it.
I hope the work with your airfield is proceeding well, I wish you all the best.
Best regards,

Alessandro Orseniga


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