How to Build a 3D Model of a Plant Cell

By Catelyn Millette

Plant cells are the building blocks for all plant matter. They are similar in structure to animal cells but have a few noticeable differences: their square shape, the rigid cell wall that surrounds them and their chloroplasts that are used for photosynthesis. They also contain a single, large vacuole, whereas animal cells have many. Keeping these differences in mind is helpful when building a 3D model of a plant cell so that it comes out looking as realistic as possible.

Pour vegetable oil into one of your Ziploc bags until it’s about half full. The vegetable oil represents the cell’s cytoplasm.

Add a medium-sized bouncy ball. This will be your nucleus.

Place three or four mandarin oranges as mitochondria and three or four green grapes as chloroplasts in the bag.

Pour water into a balloon until it is two or three times the size of your nucleus bouncy ball. Tie the end of the balloon and place it in the Ziploc. This will serve as the vacuole, a fluid-filled space within the cell.

Add several pieces of pipe cleaner as endoplasmic reticulum.

Add a piece of ribbon candy to represent the Golgi apparatus and a small marble for the centrosome.

Sprinkle in a small handful of sesame seeds. These will represent the cell’s ribosomes.

Add more vegetable oil to the bag, if needed, until it is fairly full but still has plenty of give. Close the bag.

Maneuver the organelles so they are spread throughout the bag. Make sure your centrisome and Golgi apparatus end up near the nucleus, as this is how they’re situated in a real cell.

Place the bag inside your second Ziploc bag. If it doesn’t fit easily, pour out oil until it does.

Drizzle a little bit of oil in the space between the two bags. This represents the cell membrane, a thin, semi-permeable membrane between the cell wall and the rest of the cell. Close up the second bag.


If you don’t have some of these ingredients, you can switch them for other, similar ingredients. For example, you can replace vegetable oil with gelatin or exchange sesame seeds for bird seed or pepper.

About the Author

Catelyn Millette lives in northern Maine and has been freelance writing since 2010. She covers video games, crafts and animals, and studied animal science at Cornell University.