How to Create a 3D Wetland Diorama

••• marsh landscape image by JCVStock from

Wetlands exist all over the world but consist of two distinct types: coastal and inland. Coastal wetlands are found on or near the coasts of oceans and result from tidal flood waters. Inland wetlands are found near ponds, lakes, or any area that holds water such as swamps or bogs. Each type of wetland contains different plants and animals that vary in turn by country or continent. When building a 3D wetland diorama, you must know exactly what type of wetland you are constructing and the vegetation and animals that populate that wetland.

    Choose a diorama type. Two most common types of diorama are flat surface or shoe box diorama. Construct a flat surface diorama on a cookie sheet with a lip, a piece of wood or particle board. Shoe box dioramas use a shoe box turned on its side and set inside the lid. Construct the diorama inside the open area of the shoe box and the tray-like surface of the lid.

    Lay the groundwork. Use foam, Styrofoam or paper maché to construct the contours of the wetland landscape. For pools of water or coast lines, cut directly into the Styrofoam or build up paper maché to make a depression. Color the ground cover with paint, construction paper, or felt. Add rocks, sand, or moss to add realistic dimensions to the diorama.

    Simulate water. Use several layers of saran wrap over a picture of swimming fish, amphibians or other suitable wildlife to simulate the a clear surface of a calm pond, or wrinkle the saran wrap to simulate waves. Melt clear gelatin or wax and suspend model fish inside before it completely solidifies. Lay pieces of mirror to create a reflective pool for water fowl to swim in.

    Apply appropriate vegetation. When available, use actual grass samples or twigs from native trees to represent the vegetation of the wetland. Also, hobby shops offer a wide selection of plastic models. Otherwise, glue pictures of wetland vegetation to poster board and cut out. Glue or tape a toothpick to the back of the cutout leaving half the toothpick exposed at the bottom. Stick the toothpick into the groundwork to allow the pictures to stand up.

    Populate the wetland diorama with the correct animals and insect species. Again, use animal models found in toy stores or hobby shops. If the appropriate animals are not available, use the same poster board and toothpick method from Step 4 to support pictures of the animals.

    Things You'll Need

    • Foam
    • Styrofoam
    • Paper maché
    • Paints
    • Construction paper
    • Felt or fabric
    • Rocks
    • Sand
    • Moss
    • Saran Wrap
    • Mirror
    • Clear gelatin or wax
    • Twigs
    • Grass
    • Plant models
    • Pictures of wetland vegetation
    • Poster board
    • Scissors
    • Toothpick
    • Tape
    • Glue
    • Animal models or pictures


About the Author

Transplanted Yankee Erin Watson-Price lives in Birmingham, Ala., and has been writing freelance articles since 1997. She worked as writer/co-editor for Coast to Coast Dachshund Rescue's newsletter, "The Long and the Short of It." In 2007 she obtained a certification as a copy editor. Watson-Price holds a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.

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