Mini Graffiti Diorama (One-Day Project)

Finished Graffiti Mini Diorama

I wanted to start and finish a project in one day and came up with this graffiti mini diorama. It took about 5.5 hours to make.

Together with this new website I also launched my @dioramatic_com Twitter and Instagram accounts. When Bernard Nijenhuis asked me what he won being my first Twitter follower, I immediately knew: a mini diorama based on his own artwork.

The Graffiti Graphic

I’ve known Bernard professionally for years and remembered he likes to illustrate. A quick scroll through his Instagram offered me dozens of options. I chose to go with something that wasn’t too intricate, so it would be easier to reproduce at a small scale. Especially for someone who isn’t great at drawing, like me.

I downloaded this ghost image and ran it through Adobe Illustrator’s trace feature to end up with a crisp vector graphic. I scaled it to the correct dimensions and printed it on transparent plastic (for those old enough to remember: overhead projector sheet) so I could create a simple stencil to at least be able to copy the outlines and overall shape onto my miniature wall.

Building the Wall

First, I took my trusty Proxxon hot wire foam cutter to cut (or melt) a slice of XPS insulation foam to fit my 13 * 18cm photo frame. I made it 8mm thick and glued it to a piece of 1.5mm paperboard, so I wouldn’t accidentally snap off a corner when handling it later.

Next, I used the stencil to see if the image fit properly (it did), and I cut the stencil to use as a guide later using my Fiskars precision knife.

I drew lines for the brickwork using my mechanical pencil. The composition of the pencil is too hard to actually draw, but it does leave a clear debossing pattern. I traced that pattern using the tip of my precision knife and used the tip of a blunt regular pencil to widen the gaps. With a ball stylus that I normally use for modeling polymer clay, I pushed down three bricks to make it look like they split and fell out some time ago. Finally, gently rolling a ball of aluminum foil over the brick gave it that “natural” look (for the concrete base, I swept a wire brush downwards over the foam).

Adding a Drain Pipe

For adding depth and some more “grime” to the graffiti diorama, I wanted to add a drainpipe on the right side of the diorama. I sprayed a paper drinking straw using silver paint and glued it on two pieces of paper and both ends of a toothpick. Using some ground-up pastel chalk I added some brown and green dirt, locking this in place with a misting of isopropyl alcohol (IPA).

Time to Paint

Because I was going to use a dark photo frame, I wanted a bright background with a variety of colors for added interest. I imagined this was a red brick wall built on top of a concrete base, painted yellow a long time ago. First, I applied some Mod Podge matte mixed with some black acrylic paint to harden and protect the foam, to make sure no bare XPS foam shines through, and to give the paint a better structure to hold on to. After that dried, I covered the piece in “banana yellow” and some “charcoal black”, “forest green” and several browns and reds. Most of this was dabbed on using a cleaning sponge I cut up. Finally, I added a homemade black and brown wash to tie it all together.

Adding Graffiti to the Graffiti Diorama

And then I got carried away and forgot to take pictures… I positioned the stencil and carefully drew the outline of the illustration using a thin, blue Sharpie marker. I traced those lines with blue acrylic paint using a thin brush and used another copy of the stencil to see where the other lines should be, draw beginning and endpoints, and connect the two in a way that made it look like the original illustration. Finally, I added Bernard’s signature tag.

Mini graffiti diorama without frame

Putting the Graffiti Diorama Together

Finally, I glued the drainpipe in place (the glue is still white in these pictures; it dried transparent overnight) and put everything in its frame. Calling this mini graffiti diorama done!

Time to head over to the post office to mail this to my first follower.