Craft, Art and Building Materials For Miniatures

Learn which materials are best for building and finishing miniatures and models, with information on their uses, weaknesses, and strengths. The materials on this list have handling, safety, and conservation information included with the descriptions of how they are used to make miniatures or displays.

  • 01 of 19
    Dollhouse waffles with buter, syrup and blackberries
    Polymer Clay Can be Used for All Kinds of Miniatures. Lesley Shepherd

    Polymer clay and its cousin metal clay are a basis for all kinds of miniature projects. Originally developed in the 1930's it has come a long way since the 1970's when it first appeared in European toy shops as a model material. It is now recognized as a wide-ranging artistic medium in a variety of colors and strengths, with varied handling properties. View the linked list for various polymer clay types, their strengths, and weaknesses.

    You might also want to read this article of  8 tips...MORE on adding realism to your polymer clay miniatures.

  • 02 of 19
    Creating miniature texture stamps from polymer clay
    Polymer Clay Can be Used to Create Tools. Lesley Shepherd

    Polymer Clay will make tools to use when working with polymer clay, or handles or stamps, any number of items useful when finishing miniatures or scenes. This isn't just an art material or something to model shapes in, it may become your way to creating unique tools for your projects.

  • 03 of 19
    Methyl cellulose glue powder.
    Methyl cellulose powder is a good pH neutral reversible glue for paper and marbling size. Photo © 2014 Lesley Shepherd

    Everyone has their favorite glues, but for particular types of materials, some glues work better than others. This list has information on using glues for particular miniatures, and what glues work best in certain circumstances. The list has info on quick grab glues, PVA (white) glues, silicon glues

    Bottom line, use the glue which will bond with your particular materials and has the least acidic effect. If possible use glues which can be reversed, or removed with little effect to the main...MORE materials.

  • 04 of 19
    Two parts of silicone mold putty and a finished mold
    Two part silicon mold putty creates easy but detailed moulds for many materials. Photo ©2007 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    Two part silicone mold putty is easy to use, non-toxic material for creating simple but detailed molds. It is the easiest, fastest means of producing a flexible, accurate, reusable mold which can be used with numerous materials to produce multiple miniatures, dollhouse miniatures , parts or replacements. It is easiest to use for simple push molds, but it can be used to create two part molds.

    Food Grade forms of this putty are available, and most types will withstand up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit...MORE making them useful for metal casting as well as liquid polymer clay, polymer clay, paper, resin, epoxy resin, gelatin, chocolate and sugar molds.

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  • 05 of 19
    Tubes, jars and squeeze bottles of acrylic paint
    Acrylic Paints Come in Many Different Formulations. Photo ©2007 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    Acrylic paints are widely available in craft stores and very easy to use, but are they always the best paint to use for miniatures? Are there differences between craft, student, and artist quality acrylic paints? What should you consider before you choose acrylic paint for a particular project?

    This article contains information to help you choose the right types of acrylic paint for your purpose, and times when acrylic paints are the best choice for your model.

  • 06 of 19
    various acrylic mediums added to paint to show the effects of each medium
    Acrylic Mediums Can Create a Variety of Miniature Effects. Photo ©2007 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    Often the answer to how to create a particular effect is as close as your art store. Instead of struggling with polymer clay or epoxy resin, try tar gel medium to create the effect of syrups and water splashed with paint. Tire tracks in scenes can be made in heavy acrylic mediums, and many of them can be used much easier than the hobbyist's old standby, silicone caulk, with more stability. This document describes various mediums and their uses for a miniaturist.

  • 07 of 19
    Faux stone wall for a dollhouse made from Creative Paperclay
    Faux stone wall for a dollhouse. Photo ©2007 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    Creative Paperclay® is a useful medium for creating miniature plaster, stucco, pargetting, stone tiles, tiled floors and walls, landscaping rock and stone effects, or small three-dimensional miniatures or sculptures. With handling properties very similar to fine clay, this is a safe, easy way to create strong lightweight miniatures which need no curing, other than a protective coat of sealant.

    Learn how to apply and use paper clay and understand the best ways to apply it to structures to prevent...MORE warping.

    Another product I often use from the same company is Delight Air Dry Clay This light, marshmallow-like paste takes detail beautifully and blends with a damp paint brush. I use it for modeling very small scale miniatures and have used it for the items listed below as it's handling properties are ideal for these purposes:

  • 08 of 19
    Miniature drinks and tadpoles in a jar made using epoxy resin
    Epoxy Resin is Useful for Creating the Effect of Miniature Liquids. Photo ©2007 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    Epoxy resin is really a heavy varnish, used most often to gloss coat wood surfaces. It doesn't deserve nearly the reputation of difficulty most miniaturists seem to award it. Measure carefully, mix properly, and you can simulate all kinds of water and liquids provided you limit the depth of the finish you pour.

    Although many modelers assume epoxy resin is the only way to mimic water effects for large-scale scenes, there are several easier methods which can be more realistic for items like...MORE miniature ponds, waterfalls, and other purposes. You can see one alternative in the instructions to Make a Miniature Water Feature with Sheet Plastic.

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  • 09 of 19
    Epoxy putty cowboy boots on cast resin 1:12 scale doll legs.
    Cowboy boots for a dolls house doll sculpted on resin doll legs with two part epoxy putty. Photo ©2008 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    Two-part epoxy putty is a material often used to modify and repair miniatures made of plastic, resin, wood, tile, brick, metal and stone. Available in different colors and grains, the two part putty must be mixed (usually 1 to 1) and has a working time that varies from brand to brand. The putty can be smoothed and cleaned up using water before it hardens. After it hardens it can be sanded, machined, sawed and painted. Gaming miniaturists often use epoxy putty to create new master sculptures for...MORE later casting in metal, resin or plastic. Model horse enthusiasts and dolls house miniaturists may use it to change the pose or shape of cast resin sculpts.

    Make Miniature Garden Gnomes

  • 10 of 19
    medium density fiberboard beside baltic birch plywood
    Baltic Birch Plywood on Top of MDF. Photo ©2007 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    Dolls houses and other miniature scale buildings often come as kits or completed structures made from MDF (medium density fiberboard) or Baltic Birch plywood. There are pros and cons to each material which are discussed here. Both materials give off some gasses, so they should never be left unfinished. Plywood structures are lighter and can be built to be dismantled or added on to at a later date. The decision of which to use is personal, but this article gives you some of the pros and cons of...MORE each material.

  • 11 of 19
    Pre cut craft lumber shapes which can be used to make dolls house scale table tops.
    Precut shapes craft lumber shapes useful for dolls house table tops. Photo copyright 2010 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    Craft wood / scale lumber is available from many big box craft stores but specialty sizes and types of hardwood are also available online.  Dollhouse suppliers may sell wood with particular routed finishes for specialized purposes, for miniature handrails, decorative moldings or as sashes for working windows for example.

     

  • 12 of 19

    Luan/Lauan Plywood for Miniature Buildings and Dolls' Houses

    Plywood sides, top and floor of a simple roombox, test fitted by taping them together.
    Test fit the walls by taping them together before you glue up a plywood roombox. Photo ©2008 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    Luan/Lauan Plywood is often the material used for less expensive dollhouse kits. It is an easily worked material but requires more finishing work than some other choices. In kits, this plywood is often die cut and assembled using tab and slot construction methods rather than nails or screws.

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  • 13 of 19
    Cutting gatorfoam board with a power jigsaw
    Gatorfoam / Gatorboard is Useful for Lightweight Miniature Structures. Photo ©2007 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    This material is used mostly for indoor and outdoor display support for photos and posters. It makes a great building material for miniaturist's, but it isn't the same as the more commonly available foam core board. You are best using fine tooth power tools to cut it, but it's light weight, ease of building and smooth, water resistant surface, makes it ideal for many miniature applications.

  • 14 of 19
    Pieces of book binding board cut ready to make a 1:12 scale dolls house room box.
    Pieces of Davey Board or Book Board cut ready to make into a 1:12 scale dolls house roombox. Photo ©2008 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    Bookbinders and conservators use this sturdy, dense paperboard to make boxes. It is inexpensive, acid neutral and easy to work with. It is often used to make miniature furniture based on box shapes - bookshelves, store counters, chests of drawers, stoves, and fridges. It also is good for simple room boxes or display boxes, especially if you need them to sit on a shelf or slip behind a glass frame.

    Laminate several pieces together if you want a very stiff construction.

    Make a Simple Dolls House...MORE Room Box from Book Board .

  • 15 of 19
    American themed paper plates in 1:12 scale.
    Paper Plates Are One of the Simplest Paper Miniatures to Create. Photo ©2007 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    A long tradition of workmanship can also be found in the use of printed miniatures. Computer printers make it easy to use paper and film construction for all kinds of miniature items from paper plates to faux stained glass, buildings, tiny planes and scale cars are part of this tradition as well.  To learn more about types of paper for miniatures, check out the paper tips article

  • 16 of 19

    Printable Inkjet Fabric Sheets

    A dark wood finish chair with plain upholstery compared to the same chair in an antique finish.
    Compare the two different wood finishes and upholsteries on the same dolls house chair. Photo ©2008 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    Printable Fabric Sheets allow a miniaturist to create scaled fabrics that coordinate with other miniature items or that match period designs. Unlike transfers, these fabric sheets have no plastic coating, and the fabric is fine enough to be used with many miniatures.

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  • 17 of 19
    Punkin Head Doll's tea set sugar bowl, with cracks in lid
    Knowing How to Repair an Object May Help You Collect. Photo ©2007 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    Accidents happen! This article provides a list of things you can and can't do to repair miniatures, and outlines when and where to find experts. It's also a useful reference if you need to know what glue will work with what material!

  • 18 of 19
    Raw balsa wood, silver grey and deep brown balsa wood created with vinegar/steel wool solutions
    Raw Balsa Wood, Silver Grey and Deep Brown Balsa Wood Created With Aging Solution. Photo ©2007 Lesley Shepherd

    This simple technique will turn new wood into aged silvered, brown or blackened wood within minutes of application. This is a great way to make repairs to items which have naturally weathered or to create the look of weathered boards or shingles on miniature buildings.

  • 19 of 19
    1:12 scale cedar shingles made into a dollhouse roof
    Photo ©2007 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    Wood Shingle effects can be created in many scales using wood, wood veneers, paper tags or paper strips. The shingles can be shaped to particular patterns for siding, or used to create rustic or aged roofs.