Welcome everyone to The Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum’s first-ever craft series! Over the next few weeks we will work together to build a fantastical Dinosaur Diorama!

This craft was first developed by the creative minds at First Palette.

For Part One of this series we will be making the dinosaurs to go into our Dinoramas. The first step is to visit First Palette’s Standing Paper Dinosaurs  and pick out either their Cretaceous or Jurassic Dinosaur pack.

Download and print out the dinosaur pages. (You may want to print out a few copies for some of the creative colouring techniques we are about to try out!)

And don’t forget to print out the stands too!

This Dinorama is YOUR creation, so you can decorate it however you want! 

See what art supplies you have around the house and look up images online of the dinosaur you are colouring. 

This can help you decided how you want your Dinorama to look. 

Let’s get outside the box!

Try making a dinosaur collage.

The first step is to have multiple print-outs of the dinosaurs, then cut each one to be different sections of the dinosaur. 

TIP: See in the picture how there are three different colours of paper. That meant three different dinosaur print-outs were used. The dark green was the entire silhouette, the lighter green is different limb sections, and the purple is the spots. 

Be sure to glue the cut-outs with THE LINES FACING DOWN so it’s easier to paste the coloured paper sections together.

TIP: For small details try using a hole punch and making small circles out of the colour paper. Then cut little bits off the circles to make the shapes you need. 

Then finish the dinosaur off with some penned-in details. Feel free to draw them in pencil first if you need to!

Remember, this Dinorama is about letting your creativity run free! 

If those last few methods were too technical, or if you have a little tyke who wants to get in on the fun, then try not worrying about the lines at all!

Once you have the dinosaurs printed out, flip the page over to the back. Then have fun decorating the page however you like!

For one dinosaur here, pencil and marker were used.

TIP: if you hold the page up to a phone scree you can see the lines through it. Then you can add some features of the dinosaur if you want, like what was done with the spikes here. 

The other dinosaur is just a collection of scrap paper and stickers. You can use anything! Cut-up magazines, printed pictures from the internet, old book pages… the list goes on!

Then all you, or a trusted adult, need to do is flip it around and cut along the lines. Flip it one more time and your dinosaur will be revealed! 

Our dinosaurs are going to need to stand in our Dinorama, so the last step is to grab the dinosaur stand printout page from First Palette.

Cut out the different pieces and match each base to its corresponding dinosaur.

Then cut along the dotted lines. The strip and the stand will slot into place. (As seen in the image on the left).    

And Voilà! You have a happy pack of dinosaur friends. Now they just need a home…

So, let’s get to the diorama!

Before we dive into it, take some time to think about what you want your diorama to look like. Do some research based on the dinosaur pack you picked in part 1 to see what environment your dinosaurs would have lived in. It might even be a good idea to sketch out your ideas before hand.

Now, the crafters at First Palette have mastered the art of diorama making. If you need any extra help or ideas check out their Dinosaur Diorama.

And, most importantly, remember that this is your creation! Have fun, and don’t be afraid to think outside the box!

All dioramas start the same: as a box waiting to be transformed. Shoeboxes are the standard pick, but don’t be afraid to work with what you’ve got. 

Take time to prepare the box you have. The more care you take in this stage, the less hiccups you may face later on. Cut-away uneven edges, glue down any wayward cardboard and make sure the base is secure so you can move the diorama without worry. 

Because the edges of this box were uneven, we went ahead and wrapped them in craft paper, but feel free to paint or draw on them instead.

 

 

 

For wrapping with craft paper, here are a few tricks: 

1. Glue paper over the corners first. 

2. Glue the edge of the paper down along the inside edge of the box and then wrap over and glue to the bottom. 

3. You can use different coloured paper to make a pattern, and be creative with the way the paper is cut to add to the design. (here we used a ripped edge, but you can use patterned scissors or cut out your own shapes)

And for painting, here are a few tricks:

1. It is easier to do multiple layers of thinly applied paint than one thick layer of paint. It can be frustrating to wait, but the paint will actually dry faster this way in the long run!

2. Make different shades of your base colour by adding in different amounts of white paint. Then layer the different shades. (It is easier to make lighter shades with white, than darker shades by adding black, which can end up making your colour look muddy)

3. Try applying the paint in different ways. There is the standard brush, the rag technique used here, different sponges, or even your fingers!

 

Lets give all that paint and glue some time to dry and work on one of the diorama pieces: the trees!

Now, this project needs some steady fingers and some sharp objects. If that doesn’t sound fun, or if you are following along with some little tykes, check out some other ideas from First Palette: https://www.firstpalette.com/craft/diorama-plants.html

Now, these tress are made up of a bunch of little parts. So we will be going through them bit by bit…

Start by grabbing some brown craft paper and rolling it into a tube. 

Hint: Use the dinosaurs we made in part one to decide how big to make the tree. Ultimately, the trunk tube can be made to be as tall and as wide as you want. Just adjust the size of the branch tubes accordingly. 

Our trees have five branches, so we made five small tubes out of craft paper. You can have as many branches as you want, just make sure you have the same number of pipe cleaner pieces as you do tubes.

NOTE: GLUE THE TRUNK CYLINDER TOGETHER TO FORM A ROLL BUT NOT THE BRANCHES. It is much easier to thread the pipe cleaner through if you can flatten out the paper. 

To thread the pipe cleaner, choose where on the branch you want the smaller twigs to come from, then use an exacto knife to poke holes in the paper (get a trusted adult to help you with this part). Then poke the pipe cleaner through one hole and then out the other.  

Lastly, make even more twigs by cutting off the ends of the pipe cleaner and then reattaching them by twisting the wire together.

This craft requires a lot of cut-out circles: The canopy of the tree is made up of 3 large circles and each end of a pipe cleaner has two layered circles poked on, meaning there are 8 small circles per branch. 

That might seem like an overwhelming amount, but they’re actually easier to make than you might think.

Tissue paper is thin and easy to cut, so fold a piece multiple times so you can cut out more than one circle at once. We were able to cut out eight circles at a time using this method. 

To cut the circles, start by pinching a portion of the tissue paper to form the centre of the circle, and then bunch the edges together through the circle of your fingers. Cut through the scrunched up paper. The further away you cut from the pinched point, the larger the circle will be. 

And remember, they don’t need to be perfect. Rough edges add to the leaf effect!

 

Last but not least, combine all the pieces together!

Scrunching is how you turn all those tissue circles into leaves. Using an exacto knife (with the help of a trusted adult), poke a hole through the center of two small circles, then poke them onto the end of a pipe cleaner. Then pinch and scrunch just like you did when cutting out the circle. Then repeat… and repeat… and repeat. 

More pinching and scrunching to make the canopy. Just tuck the pinched paper into one end of the the tube and it becomes the top of a tree! 

From this point you can decide where you want your branches. Pull out the exacto knife again (and find that trusted adult one last time) and poke a hole the same thickness as your branches, then slot the branches into place (It might help to squish and roll the end of the branch to make it easier to poke through).

Then stand back and marvel at your creation!

 

That definitely gave the paint long enough to dry…

Let’s move onto something lighter: clouds!

Find some cotton balls and pull them apart until you get a happy little cloud to your liking. Then use a thin layer of white glue to attach to your diorama.

Now our diorama box is beautifully decorated and we have a sky for our dinosaurs to gaze up at! 

But…

With the sky looking clear and bright, it’s time to turn our attention to the ground.

For this part you will need SO MUCH tissue paper and white glue. All aspects of the terrain is given texture by brushing on tissue paper (in various degrees of crumpled-ness) with white glue. 

Be free with it! Let the brush guide you! Glue here, glue there, glue everywhere!

But first…

Find some paper plates and cut out a boulder-shape. Give one end a straight edge to line-up with the bottom of the box, and then cut out an organic shape. As you cut, keep in mind how the shapes will fit together.

Then, in another section of your dinorama, take the parts of a cut up egg carton and glue them all hodge-podged together to act as a base of another rock formation. 

And now it’s time for all that glue and tissue paper… 

Start by filling any gaps with tissue paper. This will add structural integrity and make it easier to glue down the top-layer of tissue paper that will give the rocks the desired texture. 

For that top texture, take a sheet of tissue paper (white is used, but another colour is fine. For example, you can use green if you don’t want so much to paint) and tear it into manageable sized squares.

Hint: Did you know paper has a grain? The fibers of the paper run in a vertical direction just like the bark of the trees that make it! You can find the grain when you tear the paper. One way will flow in a fairly straight line, the other direction will tear with more difficulty, and in jagged chunks.

Crumple the tissue square as desired and use a brush to apply white glue as you put it down. You don’t just have to put glue underneath the paper. Tissue paper is porous, so brushing paint over it will also help it adhere. Manipulate the paper with your brush until you’re happy with the result. 

Note: USE A CHEAP BRUSH. Glue is very hard on brush bristles, and this process involves a lot of jabbing… don’t be surprised if your brush leaves this project a little worse for wear. 

In a cup, mix together some white glue, a few drops of food colouring and a dollop of dish soap. Then mix well. 

Paint the mixture onto the SHINY SIDE of the tinfiol. Apply in large strokes, going only in one direction. This will keep the mixture from clumping and creating patches. 

Then set it aside and give it plenty of time to dry. Once it is, you can cut out your desired shape and add it to your dinorama!

Once you have some nice boulders, we can segue into making a body of water!

For that we will need some coloured tinfoil. The folks at First Palette are the origin of this idea, so be sure to check out theiroriginal tutorial

For this fern, fold a green steamer, or any green paper, back and forth to create layers, and then folded in-half length-wise. Draw along the fold to create the silhouette of the leaf. Then cut along the drawn line. When unfolded, you will have nice broad leaves! 

Arrange the leaves into two circles and then glue them together in the center. 

Then pinch the center (poking it down in the circle of your fingers with a pen may help) and fan the leaves to create a bush. Stack one bunch onto the other to create a bushier affect, or keep them separate for two ferns. 

Cut a strip of brown craft paper and glue one end to the pinched bundle. Then roll to create a stump.  

All that’s left is to glue our plants into the dinorama!

Lets take a break from all that glue and tissue paper. We need more plants!

Remember First Pallete has a wide selection of diorama plant tutorials, so check them out for many more ideas!  

Phew! This is a big project! But it really is shaping into a happy home for our dinos… only one part to go!

All that’s left is to rinse and repeat. Take more squares of tissue and glue them down until you’ve covered the entire dinorama base.

For the specific effect here, the tissue was first scrunched liked and accordion. Play around with different things until you find a texture you like!

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