Cardboard Diorama

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To create a unique and interesting diorama with my own twist in Adobe After Effects.


Dioramas can date back all the way to the 19th century as a mobile theatre device. In more modern times, dioramas are used as three-dimensional miniature models, both miniature and life-size. I wanted to create something that really reminisced the old school mobile theatre and so I took to Google and began understanding how to achieve that.

Finding an Artstyle

I really wanted to get creative with this project instead of doing something that’s seemingly overdone like a modern minimalist art style. An art style that has always piqued my interested is “hand-crafted” – such as construction paper, cardboard, or other real-life creative outlooks that can be scanned for use in virtual space. 

After some digging around I finally decided on creating my diorama out of cardboard and paint. The cardboard itself has a really nice texture to it and freshly coated paint only enhances that. I looked around the internet and found plenty of good resources that helped me create my vision.


I created a storyboard with each shot that I originally planned on animating in After Effects and I ended up staying pretty on par with it through the end. The storyboard is a very important step in the design process as it helps visualize what you want created with only minimal resources.

Painting the Pieces

I bought and cut up a few cardboard boxes for the pieces. For the paint itself, I went back and forth between acrylic and oil but ended up with oil based paints as I thought the texture would resonate more clearly in the final shot. 

Scanning and Optimizing

The easiest and cleanest way I found to digitize physical objects is Adobe Scan. It scans the area where your phone camera is aimed at and allows you to select exactly what you’d like scanned in. After I collected all the pieces, I took each individual piece into Photoshop and cleaned up the pieces.

Working With After Effects

After Effects is incredibly powerful and quite honestly one of the most fun programs to use out of all the Adobe lineup. The diorama uses a bunch of different interesting techniques, such as each piece being on a 3D plain at various depths, to create a complete experience.

Finished Product


I really enjoyed how this project came out. I feel like the cardboard adds a nice layer of depth to the piece that you normally wouldn’t get with flat design. The lighting on the cardboard as well helps create an interesting dynamic. As a first attempt at creating a full animation in After Effects, I feel like it was successful.