Model Making Materials

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Embarking on a degree in Architecture? if you are then you will need to develop your sketch modelling skills.

Models are divided into two main categories : the sketch/concept (sometimes also called study) model and the presentation model.

The sketch/study model enables you to study, visualise and understand the space in 3D because it looks more real than pen and paper sketches.

These models are made of cheap materials and help you work out your design ideas. They are only used during the initial phase of study.

Sketch models can be made of a variety of materials which you choose for their suitability to represent your design.


Finnboard modelling

As a start, we recommend Finnboard.

It is cheap, versatile and is made from recycled pulped paper.

It can be easily cut with a knife or even lasered, although some scorching will occur.

What really sets it apart from other card materials is that it can be wetted and bent into curves, which, once dry will be retained.


Foamboard modelling

Foamboard is another useful material. Printed designs can be spraymounted onto the surface and cut out with a scalpel and safety ruler. Scalpels tend to blunt quite quickly, so change your blade frequently to avoid tearing (see 'A basic guide to foamboard modelling' in our Model Making Guides).


KAPA line foamboard modelling

KAPA line foamboard is useful as the paper covering can be carefully peeled off to expose the foam layer.

This foam layer can be easily inscribed, embossed, carved or sanded to add detail.

See 'Creating surfaces with Kapa-line foamboard' by David Neat in our Model Making Guides).


A more robust model can be made from plastic styrene sheet. For this you will need Plastic Weld for an adhesive that actually melts the joints together (see 'A basic guide to styrene modelling' in our Model Making Guides).



Architectural model makers starter kit

We'd recommend the following tools to start sketch modelling:

Self healing A3 cutting mat

Essential to protect your surfaces and give you an even surface to cut on.Always keep your cutting mat clean, especially from glue.

Scalpel & spare blades

Replace the blades regularly especially when cutting foamboard.
Dispose using a sharps bin

Safety rule

For measuring and cutting against. Has a shallow indentation to keep fingers firm and safe on the rule when marking or cutting.

100mm engineers square

Solid steel stock with hardened, tempered and finely polished blade.
For measuring accurate right angles.

25mm masking tape

A good general purpose masking tape you will find useful for many different applications.
Easy to unwind and tear.

12mm double sided tape

Strong plastic tape with high tack.
Easy peel and easy tear. 50m roll.

PVA glue

A very versatile adhesive. PVA glue is used for papers, cards, wood, plaster and much more.
This is a thicker PVA very useful for sketch modelling.


Download our model making guides

Architectural Modelmaking Guides (16Mb PDF)

We have gathered all the model making guides pertinent to architecture together into a single booklet.

You will also find further information on tools and architectural model making products.

Model Making: Material and Methods by David Neat

Model Making: Material and Methods by David Neat

Models can be used in a wide variety of situations, including theatre production, architecture design, animation, and set design. For each different situation a specific material is often preferable, and this handy guide addresses the best model-making materials.

Architectural Model Making by Nick Dunn

Architectural Model Making by Nick Dunn

Focuses on the inspiring possibilities for modelling the built environment. In describing the use of different models in different contexts,
this book provides a practical guide to how and why models are used, and what they are used for.

Model Making for Architecture by Matt Driscoll

Model Making for Architecture by Matt Driscoll

Explains the role of the model within the architectural and planning process. With practical instruction throughout, it is an invaluable tool both for the model maker and for the architect seeking to commission a model of their building.