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Techniques like making a crib and sketches

Techniques to make a Crib or Diorama:

Building a crib:

The first thing we need to do before building a crib is the Sketch.

The sketch or the sketch is used to define more or less the finished work, or better to have a clearer idea of how our crib will be completed

The best ones to draw, draw the crib on a sheet of paper, personalizing everything with their own imagination, but you can download photos of real environments or drawings that are on the internet or paintings and from there you can draw up the project.

You will never find a finished project and therefore you have to work with several photos at hand of different examples, only by choosing the most beautiful things you can make a wonderful crib with your hands.
Costruire un presepe

I will give you advice for lighting a nativity scene and diorama:


Get help from one of your competence if you do not have familiarity with electricity
Turn off the crib if no one is home
Keep filament bulbs (EDISON) away from the structure of the crib
if the crib has fountains, streams with real water, the system must stay away from it and be protected from accidental leaks
If the crib is provided with water effects such as drinking fountains or streams, make sure they have a protection so as to avoid water leaks that could cause short circuits
Avoid using 220v systems if you can
I recommend using mini fireflies or 12v bulbs, powered by an adjustable transformer, so you can vary the different light sources.

After the idealization of the crib project, you can proceed with the lighting scheme, that is the points where we will place the light sources. This advice is applicable for open nativity scenes or dioramas. For the dioramas it is also advisable to place the light source of the sun in the containment box after having painted the sky and having created clouds, this because in the construction phase one can already guess where the sun will illuminate, especially if you want to focus the light on specific points of the statues.

Placing the light sources in the initial phase will be useful in order to proceed with coloring with the proper light of the diorama, this will greatly increase the realistic effect of light points and shading.

Plasterboard Technique:

The plasterboard is very fragile, to work it you have to paste it on a support that can be either plywood or polystyrene.

I usually use polystyrene as a support and I follow this scheme.

  1. The plasterboard is an extremely delicate material, but not for this reason useless for the realization of our scene. Usually, when making a nativity scene with plasterboard, it is a good idea to provide it with a support made of plywood or polystyrene, I advise you to prefer polystyrene in order to have a lighter structure. Fix a layer of plasterboard to a layer of polystyrene with vinyl glue, draw the walls with the relevant doors and windows and then cut them with a cutter or a hacksaw. Now you need to remove the layer of surface paper, using a metal spatula and a spray of hot water. Allow the plaster to dry. Now with the use of a pencil, draw the bricks and stones, arches, beams and everything you want to depict. For the incision I usually use a thin punch and small gouges or balsa cuts. Once the incision has been made, you can make the stones more three-dimensional by moistening them with water and then with the help of a small brush, add some liquid chalk on some stones, on other points. Allow everything to dry well, and apply a turapor, such as 30% vinyl glue and 70% water, or water-based cementite, or better still, very diluted cone glue.

Plaster forms:


1kg alabaster plaster
Crete 1kg
2 wooden slats equal to L300 mm
A round wooden D30 x 400 mm
Some sheets of paper
Jute canvas
half balloon or bowl
A table
Various objects “coats of arms, stones, buttons, buckles, etc.”

Place a sheet of newspaper on the work surface to prevent it from getting dirty. Fix the two slats parallel and spacing them 20 cm apart. Place a little clay between the two slats, and with the help of a rolling pin spread the clay leveling it to the splints.Prepare strips of clay to be applied around the clay layer made previously, so as not to spill the plaster.Now we can make negatives by pressing on the clay the objects we want to replicate in chalk. Let’s proceed with the preparation of the plaster; in a rubber container (a flask cut in half for example) add the water and gypsum powder avoiding the creation of bubbles Wait until the plaster takes on the consistency of a yogurt and pour it into the mold that we have prepared. To reinvigorate everything we put a gauze when the plaster is still fresh, being careful not to spill the gauze and make it visible.

Crib technique in polyurethane or extruded polystyrene:

Polyuteran is a very light material, but it does not need supports to be able to work, it is easily etched and does not require the addition of plaster or stucco. cutter to avoid deformation. Bricks can be engraved with a cutter and improved with folded sandpaper. The joints can be grouted if we want to create a house with more facades. This material must be glued with hot glue or vinyl glue. tercnica of extruded polystyrene is very similar, only, it has more variations, one of which is to create many bricks and glue them as a mosaic.Extruded polystyrene has the quality of creating architectural works with extreme ease. in the pictures I will post below


In order for a nativity scene to have a perfect scenic harmony it is necessary that it be proportioned to the statues. The relationship between the statue and the houses is fundamental.

Two methods can be used to calculate a perfect proportion

1) Analytical Method

We need to multiply the height in centimeters of the statues we want to use for the actual dimensions in centimeters of the object to be built then divide by a fixed number representing the average height of the people which is about 170.
                                                                 h_statue [cm]   *  h_reale_oggetto [cm]
h_in_proporzione_oggetto [cm]  =   ——————————————————
                                                                                           170 [cm]
On a sheet of graph paper he prepares a table like the one in the picture.
The x (horizontal) axis represents the actual measurements in cm.
The y-axis (vertical) represents the measurements in the crib.

If you have a 12 cm statue corresponding to a human person of 170 cm in height, all other measures will be consequential. Knowing the real measurements of an object you will notice on the vertical axis those that you will have in the crib.
Example: A vessel that in reality measures 50 cm in the crib will be about 3 and a half centimeters tall.

A very good comparison table ready to be consulted:

tavola proporzioni presepe

The Perspective in a Diorama Nativity:

Have we ever stopped to admire a landscape?

All of us at least once stopped to admire a beautiful landscape and we also noticed that nearby objects seem to us larger than others of equal size placed in the distance.
prospettiva-presepe diorama

Skyline of the scenographic nativity scene

The crib should be placed at a height equal to the height of the view of the observer, the eyes must coincide with the horizon line of the crib, but also to the eyes of the statues, placed in the foreground, the viewer will have the impression of be part of the scene and the landscape.

Practical example:

If you have statues 15 cm high, the height of the crib floor will be about 145 cm (160-15 = 145).

Vanishing point in a scenographic nativity scene:

The vanishing point is the point where all the elements that make up the crib converge. It must be placed at a distance from the observation point equal to twice the depth of the crib that we want to build.
(See photo)
Normally it is at a height from the floor equal to the height where the eyes of a 172 cm tall person are placed.

we remove 10 cm and remain 162 cm

Fixing a string in this point and stretching it to the buildings you will get all the exact inclinations of roofs, architraves, doors, windows, practically everything.

It is obvious that only the horizontal lines will converge, while the vertical ones will remain perpendicular.
linee prospettiche per presepe

To give greater depth it is always advisable to create scenes that break the scene and reduce the volumes of the buildings and objects, obviously also of the statues.

But not only must the definition of things also be diminished, of course the colors will be more dull and dark only with the combination of these tips you will succeed in obtaining a complete perspective effect

Planimetry in a nativity scene:

The plan is really essential to evaluate that the project can be completed therefore it is always advisable to draw a detailed diagram on the work surface or almost where the buildings will be placed.

But it is important to facilitate transport, but also the creation of the crib divide everything into worktops.

Here is a scenographic crib seen from above:

presepe scenografico visto dall'alto

Polystyrene Crib:


Vinyl glue: used to glue polystyrene and polystyrene.
Polystyrene: it is used to create the simplest shapes of the entire structure. The defect is that it is dirty, but if cut with delicacy, avoid also to dirty.
Expanded polystyrene: it is much more workable than polystyrene because it is very compact. With this it is possible to recreate very detailed and resistant structures.
sand: very useful to simulate oriental landscapes, but also local landscapes combining it with earth. It can also be used to create a more rough and therefore rustic plaster to the eye.
Cutters: having lots of them helps speed up the work, also because polystyrene spoils the blades very much and therefore it is better to have an escort.
Pencil and square: obviously they are used to trace the guidelines that are subsequently cut and glued.
Stucco: the stucco contains resins that limit the cracks in the joints that are between two pieces of glued polystyrene, to have also to give a texture
Gypsum: the chalk is optional if you want to give a light hand over the entire crib once it is finished making it a brush more raw by tapping on the surface.
Welder or Pyrograph: very useful for hot engraving on the surface and recreating bricks or rustic stones, but also shaping the rocks.

presepe polistirolo

We model the crib adding elements to the polystyrene

From now on I suggest you look for our treasure, that is: Polystyrene or better still polystyrene. Very often it is found as waste material and it is necessary to take advantage of this to find it.

Many have shapes that are already suitable for structures, if you look for it you will notice it too.

Rock effect:

effetto roccia polistirolo

We cut or recover the various polystyrene scraps and glue them, giving a shape to the rocky landscape.
The next step is to make the rocks even more layered always using the cutter
Last step is to pass a layer of plaster or stucco to make the rocks more natural.

effetto roccia presepe polistirolo2effetto roccia presepe polistirolo2effetto roccia presepe polistirolo2

Create crib walls:

Now let’s learn how to create polystyrene / polystyrene sculpting walls

How to proceed? Very simple, we use a fixed screwdriver or a balsa cutter with a 45 ° point to create small horizontal and later vertical grooves, as you can see from the photos below or the video that I will post by an artist who created this step by step.

Creare muri del presepeCreare muri del presepeCreare muri del presepe

The process is really very simple, and if with time we become familiar we can create with the help of a cutter more three-dimensionality to the stones recreating the ruin effect and ancient wall.

In some cases it is necessary to strengthen the structure and its strategic points with pins that will be invisible but effective.

Overall view of the mountains of the crib:

Vista globale delle montagne del presepe

If you have noticed well the artist who recreated this crib has respected the proportions.

The proportions are important because it makes everything real.
The far parts will have smaller proportions, like roads defining the rock
closer instead more details and larger proportions.

To make it clearer, here is the pittifamosi.it video that I thank on behalf of everyone:

Making a cave – hut with bark:

cortecce di sughero per il presepe

We create a cave or a hut for the crib we want to make. The materials are inexpensive and easy to process, such as cork, larch bark, roots and waste wood.

The materials are:

  1. Barks, cork and plant roots
  2. Hot glue
  3. plywood 1 cm thick

costruire presepe con il sughero

We begin to glue the most straight bark so without irregular shapes at the base using hot glue, obviously then you can use any glue.

presepe in sughero

The next step is to glue pieces vertically just like the photo shows, being careful about the proportions.

The shape we have to give him is a cave or dwelling closed on three sides.

Grotta presepe in sughero

Now we can glue the top of the cave creating the ceiling.

Capanna in sughero

The next step is to give movement to the scene, using pieces of cork by gluing them in an irregular way, as you can see by doing so, the hut or the cave takes shape.

Capanna presepe

Now the cave will be completed, we just have to add the moss and vegetation in general that you find on my site:


Sketches for nativity scenes:

The sketches for the cribs are indispensable for doing a well-structured job, which is why it is important to always have a nice drawing of the crib to be realized.

Here are some photos of interesting sketches:

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