Foam Boards And Architectural Modeling Uses

by Gene Waxman on August 16, 2021

What is an architectural model?

An architectural model can be defined as a representation of the design or structure of something. It may also represent how it will look, feel and function in real life. Architectural models are often created to help architects visualize their ideas before they start building them. They allow you to see what your project might look like from different angles and perspectives. This helps you make sure that everything fits together properly when you build it.


What is an architectural model used for?

The architectural model is a creation used by architectural modelers and other modeling enthusiasts, designed to showcase a new plan or complex layout. The model represents architectural ideas, and can be used at all stages of design. With such a 3D model, clients get a more visceral example of what the actual finished project will look like, which is a powerful tool in helping sell a complex idea or confirm that the project will meet the needs and desires of the client.

Models are a physical representation of plans or drawings to show visually at scale what the finished product will look like. Models for architects are generally created from materials such as foam board, balsa wood and card stock but also use newer technologies as well such as 3D printing for extraordinary levels of detail.

Architectural Model of a Building

Modeling Styles and Scale Sizes

Preparing a model and determining proper scale for everything that will be displayed is the most important step since it envisions what the architecture will look like when it is completed and demonstrating how people and objects will look alongside and in comparison to it. Deciding on just how small you want to make a model is the first important consideration.  Architectural scales can be applied to any type of construction material or component, but they are most commonly associated stone buildings and building complexes. 

Architectural models can be used to represent the ideas in a sketch but from a different perspective. In some cases a rough sketch is used to show the end project, so a clear and concise model is important to show much of the missing detail from the sketches. This is the reason so much time and consideration should go into the model and to only use the best materials to represent the architectural vision.

Foam Boards for Modeling

White foam boards are the most common type of foam board used in architectural modeling. Regular white foam board is extremely easy to cut, though only quality foam board such as the types sold at should be used for a professional model undertaking to insure that the rigidity and quality of the boards used is proven to work well for modeling.

The denser construction of more expensive brands, such as Gatorfoam which we sell at, may result in much cleaner cuts and crisper edges as well as a more dent-resistant surface. Meanwhile, cheap foam boards are filled with a coarse-celled polystyrene which cannot generally withstand solvent glues or sprays and is not as strong or durable as more expensive and better brands.  

Japanese Style Architectural Model

Cutting and Bending

Considerations must be made to the thickness and type of foam board being used in modeling, as some are more pliable and and can be scored, while others are designed for superior rigidity to be used as a base and or platforms / layers under various models. Boards more usable for cutting, shaping / bending and modifying would be our regular white foam board that is 1/8" thick and 3/16" for sturdier modeling of walls and rooftops. All board is both scorable and able to be carved and can be used to great effect when building models. Gatorfoam boards are a better choice to build models upon as a base and for extremely sturdy and large scale modeling walls and displays as it will not bend or warp.

In the end, whatever boards you need for your modeling and detailing of your work, has covered from all angles - pun intended! From our selection of 1/8" white foam board cuts to all sizes in between up to 1/2" Gatorfoam gator boards, we have what you need.