Guide to Making Foam Board Architectural Models

by Sean McCafferty on September 27, 2022
Guide To Making Foam Board Architectural Models

Showing a client the architecture drawings you've prepared for their new building is all well and good, but presenting clients with foam board architectural models really brings your design to life. Architectural models portray the same story and design as a sketch but from a very different viewpoint.

Making foam core architectural models requires a creative eye, a steady hand and the proper tools. To accomplish a comprehensive and precisely scaled model, you need to start with good quality foam board and the right cutting tools.

We'll discuss the advantages of using foam board to make an architectural model, the tools that are must-haves (versus nice-to-haves) and some tips and tricks for making architectural models using foam core. Once you've determined what materials you need for your foam board models, has you covered with high-quality foam board for architects and interior designers.

Why Use Foam Board for Modeling?

Building with foam core (or "foam board") is the preferred method for scale model making. Regular white foam board is easy to use – just be sure you acquire your materials from the right source if you want to be assured of foam board models with the proper rigidity. Otherwise, you'll find it challenging to work with, and the results will be disappointing.

You may decide to use Gatorfoam®, which is a bit pricier but gives you cleaner cuts and crisper edges along with a surface that's more resistant to dents. It's also a good idea to pick up a few sheets of self-adhesive foam board for model making. This will serve as the base for your model.

Foam Board Modeling Tools

The amount of architectural model foam you will need is based on the size of your model. It's always wise to buy extra foam core – you can always save it for your next project or share it with a fellow architect or designer. The foam board modeling tools you'll need include:

  • Cutters: If you have experience cutting foam boards with an X-ACTO knife, that's terrific. For the rest of us, it's best to get cutting tools specially designed for foam core so you can cut both straight and beveled edges cleanly.
  • Drills: These handy tools can be lifesavers if you're cutting small circles.
  • Tapes: Double-sided tape is a wonderful thing. You'll also want to have framer's tape on hand to create hinges. And if you have blue painter's tape, you can use it to hold pieces in place temporarily until you can affix them permanently.
  • Straight Edge: Special rulers have been designed for ease of use with architectural model foam, but a good T-square will also serve you well.
  • Pins: You can provide added reinforcement for your walls using dressmaker pins. Just be sure they're not sticking out when you're finished.

Creating Foam Board Models

Patience is the major watchword in scale model making. You should take these steps to ensure your architecture concept is a 3-D masterpiece:

  1. Before you lift a knife, have a plan. Know what your scale is (1:25 is the scale often used in foam core architectural models)
  2. Print out your floor plan. Here's where you need that self-adhesive foam board. Peel back the top of the foam board paper and align the top of your print with the top of the foam board. Carefully peel back the paper and continue to apply your drawing to the architectural model foam. (You can use a second piece of foam board to press down as you go along to prevent air bubbles from forming.)
  3. Make a list of all the components you will need and what size each will be. This is where you'll use your scale. For example, if you've decided on a 1:25 architectural scale, your 8-foot walls will be about 3-3/4" tall.
  4. Cut out all the foam core model pieces. Remember to allow for windows and doors where appropriate.
  5. Starting from the center and working your way outward, use double-sided tape to hold the walls and interior architecture elements in place.
  6. If you like, you can add tables, chairs and other little touches to complement your building's contemporary architecture, for example. You can even landscape your property by adding miniature trees or bushes.

Helpful Hints for Building With Foam Core

It's wise to work in a well-lit area when making foam core architectural models. And remember to wash your hands at regular intervals. The foam board is white, and it shows every little bit of dirt or grime you may pick up when you're handling various materials. Has Everything You Need to Make Foam Board Architectural Models

As you create your architecture design, remember to include in your plans. We have all the quality products you need to create the best foam board architectural models, including the tools that make the task as simple as possible. Make sure your architecture portfolio is the best it can be, starting with a trip to!

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