As a professional model maker with years of experience, I want to share some essential tips for architecture students who are interested in making architectural models. Whether it’s for a school project or part of your professional development, it’s important to avoid common mistakes and create models that are well-made and informative.

Plan your architectural model

The first step in any architectural model-making project is to determine the model’s purpose. What does it need to communicate, and what is its specific goal? Creating a model that shows every detail of your design is impractical and unrealistic. Instead, focus on an aspect of your design that the model can represent well. For example, a massing model in monochrome can show the overall form and layout of your design and how it sits in its context. You can use additional drawings, photographs, or swatches to explain colours, materials, and other details.

Choose the appropriate scale

Once you’ve decided what your model needs to represent, it’s essential to choose the appropriate scale. The scale is determined by the size of the area you need to model and how much detail you want to show. If you need to show a large area, such as a site context model, you would have to choose a smaller scale, such as 1:500 or even 1:1000. However, at these smaller scales, it’s not possible to show much detail.

If your model’s purpose is to show just the building itself, you could consider a 1:200 or even 1:100 scale. At these scales, you can show windows, doors, balconies, etc. But, if your goal is to illustrate a specific area or element of the building, you may need to go larger again, such as 1:50 or even 1:20 scale.

Understand the scales

To work out practical, achievable options for your project, you need to understand scales. Scales are a ratio that represents the relative size of the model to the real thing. For example, a 1:1 scale is a life-size model, and a 1:10 scale is one-tenth of the actual size. The larger the scale indicator number, the smaller the model, which means less detail can be shown.

Another way to understand scales is to determine how many millimetres represent one metre at the particular scale you’re considering. To do this, divide 1000 by the scale indicator number. For example, at 1:200 scale, one metre in “real life” will be represented by 5mm on the model. So, if the area you need to model is 100 metres x 100 metres square, your 1:200 scale model would be 500mm x 500mm (100 x 5mm).

Use appropriate materials and techniques

When creating an architectural model, you must be realistic about what you can achieve with the time, materials, and facilities available to you. It’s best to work with materials such as card, foam-board, or Balsa or Lime wood that can be cut with a sharp blade or junior hack saw and stick together with conventional shop-bought glues.

When cutting, use a square if possible, especially if you’re cutting out floor plates or elevations. Keeping everything square is crucial to achieving a neat, crisp finish for your building. Use a metal ruler to avoid damaging a plastic or wooden ruler. Use several light passes when cutting with a craft knife or a scalpel rather than trying to cut all the way through with one go.


By following these tips and guidelines, you can create an architectural model that is informative and well-made. Remember to plan your model’s purpose, choose the appropriate scale,