This page provides information about common model making materials and how to use them.

Material Selection

You can use almost anything for analogue model making, and you are only limited by your imagination. However, the most convenient are sheet materials, also called stock that can be cut using craft knives and attached using basic adhesives. Selecting materials is an important design skill in itself: one must consider a host of factors including structural performance, aesthetic properties, cost and workability.

The following section will give an overview of some common materials for analogue model making and how best to work with them.

Common Model Materials

Foam core

Foam core is a ubiquitous material for architectural modelling and it is worthwhile to spend some time learning to work with it effectively. It consists of a thin layer of polystyrene foam, sandwiched between two layers of card. Foam core most commonly comes in white and 5mm thickness, but is available in a range of colours and dimensions.

When cutting foam core it is very important to use a sharp blade, and to cut it gradually, using a number of consecutive cuts. The first to cut through the outer paper layer, and then a series of cuts to the foam core. This will avoid tearing of the inner layer of foam.

Foam core is lightweight and can be joined using PVA or liquid synthetic resin.



Boxboard is a low density, lightweight paperboard that is typically used for product packaging, such as cereal and shoe boxes. As a modelling material it's useful due to its low cost, range of thicknesses, and high absorbency, which makes it easy to glue and paint.

Boxboard is generally resistant to folding, however it can be moulded into curves. Boxboard can be fixed using PVA or Liquid Synthetic Resin adhesives. Super glue also works well, but it will stain the material.

Another advantage of boxboard for architectural models is that its grey, slightly textured surface is reminiscent of concrete.


Pasteboard is a thin, dense card that is excellent for making small, detailed components. Its high density gives it good structural properties, and allows it to be scored for accurate folding. Spray painting further increases its rigidity.

Corrugated cardboard

Corrugated cardboard is a good alternative to foam core for sketch models, basic massing, as well as model bases.

Balsa wood

Balsa is a lightweight, soft hardwood that is widely used for model making due to its ease of workability. It is available in a variety of dimensions and sections up to 5mm can be cut using craft knives.

When cutting balsa it is important to take note of the timber grain direction. Balsa is very easy to cut with the grain, but more resistant to cutting across the grain. In addition, balsa is prone to splitting along its grain. For these reasons elongated components should always be cut with the long dimension parallel with the timber grain. It is also important to ensure that the knife is held perpendicular to the cutting surface to avoid angled cuts.

Balsa can be effectively joined using PVA or super glue.


Plastics are often used to replicate particular architectural materials such as glass or water bodies. When using plastics, take care to use suitable adhesives, as many solvent-based adhesives can melt or discolour plastics such as acrylic.

Sourcing Materials

Materials available at the FabLab

A number of common materials are available for purchase at the FabLab, with current materials and prices available on the FabLab Material Price List.


Archicle is a student-led initiative operating through the UMSU. One of Archicle's key initiatives is to reduce the cost of model making by recycling common materials. You can get in touch with Archicle on Facebook or by email on

Retail suppliers

Model-making materials are available at art supply stores and hardware stores. Familiarising yourself with the wide range of available materials can make the model-making process much easier. Below is a list of popular local retailers:

Deans Art Supplies

Eckersley's Art & Craft

Melbourne Artists' Supplies


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