The Art of Darkness

Tutorial: Desktop Cemetery

These are general instructions for making a miniature cemetery diorama.


Click the thumbnails for larger images.


Choose a container large enough to fit the diorama elements without crowding. The one shown here is an 8″ globe for floating candles.

Painted Crypt

If desired, paint the miniatures to give them a little added realism. I added a few painted cracks in the stone and some splotches of “moss” and “dirt.” I also repainted a couple of the tombstones to make them look older and more muted.


Do as much work on the miniatures as possible before putting them into the globe, because it’s hard to maneuver through the hole in the top. For this example I fluffed out the branches of the tree and bent them to look warped. I wrapped the raven’s wire attachment around one of the branches and then painted the wire the same color as the branch.

Build up some “dirt” in the bottom of the globe, pressing down firmly. I really liked the way the Model Magic worked, but you could also use regular clay, the fake substrate used for model railroad layouts, or even dry potting soil mixed with glue. (If you’re going to use anything with glue, be extremely careful not to smear it inside of the glass. It’s impossible to clean thoroughly.) Make some high and low areas to give the landscape a little interest. I added a little hill to perch my weeping willow dramatically on.

In retrospect, I should have buried a miniature skeleton under the dirt right up next to the glass, and sited a tombstone on top of it. I’m kicking myself for not thinking of that before the clay dried.


Add the miniature elements to the globe, pressing them down firmly. I smeared Model Magic over the top of the willow’s base to give it a more natural look. If desired, add a few clay boulders to fill in any empty spots.

Tear off little bits of artificial moss and press them firmly into the dirt to look like patches of discouraged grass.

Finished Globe

Let the substrate dry thoroughly, then gently wiggle the miniatures to make sure they aren’t loose. If they are, stick them back in place with a few drops of glue. Add paint to the dirt and boulders as necessary. I used patches of olive green, grey, and black to add a little variety to the scene.

Variation 1

Obviously, there are a zillion variations on this theme. Here’s a smaller one I did in a 4″ globe, using another tombstone and a coffin. It’s hard to tell in the photo, but the “open grave” is really quite dramatic.

Variation 2

And here’s an even smaller one, using a single lonesome tombstone and a half-pint jelly jar. I spray-painted the lid black, but you could cover it with a skull-print fabric or paint a spooky picture on top too.