Large 3D Model of Uranus — Part 1

This is the first article in a series of articles in which I will show you how I am making large and extra-large models of the planets for our space-themed VBS.  However, this model could be used in After Prom decorations, classroom decorations, or even for an ambitious school project. 

In this article, we will start with Uranus as it will be the simplest of the large planets.  I am creating this model as a hemisphere model, and it will hang on a wall at the end of a stairwell.  In a future article, I will be making Neptune as a full sphere, but it will be a similar method.  Let’s get started!

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Materials Needed for this Project

Getting Set Up

For any paper mache project, you will need a form on which to put the paper mache.  In this case, I wanted my final product to be half of a extra large sphere, so the form I chose was a yoga ball.  This particular ball is about 25 inches in diameter.  I placed the ball in an XXL aluminum cooking bowl to give it stability while I worked.  I did not want the glue mixture to ruin the ball or get into the bowl, so I wrapped the whole unit in several layers of cling wrap.  

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Start on the Base Layers

The process of paper mache is fairly straight forward.  It is glueing pieces of paper in layers over a mold.  Once the paper/glue is dry, the final product holds the shape of the form, and you have lightweight, paintable object.  There are several paper mache solutions, but my go-to is a 50/50 mix of school glue and water.  I mixed about 1.5 cups of glue with 1.5 cups of water into a craft bucket.  I have several buckets in my Project Pantry.  These are the Halloween or Easter buckets that you can pick up for a a couple dollars.  I use them frequently, because they are a good size and easy to clean.  

Next, I prepped my paper by ripping the blue Kraft paper into large pieces (about the size of a half sheet of paper or a little smaller).  You can cut the paper, but ripped edges blend in to the underlayer more easily.  To glue the new piece of paper, I painted the glue mixture onto the new piece of paper working from the center of the piece outwards.  Make sure to spread the glue well past the egde of the paper and onto the paper underneath.  The goal is to get the dry paper saturated (but not disintegrating) and pressed flat onto the piece under it.  Once that piece of paper is evenly wet and smoothed onto the form, get a new piece and repeat the process.  When you place a new piece onto the form, make sure that half or a third of the new paper overlaps with the existing wet paper.  Try to avoid making obvious edges and corners.  

I took the first layer of paper mache past the half way point on the sphere.  I wanted to be able to fold the edge under to have a more finished edge.  After the first layer is done, repeat the process for one to two more layers.  The more layers you have, the stronger and heavier your final product will be.  

Fixing Wrinkles

Distracting wrinkle

Completely covering it with a patch

Nice smooth surface!

For the most part, I’m not too concerned about folds in the base layer because it will be covered up by top texture layer.  However, sometimes they are just too big to ignore.  In that case, I will take a new piece of paper and completely cover the fold, then paint it on as normal.  The wrinkle is smoothed away nicely.  

Adding the Final Texture Layer

Now it’s time to add the texture layers.  This is what makes our model look like a planet.  Uranus is a streaky planet, so the goal is to make lines of texture and color.  With the base layer still slightly wet, I painted the light blue streamers accross the form in a continuous line from one side to the opposite side.  Be careful not to rip the streamer as you are working (although, it’s not the end of the world if you do).  Keep working in lines and overlap in some areas and leave gaps in other areas.  This will help give variation in the darkness or lightless of the color.  Find some areas that need white, and use white tissue paper.  You can bunch the tissue paper as you go to add another element of texture.  

The Finishing Touch

Add the finishing touch with streaks of tulle.  Cut a length of 6 inch tulle that is longer than the base layer.  Submerge the whole strip of tulle into the paper mache solution and sqeeze it out well.  While the underlayer is wet, position the tulle along one of the strips that you would like to cover and push it onto the paper mache.  You’ll have to play with it a bit, and you might find that bunching it helps it to stay in place and be more visible.  Don’t cover the whole planet with the tulle.  It will have a more visibly stiking impact if it’s used only in certain areas.  

Now, let everything dry undisturbed over night.  Do not remove the paper mache from the yoga ball until it is completely dry.  

Check out the next Blog article to see how I made a frame to hang the planet on the wall and help it hold it’s round shape.  

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