How to Make the Best Architectural Models

Architectural model making is an integral part of the design process as it helps architects and designers explore project potential and visualize the outcome.

Models are also used to communicate the project vision to other relevant parties involved in the process. Thus, making accurate and effective models is essential to get projects off the ground.

If you want to enhance your models this year, read on to learn how to make the best architectural models to ensure you seal the deal.

Architecture hand holding house model while checking blue print

1. Recognize the best way to model your project.

Whether you are planning, designing, constructing, marketing, or selling homes, office spaces, retail spaces, hotels, medical and government buildings, educational institutions, resorts, churches, or something else, you will want to use an architectural model.

However, in order to create the best architectural model possible, it is crucial that you understand the different modeling options at your disposal.

For example, some architectural projects, such as residences, should be shown using a model that includes the inside layout and facade designs. Alternatively, if you are creating an apartment architectural model, you only need the model to show the interior design.

Larger projects (such as entire neighborhoods) don’t need as much detail but require a broader scope for a viewer to get the overall feel and aesthetic.

Every project is different, so you must consider the most effective way to show its design. To make the right decision, you must consider both the nature and the size of your project.

3D Printing

For many projects, a great option is 3D printed scaled models. 3D printed models are the most realistic and detailed options available, and they are also relatively low-cost.

They create the ideal opportunity for firms to test their ideas while also producing visually striking models. In fact, for architects, 3D printing technology has transformed the industry as it enables designers to formulate scale models of complicated structures swiftly and cost-effectively. For these reasons, more models than ever before are being 3D printed.

Keep in mind that before you start 3D printing , you need to be able to think in 3D. For many designers, this is one of the hardest mental switches. For decades, the only option was to project ideas onto a 2D plane. However, this is no longer the case with 3D printing.

2. Be selective with your materials.

No matter what type of architectural model you are making or the project it is for, you want to be selective when choosing your materials. After all, the materials you pick represent your project, and so you want to ensure that you are choosing ones that accurately depict your vision. Every element must work to immerse viewers in the narrative of the project.

Furthermore, the materials you choose should be easy to work with.

The last thing you want is to be dedicating too much time and resources to the model, as it should be a supplement to the real work.

Depending on your time and level of expertise, you may want to create your architectural model from white foam boards, cork sheets, foam sheets, wood,  or papier mâché. All of these materials can work effectively, as long as you have the time and skill to make them.

3D Printing Materials

If you are opting to 3D print your architectural model, you also have a choice of materials to use.

When it comes to 3D printing, the materials can be strong, brittle, flexible, or solid. They can also be light, heavy, smooth, or rough. Generally, the most common material for 3D printing architectural models is acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), as the filaments can be used in many 3D printers and are relatively affordable.

Other options include polyamide, which gives the final product a sandy, granular look, and gray resin, which results in a smooth final touch and can be painted, although designs are limited. Moreover, there is multicolor resin, which is ideal if you don’t want to paint the model, and transparent resin, which can be used for parts such as windows.

While all of these materials can work well, you must choose the right material; otherwise, your model might not be able to function. To avoid this, select your material early on in the process so that you can thoroughly learn its characteristics and ensure that it works for your model.

In terms of 3D printing, the type of material you use may also be influenced by the printer type.

Generally, the best 3D printers for architecture are either SLA orDLP. It  uses resin materials, which is recommended if you want your model to have a high level of detail.

3. Store it properly.

Before you start working on your first architectural model, you want to make sure that you have enough space to store it properly. In many cases, you will go through several iterations of model making, and things can quickly get confusing if you don’t have a big enough space to keep them all organized.

Additionally, if you opt to make a 3D architecture model, you will probably have an abundance of shells – the components that make up the model. Depending on your style and the type of project, your model can have dozens to thousands of shells.

Whatever the case, you need to be able to organize all of your shells, have easy access to them, and understand where they each go.

Final Thoughts

While 3D printing architectural models has become more prevalent in recent years, it is still highly recommended that you work with a professional company to create your designs. This is especially true if you want to have the most impressive models possible.

By working with a professional 3D printing company, you’re assured to have models so detailed that they can be used as effective tools in meetings and presentations, and ultimately help you win clients.

Does your firm utilize architectural models? If so, what are you doing to improve those models? Have you started 3D printing them yet?

Let us know your thoughts and any relevant insights in the comments below!


Tiago Jeronimo is the Marketing Manager at Inoventive 3D Solutions, a full-service architectural scale model making company. Beginning with 2D and 3D architectural drawings, the company incorporates state-of-the-art SLA 3D printing to best construct your design. Inoventive 3D specializes in architectural models, including towers, corporate campuses, sites and educational models. They also specialize in stadiums, full-fledged city models and industrial models for trade shows.

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