Making Pokeball Terrariums

Making Pokeball Terrariums

Hello y’all.

It’s been a while! I was asked to make two Pokeball Terrariums, a Mew and a Charizard. Big thanks to the customer for being awesome and giving me this really fun project.

This is how I did it (and you can too!)

The Pokemon are both 3D printed, but you can easily replace those with any of the millions of Pokemon toys that will fit inside the ball, or make one from clay, or anything. There’s no real trick to painting them, use reference, use paints you like to use and get the finish you want, that’s about it really. I finished these with mat varnish and gloss for the eyes and Charizard’s fire tail.

Next up, gathering supplies. The balls themselves you can find on ebay, there’s a trillion listings for them, they are all titled something like “Clear Acrylic Plastic Craft Mould Ball Sphere DIY Bath Bomb Christmas Ornament“. They come in a range of different sizes too! It’s awesome. These are made from 10cm diameter balls, but obviously you can go bigger or smaller depending on your needs.

To complete the balls (lol!), I needed to make the black joining band between the two hemispheres. I’ve seen that done elsewhere using black electrical tape and other things which looks great, but I have a printer, so I decided to model and print a plastic hoop that would also have the little lip and groove that allows it to fit the hemispheres. I also modelled and printed the button section and a stand for the balls. The files for these are all here if anyone would like to use or modify them 🙂

These were all painted with black acrylic and then varnished with gloss varnish. The bottom half of the ball I sprayed white on the inside. I discovered later that a couple of layers of white spray wasn’t enough to make it totally opaque. I would suggest giving it several good coats of your chosen white to avoid this translucency issue – I ended up painting it will 3-4 thick layers of white acrylic later to ensure that nothing showed through from the inside.

Now for the fun bit – The terrain! I opted to go with a classic. First I cut a 10cm circle, then trimmed it down until it sat deeper in the bottom half of the ball, leaving me room to build it up a bit and also room for the Pokemon to sit on it without scraping the top of the ball!

I tried a few different ideas out. For Charizard I knew I wanted quite a bit of dimensionality and a lava lake or river. As I was trying out some basic layout ideas I ended up really liking the idea that he’d be standing on a ledge overhanging a lava pool. Mew was trickier, he was going to be sitting by a stream on a peaceful grassland, so there’s not much to see at this stage, the base here is just a gentle slope really.

Here you can see papier mache going down. Simple cheap kitchen roll and watered down PVA glue, I use this technique all the time to get an organic texture. It’s not necessary here since I covered it up entirely later on, but… I did it anyway. As soon as that’s dry I covered it with more PVA glue and dumped a load of sand over it. This sand I got from a beach – I literally just filled a 2 litre bottle with sand. I’ve still got 1/4 of it left and it’s been… many, many years since I last went to the beach.

After the PVA glue dries, dump off all the excess sand (back in the bottle you go, old beach sand!) and then I painted it all over with a thick base layer of dark brown Acrylic paint. Nothing fancy needed here, cheapest you can buy is totally fine.  Blob it on good and thick, make sure to cover all the sand. This does two things, it helps to seal what you’ve done and to stick down any loose-ish remaining bits of sand.

*NOT POOP*

When that’s dry I painted the lava areas on Charizard’s base with yellow and red to provide a base colour for the lava, and the Mew base needed blue for the steam and green for the grassland. Again, just cheap acrylics, no need for anything fancy here, it’s all base layers. Finally I masked off the edges with tape and clingfilm, making sure there were no gaps (you’ll reeeaaaallllly regret it if you don’t ensure there are no gaps (I know from bitter experience!)), then I poured clear resin into the river edge on Mew’s base and the lava river areas on Charizard’s.  There’s a lot of ways to do this, you an find some amazing guides out there on making incredibly awesome water – I’m definitely not an expert. Essentially I did it three layers. First layer to set the base, then paint some vague water/lava effects on it in watered down acrylic so it’s still translucent. This isn’t much more than a dark blue wash for the river, and a swirling red-yellow for the lava. Then another layer of resin, then another paint layer, and finally a top layer of resin. The edge of the river on Mew has grass in it, I just put that in before I poured the top layer of resin.

I wasn’t entirely happy with the lava at this stage, it looked too watery, so I blobbed hot-melt glue on a plastic sheet to make hemispheres, so they look like bubbles (if you’ve used a glue-gun even once, you’ve definitely done this before, it’s unavoidable!). I scraped those off and carefully glued them onto the lava rivers. That helped to sell the lava look more, but I still wasn’t entirely happy, so I then overpainted parts of it with more yellow and red. After all that, i’d have got the same effect by just using hot-glue for lava entirely… next time I make lava I’ll know that!

After that, it’s case of fiddling around until it looks how you want.

For Mew’s base, I printed a lot of small flowers and used green paper to make some sort of leaves for them, and some sort of long-frondy-looking plants to add some texture – any sort works fine though. There are great shops on Etsy and Ebay selling items made for doll’s houses and other miniature things – these are all great! I got a whole bunch of tufts of grass and flowers and moss for this, I wish I’d got a wider variety (which is why I some extra stuff), but live and learn! I then covered the base with the grass tufts and flower tufts, leaving only the area where Mew sits.

Charizard’s base needed to be basically just rock, so I added a lot of extra texture to it in the form of small rock piles and other loose bits to enhance the look of it being in/on a volcanic area. I also didn’t like the position he was standing when I did a test-fitting, so I covered loads of tiny pebbles and rocks (from the beach sand) in PVA glue and smushed them together to look like rock piles, and used some chips of resin from failed prints and things to build up the ledge a little more, changing the angle Charizard stood at, which immediately looked better. After all this messing, I painted everything but the lava a charcoal black, again, nothing fancy, just something to bring together all the modifications and tweaks to look like it’s all part of the same environment. After that it was  a case of push-pulling with drybrushing highlights and yellow-red glow from the lava to get the right balance without washing out the rock.

This was really fun to make, and seeing them finished was very satisfying. Give it a go!

It’s good to be back!

Tom 🙂

1 Comment

  1. Shannon 3 months ago

    Can testament as said customer that these are utterly awesome, so awesome I commissioned two more! The terrains seem truly authentic and not just some Pokemon plopped in somewhere, they are very much part of the environment themselves.

    I would highly recommend Tom for similar commissions but would also encourage anyone to try making them yourself with this handy dandy guide!

    I am super pleased with them and they have pride placement on our nerdy collectibles unit.

    Next stop is to commission Tom for the rest of the original 151! *hehehe*

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