Even with the large number of computer 3D modeling programs available to designers, there is (and I think always will be) a place for physical scale models. Although the modeling programs continue to produce more and more realistic looking images, they are still only a 2D image that utilizes correct perspective. And even the programs or systems that are ‘true 3D’ are really only offset 2D images meant to trick the mind into thinking it’s seeing a dimensional physical shape.
Some of the advantages of a physical scale model are:
-The physical size of a set are much easier to grasp than from a digital model where you can zoom in endlessly. I once built a model of an area of geography that the producers couldn’t seen to understand exactly how big an area it was until I put in the final piece, a model of the 260 foot ship they planned to use for a crew base. The huge ship measured only 3/16″ in the model scale. They got it instantly.
-A number of people are able to simultaneously view the model and discuss it. A lot of revelations often come from being able to look at a model from many different angles at once.
-The brain isn’t spending effort trying to do the mental tricks required to process fake 3D images. The model is somehow “more real”, because it is.
I created the chart above as well as the list below from many years worth of notes and scribbles. The calculations are mine so any mistakes are solely mine as well. The visual chart will give you an easy way of determining the size of figures in the various scales that will be most common to concept models.
The list describes what I think are the most useful model sizes from 1:700 to 1:6 with inch equivalents for each scale as well as the length of a linear foot and meter for each as well. The last column gives the common uses for the scale to help you determine what products exists for purchase. The Size Chart also lists the most common Imperial and metric drawing scales so you can find the model sizes that most closely match.
Determining The Size Of Your Model
Your first calculation will probably be how large the overall model needs to be. You’ll want the model to be as detailed as possible but probably won’t want it to take up and entire room. Using the Size Chart, multiply the overall actual size of the area you need to cover by the foot or meter equivalents and then determine which scale is best for the space you have available. Also note that 1/32 and 1:32 refer to the same scale.
Next, determine what model items exist in that scale. For the most variety in objects and vehicles, stick with the train gauge scales. If you need a lot of detailed plastic trucks or cars, 1/24th scale is going to probably be best, which is also the same as 1/2″ to the foot and is close to the German “G” train gauge.
Download The Files Here
When you print this diagram, be sure that you print it at 100%. Check the inch and metric scales to be sure it is at full size for an accurate representation.
For more information, you can refer to the following articles: