Hello People,

Im currently a beginner to animation and is looking into making my set for a new animation, however i have no idea what the sets are made from, i know in context it could depend on what your wanting it to look like, ie wooden look, metalic look etc but just for the basic strength of the set, whats good to use?

  • Now i think strong cardboard could be good, but it could lose its strength after a while and sag but quick and cheap to make,
  • A wooden base set could also be good, strong and study, but bulky and could get over heavy, annoying to join.

What can anyone suggest i use.

what would be best to build the base set from.

Many thanks in advance.


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Anything and everything. 

I like to work with cardboard because it's cheap and plentiful.  I've never had any issues.  It really depends on what you're building though.  MDF and Balsa are also great materials to use.

I can get my hands on lots of cardboard, do you put thin card on top of another to thicken or try to find an already thick bit? I can get more thin pieces than thick and bulk my set that way.
Do you use ordinary glue, industrial strength glue or something else to get a strong joint between your set pieces.
My last question on this topic

Thin cardboard is best -- I like grabbing mine from pizza boxes (as long as they're not drenched in grease.) Cereal boxes are also great for creating small curved details.  Depending on how large the set is, I'll either build a wooden frame or for smaller sets, I'll use a thick corrugated cardboard.  Main concern should always be making sure the set is secured to your animation table.  Nothing worse than bumping the table during animation and having a wall fall. 

I love hot glue.  It's my go-to adhesive.  Just don't let it drip onto your hands  

Another great set building material to use is Styrofoam -- not the kind you drink coffee out of; that's polystyrene.  Builder's foam is awesome for sculpting mountain sides and castles -- basically any kind of stone work.  You can grab large sheets from your hardware store on the cheap. 

It is nice to hear someone championing cardboard. For a long time that's all I used for sets. The coating of clay on top make the cardboard more sturdy because of the wax in it (and also blended in with the material of the characters). Gatorade boxes are great for small sets. Another favorite is milk cartons (with the sloping tops). Nice for houses. For big, flat futuristic-looking houses, you can get a candy jug and flip it upside down and then use clay to make blades of glass around the lip to disguise the screw thread and build a wood or triple-corrugated staircase to go in front (with clay pressed on all over everything and brick details added with a shingled roof and front door, and maybe a window.

For city buildings, you can use 2x4 planks of wood. If you don't like clay, you can use thick gray plaster instead, and paint afterwards. 

To make rolling hills, you can cover chicken wire with papier mache and paint it, or another nice material is black wrap foil (if you want rougher-looking mountains in a background. You can just spray-paint that as it is, because it's already matte and the stuff is very shape-able). If a puppet had to walk on it, you could build a wooden understructure of supports, just for where the puppet will stand. The rest of the form would not have to be armatured (although I would strongly tape it down). I like black wrap because it does not reflect light and it is stronger than tinfoil. It's also handy for its original purpose, which is to flag lights aimed at the set.

Yes, use a hot glue gun for set building! It has several advantages - the main ones being that the glue 'grabs' instantly- you don't need to sit there and hold pieces for excruciating minutes - and the glue is thick like a stiff gel, so it can form a fillet that holds things up and supports them, fills in gaps etc. You can easily glue loops of armature wire to things that need to move (as door hinges, etc). 

Also keep a small squirt bottle of isopropyl alcohol on hand. This is a debonder for hot glue. If you've glued something and need to remove it, squirt a little alcohol on the glue joint, let it soak in for a minute or two, and then they'll separate quite easily. 

With lightweight wood and cardboard, you can assemble a set using nothing but hot glue, and it goes much faster and is a heck of a lot easier than any other kind of glue or nails or screws. 

Be aware though, some parts of a set require stability and thin cardboard might not do the trick. It's fine though in parts where there's no pressure on it. But if cardboard gets damp of course, you've got problems. So go ahead and use it, but be aware of it's limitations. 

Thank you everyone for the replies, it's helped me a lot, now it's time for my building phase :-)
A set is a piece of a world - any piece, any world that exists or does not exist - so it could be made of almost anything.
For all sets, I start with a sheet of 12mm particle board for the ground.
Then for interior room sets, next comes the walls. Anything that is flat and supports itself could work. Some of my walls are 3mm plywood on a pine frame. Some are 12mm particle board, which is thick enough to support itself without any framing. But when I can get it, I like to use a thick cardboard with 2 layers of currugation in it, called Sceneboard. It is 10mm thick and if you cut halfway through it with a snap-off blade knife, you can fold it, which gives you an inside corner with no gap. The fold also helps to keep it straight. I hot-glue a strip of pine along the bottom, on the back, so it can be clamped or screwed onto the floor. Where edges need to be joined, a vertical strip of pine is glued on the back, again so the two pieces can be clamped or screwed together. The set walls can be folded flat for storage and don't weigh much.

Window and door frames are made up of strips of wood, mdf, plywood, card in varius thicknesses, ice cream paddle sticks, whatever is the right thickness. I use some small timber mouldings, but for even smaller I build up layer of card with the top piece not quite as wide as the layer under it.

What you use largely depends on the tools you have - a jigsaw is handy, a bandsaw too, but if you only have a stanley knife and a hot glue gun, stick to different thicknesses of card for most of it.

I do use cardboard boxes if the corrugated card is fairly thick. The box my Mac Pro came in made a good building for an exterior street scene. I left it as a box, so it held it's shape without any framing added.

Building exteriors can be similar to interior sets. But outdoor natural landscapes, with irregular shapes and textures, require some different materials and techniques.

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