Adele has been a youth services librarian in public libraries for 20 years.
Marshmallow Peeps Diorama Tips and Ideas
So, you’ve caught the Peeps bug, and you’re set to make a diorama. Here are all the tips and tricks my daughter and I have found that make it easier to deal with Peeps, props, and constructing the diorama.
Our Peeps Dioramas
Here are a couple of dioramas that we’ve made:
Step 1: Prepare the Peeps for the Diorama
When you get the Peeps, you will notice three things that make them rather difficult diorama materials.
Problem 1: The rabbit Peeps are not flat on the bottom, making them harder to stand up in a scene.
Solution: Cut off the bottom so that the rabbit stands flat. We tried snipping and cutting, and we found that you could get the best cut with a good, sharp knife dipped in water.
Problem 2: All Peeps are squishy and hard to handle without damaging.
Solution: Buy your Peeps a week ahead of time, take them out of the package, and lay them out to dry (after you've cut the bottoms flat.) We learned by hard experience not to stand the Peeps up to dry—they will stick amazingly well to the surface. Lay them down on their sugary backsides.
Problem 3: Peeps have rather blank expressions.
Solution: Make sure the scene and costumes convey your scene and story. It's tricky to draw facial features on Peeps, though it can be done. Most people use the rabbit Peeps because at least they stand upright and look a little more like people. But, if you can think of a diorama in which chickens look good (like my Bird Diner), you can use them as well.
Step 2: Generate an Idea for Your Peeps Diorama and Sketch out a Plan
You want the scenery to do most of the work for your diorama. Most people like to use scenes from pop culture—books, movies, or television—as their setting. In choosing your scene, remember that you’ll need to find something instantly recognizable.
For instance, The Wizard of Oz has all kinds of iconic scenes: You could arrange your Peeps to show Dorothy meeting the good witch, running through the field of poppies, or arriving at the Emerald City. Conversely, I love the movie When Harry Met Sally, but I can’t think of any scene that just shouts the movie (well, there is the diner scene, but it’s in the dialogue, not the setting.)
For more inspiration, see the links at the very end of this article. One of my favorites is “The Trouble with Tribbles” Peeps diorama from Star Trek—genius! All they did was recreate the hold from the Enterprise, dress the Peeps in uniforms, and throw in a few brown pom-poms.
Step 3: Gather Materials
This is a big process, so I’ve divided it into parts A, B, and C.
Step 3A: Prepare the Frame and Base
You can use a large cardboard box for the frame of your diorama, or you can just build it on a board with a backdrop. You want as much light as possible so that your diorama will photograph well, so avoid having a ceiling unless it’s absolutely necessary to your scene. (Even if you need a chandelier or something else coming from the ceiling, you can hang it from wire that goes across the top of the diorama.)
My colleagues and I made several dioramas of “Peeps in the Park” for children in the library to decorate, and I had good success using foam board.
We scored the board down the middle so that it would form the base and the backdrop. Then we made cross-supports that we taped on the sides to hold them in position. These diorama supports were light but strong, and suited for display in our case.
Step 3B: Print out Pictures for the Backdrop and Floor
Here’s my big tip for decorating the backdrop and the floor: Look around on the internet for photos that show your backdrop.
For the “Peeps in the Park” dioramas, I could have used blue construction paper for the sky and painted on the hills and clouds, but it was much easier to do a Google image search and print out the background I wanted. If you take a look at the Downton Abbey Peeps diorama in the resources list below, you’ll see that the maker printed out the iconic abbey, then lined up the residents in the foreground.
Similarly, if you wanted to do the Stay Puft Marshmallow man scene from Ghostbusters, it would be easiest to print out the image of the big guy for you diorama, rather than trying to create him yourself.
Do a Google search for large images that won’t pixelate if you enlarge them a bit. Wikimedia Commons has quite a few images that are available under the Creative Commons license. Here are a couple of example of what you can find:
Step 3C: Gather or Make Props
Buy Miniatures: You can go the more expensive, but quicker route of buying miniatures to complete your scene. You can find miniatures for almost everything. If you look around on Amazon, you can find most anything, from minuscule food cans to itty-bitty furniture to teeny tiny books.
Use Found Objects: If you’d rather go low-cost but creative, you can use found objects to create little miniatures. For example, in my “Peeps Diner” diorama, I used thread spools for table bases and flower pots. For the table tops, I glued on vitamin pill bottle lids. And for the tiny vases, I used wooden beads with some small silk flowers tucked inside.
Use Household Items and Trinkets: Take a look around your home to find small objects that might serve as props for your Peeps diorama. Here are some of the things I found, looking through junk drawers and old jewelry.
Use Air-Dry Modeling Clay: Clay is also versatile and can be molded into anything you need. My daughter used air-dry modeling clay to make a sculpture for our “Peeps at the Art Museum” diorama.
For more ideas, use the search terms “making miniatures” on the internet.
Step 4: Assemble Your Diorama and Attach Everything
For the backdrops and the floor, I like to use a non-wrinkling glue stick to attach them to the base.
For gluing props together, glue guns work great. But take note: Only use the glue gun for the props. Peeps will melt with hot glue—they are marshmallow, after all.
Step 5: Dress the Peeps
Judging from the Peeps diorama photos on the ‘net, this is the part that gives people the most problems. Peeps are sugary little fellas, so markers don’t work terribly well for coloring them, though you can use a fine-tip Sharpie to make facial features, tattoos, etc.
Some people use icing, which goes on pretty well, but is kind of a hassle when you’re placing the Peeps in the diorama, since you have to be careful not to mess up your frosting job when moving them around.
I like to use fabric, especially the kind that drapes easily. Try thin synthetic knits. Often you can find reduced-price packages of fabric at the store that are odd-sized pieces left from the ends of bolts.
I try not to get too fancy with the little details of clothing for the Peeps. For women, I cut a small rectangle and tie it with a cord or piece of fabric around the “waist.” No need to glue it on.
For the man, I cut a rectangle of black felt and a few little triangles for the shirt and tie.
To make it super fast, I pinned the clothing into the Peeps. This way, I don’t have to wait for any glue to dry. And sometimes, the pins have little beaded ends that I work into the outfit. Here, you’ll see that I’ve pinned the bow tie to the guy Peep and the earrings to the gal Peeps.
On the backside, you can see all the pinning I did. I wasn’t worried about how they looked back here, since I’d be photographing my diorama from the front.
Step 6: Place the Peeps and Photograph Your Diorama
Taking a good photograph of your Peeps diorama could be a book in itself, so I’ll just give you a few tips and send you to much more detailed resources on the web.
- Use a real camera, not your phone camera
- Make sure you have good lighting
- Take lots of photos from different angles. You can decide which one is best when you are looking at them in your photos.
- Don’t be afraid to crop your photos to make the Peeps stand out.
- Use editing software to make the colors pop. Bump up the midtones and the saturation.
This is a good little video that will show you the basics of setting up the camera and lights for photographing a diorama. Most point-and-shoot cameras will have a manual mode, like his does. You won't necessarily need a tripod; you could set the camera on a table and use books to get it the right height. You will want to use the timer so that you avoid camera shake.
Additional Resources for Your Peeps Diorama
- Geeky Peeps Dioramas for a Strange and Sugary Easter Weekend
This Geeky site includes the Trouble with Tribbles diorama I mentioned. It appears that this creator used frosting to give the Peeps the appropriate Star Trek uniform.
Washington Post Peeps Diorama Winner 2014
Since I am a children’s librarian, I find this diorama takeoff of the classic book, Everyone Poops hilarious. But even if it’s not your type of humor, this little video points out lots of little details that made this the winning entry.
2009 EPL Peeps Diorama Contest
I’m guessing this is a library’s contest. There are lots of ideas here to get you started on your own Peeps Diorama.