How to make a model of the solar system: a guest post by Joe Butterworth (age almost 13)

Full step-by-step tutorial to make your own model of the solar system: a special guest post from Joe Butterworth (aged almost 13).

I am sure any kid would LOVE to create their own model of the solar system – I know my boys will!  Huge thanks to the very talented Joe Butterworth for this step-by-step tutorial.

How to make a model of the solar system

To make a model of the solar system, you will need:

  • 1x 150mm polystyrene/cotton ball
  • 4x 80mm polystyrene/cotton ball
  • 3x 60mm polystyrene/cotton ball
  • 1x 50mm polystyrene/cotton ball
  • 1x 170mm polystyrene/cotton wreath
  • Assorted colours of tissue paper
  • 9x wooden skewers
  • 2x cocktail sticks
  • Black, light blue & green paint
  • Polystyrene glue
  • PVA glue
  • Large polystyrene base
  • Silver sequins and pins
  • Superglue

model of the solar system

How to make a model of the solar system:

1. The Sun

  • Take the 150mm polystyrene ball and stick on shreds of red, orange and yellow tissue paper using polystyrene glue (the sizes and shapes don’t matter so much on this layer)
  • Cover the gaps left by the shreds with orange and yellow tissue paper (try to make these overlap and if possible cover gaps next to red in orange)
  • Then cover the whole sun in your lightest yellow tissue paper (areas where the glue is applied, will make the under layers more visible, which will add more realism)

2. Mercury

  • Using polystyrene glue stick the brown tissue paper to the 50mm ball.
  • Overlapping the paper creates different shades. If you use crepe paper it makes the effect bolder and your planet will have a rougher texture.

3. Venus

  • Cover Venus (a 60mm polystyrene ball) with red tissue paper.
  • Find your biggest gap on the ball and cover it in a narrow strip of yellow lined by orange.
  • Then cover the rest with orange tissue paper, but make sure the orange does not create a belt. It should only go around about a third of the planet’s width

4. Earth

  • Cover a 60mm polystyrene ball with blue tissue paper
  • Rip continent shape blobs out of green tissue paper and stick them to the blue using PVA glue – older kids can try to make the continents accurate
  • Cover the continents again because they become see through (and don’t forget Antarctica)!

5. Mars

  • Cover the surface of Mars with red tissue paper (this could be either a 50mm or 60mm ball).
  • Add brown tissue paper in places (the brown tissue paper is for a more authentic look because although Mars is called the red planet it does have spots of brown)

6. Jupiter

  • Cover an 80mm polystyrene ball with gold tissue paper.
  • Wrap around a horizontal line about 30mm of brown tissue paper and glue with PVA.
  • Wrap 15mm of silver tissue paper around the ball about 5mm down from the top of the brown tissue paper (this does not have to be precise)
  • Just below the brown tissue paper put a circular red piece of tissue paper this will be Jupiter’s red spot

7. Saturn

  • Cover an 80mm polystyrene ball with golden tissue paper.
  • Cover the 170mm polystyrene wreath with black tissue.
  • On the flat side pin the sequins on.
  • Attach the wreath to the ball using the cocktail sticks painted black.  At this point you may want some help!


8. Uranus

  • Cover an 80mm polystyrene ball with blue tissue paper.
  • Mix the blue and green paints till it is a blue and green mix similar to the sea (don’t worry if the paint varies in shade slightly, this makes it more realistic)
  • Paste the paint lightly onto the paper.  Leave small gaps.  This will make the colour stand out by contrasting against the tissue paper)

9. Neptune

  • Cover a 80mm polystyrene ball with blue tissue paper.

10. The Base

  • Stick the wooden skewers into the south of the planets and paint black (try to leave no gaps because it will make this look scruffy)!
  • Push the other end of the skewer into the large polystyrene base and superglue into place (do not use a glue gun this will melt holes in the base)
  • Cover the large polystyrene base with black tissue paper (doing the sides will make it look more professional)

solar system close up

Other ideas

With the technique you have used to make the planets you could make other things as well.  For example, I made the moon by covering half a polystyrene ball with silver tissue paper and half with black tissue paper

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