Model Making for Animation



Mackinnon and Saunders and Aardman logos

This unique and exciting one year full-time practical Postgraduate Diploma course aims to equip students with the skills and experience necessary to enhance their career in the field of professional model/prop making within animation or other media industries.

"This is fabulous. What a fantastic project to work on. Good job all round. Bravo!" - Stanley Kubrick's daughter Katharina, on seeing the students' 2001: A Space Odyssey set build (pictured top)

Our students work in a fully-equipped workshop/studio environment and collaborate with those in other specialisms, such as animation, production design, digital effects and cinematography, to make several films and practical projects – with all production costs met by the School.

All NFTS students can attend Masterclasses. Recent guests include David Fincher (Fight Club), Greta Gerwig (Little Women), Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave), Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz), Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag), Ben Wheatley (Free Fire), Rapman (Blue Story), Louis Theroux, Debra Granik (Winter’s Bone), Denis Villeneuve (Bladerunner 2049), Lynne Ramsay (You Were Never Really Here), Sam Mendes (1917), Asif Kapadia (Senna), Joanna Hogg (The Souvenir), Russell T Davies (Doctor Who) and Travis Knight (Kubo And The Two Strings).

​This course is industry recognised by ScreenSkills, the industry-led skills body for the UK's screen-based industries, and carries the ScreenSkills Select quality-mark which indicates courses best suited to prepare students for a career in the screen industries.​

The NFTS wants to encourage applications from the brightest and best talent out there, whatever your background. That’s why we have made scholarship funding available for this course – visit our scholarships available for diploma courses page for more information.

Recent credits and successes

2001 A Space Odyssey set build

2001: A Space Odyssey - An Out of This World Replica Set Build! Read more.

Student working in studio

Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport visits the NFTS Model Making studio and workshop. Read more.

Other Half Promo Pic

Each year the Model Making students work on a number of graduate animation films. 10 Model Makers worked on 2021 graduate film, Other Half, which will have its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. It is one of only 17 films selected from 1,800 entries and the only UK film to screen. Read more. 

Callum Higgins with Joe Holman

"After a year’s full time study on the Model Making Diploma, I’m now moving on to my first professional job in the film industry, something that wouldn’t have been possible without the course. I’d highly recommend this course to anyone looking to get into prop or miniature making for film and TV as a whole, not just animation. The time on the course itself was amazing, I worked on some incredible projects, learned loads of new skills and made some new friends. I was lucky enough to be able to go on a great work placement which, although it’s not a guaranteed part of the course, it’s possible given the contacts that the School has." - Callum Higgins, 2020-21 Model Making student, pictured with visiting tutor Joe Holman

Model set inspired by Fantastic Mr Fox

NFTS Model Makers bring Roald Dahl’s writing hut to life to mark the 50th anniversary of his classic children’s novel, Fantastic Mr FoxRead more.

miniature set inspired by Moon

Every year, students of the NFTS Model Making Course build a replica set from a well-known film. For 2020, John Lee, NFTS Head of Model Making for Animation Diploma tasked his new cohort of model makers with replicating the interior of the ‘Sarang’ Lunar Base from the BAFTA winning sci-fi film Moon. Read more.

The Fire Next Time model on set

Meet the Model Makers behind NFTS Sundance selection, The Fire Next Time. Read more.

Sheba promo pic

NFTS Model Makers collaborate on ambitious brief for SHEBA®. Read more.

Animation Career Review 2020 logo

NFTS has once again been named one of the top five animation schools in the world in this year’s Animation Career Review 2020 School Rankings list, with the School named Number 5 in the world and Number 2 in EuropeRead more.

John Lee showing model at Stuttgart International Festival of Animated Film

Head of Model Making John Lee and 2019 graduate Lisa Ott led a Masterclass at Stuttgart International Festival of Animated Film (ITFS) 2020, one of Europe's largest animation festivals.

Watch their Masterclass here.

John Lee with Chris Palmer and students

John Lee and three of his Model Making graduates worked with renowned Commercials Director Chris Palmer to create a spaceship model in just four days for experimental clothing brand Vollebak. Read more.

Model making students

Model Making students were delighted to see their work on the big screen in A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon, created as part of the course’s work placement with Aardman. Read more.

Nick Park with model inspired by A Grand Day Out

Nick Park Returns to NFTS to Celebrate Wallace & Gromit's 30th Anniversary. Read more.

John Lee with Lisa Ott at Encounters Film Festival

John Lee attends Encounters Film Festival with Graduate Model Maker Lisa Ott who is currently working with the UK's largest animation festival. Read more.

The Big Moon promo pic

Model Making Grads Roisin McCallum and Gemma Byrne designed and built four alien puppets for a music video featuring The Big Moon, working with Stink Films. Watch the video here.

John Lee at BBC Scotland

NFTS launched AccessNFTS, a national outreach programme. The first event was a huge success! NFTS Head of Model Making John Lee headed to BBC Scotland to showcase the unique work of his department. Read more.

Photos from recent student projects

  • Students of the NFTS Model Making Diploma brought to life an exciting and detailed display Fantastic Mr Fox model featuring Roald Dahl’s writing hut, which is now on display at the Roald Dahl Museum's Imagining Fantastic Mr Fox exhibition.
  • Model Making students completed a 1:8 scale replica of the interior of the ‘Sarang’ Lunar Base from the sci-fi film Moon.
  • Students replicating a set in miniature from The Shining.

What you will study

This is the only UK-based model making course located in a dedicated film studio environment. We intend to take advantage of that. We will be creating professional models, sets, props and puppets. Successful candidates will work individually, and as part of a team within a course comprising of challenging modules, workshops, and tutorials, some of which will take place online.

Later in the year students will produce work on some of the animation graduation films.

Download programme specification (PDF) 

Download course outline (PDF)

Head of Department

The course is run by Head of Model Making, John Lee. During his career, John has worked in Commercials, Animation, Children’s TV, Promo’s, and Feature Film, as both Modeller, Art Director and Designer. Credits include Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Isle of Dogs, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Fantastic Mr Fox and Frankenweenie. He was also Production Designer and supervising model maker with his team of artists on the multi award winning John Lewis Christmas advert The Bear & The Hare.

Current or Recent Tutors

Recent visiting tutors have included Joe Holman (Frankenweenie, Corpse Bride, Fantastic Mr. Fox), 3 times BAFTA-nominated director Osbert Parker, costume maker Lucy Sturley (Netflix's The House, Frankenweenie, Postman Pat, Roary the Racing Car, The Clangers) and Josie Corben (Save Ralph, Isle of Dogs, Spitting Image, Frankenweenie, Fantastic Mr. Fox).

Fees and funding options

Fees for this course are as follows:

Recent course graduates are now working in the puppet and model departments at leading Animation powerhouses including Aardman Features, Mackinnon and Saunders, Factory Create and Arch Film Studio. Other alumni are working on large scale Marvel films at bigger UK studios.

Home/EU/EEA £9,800 

These are the fees for September 2022 intake.

The NFTS does not charge you extra for the cost of productions or materials.

A non-refundable deposit of £500 is required against the cost of your fees on confirmation of your place.

Students are expected to provide their own laptops and to pay for any travel and accommodation related to any work experience we arrange. Students will also be expected to pay for any travel involved with exhibitions or events scheduled away from the NFTS campus subject to travel/ transport/ safe distancing guidelines .

At the NFTS you will get far more time learning directly from tutors, in real production facilities and on real projects, than in the vast majority of film schools or universities. The specialist nature of our courses mean that our students gain the relevant skills and experience they need to go straight into the industry.


Model Making students take part in a range of modules and exercises throughout the year. 

Entry requirements

There will be no typical candidate for this course. Your background will almost certainly be in the Arts, and you may well be a recent graduate or Industry professional looking to further specialise.

You will most likely have some pre-industry experience of model making or training in your chosen field and have a basic understanding and experience of workshop equipment and machinery. The ideal candidate should have a mixture of creative, technical, communicative, and problem solving skills necessary to work within a highly productive team.

You will be expected to have your own tool kit and to expand on this during the year, at your cost.

Your application should be supported by a brief outline of your interests in modelling, puppet making, sculpture, filmmaking etc, and show photographic examples of a selection of your best work with detailed notations.

While many applicants will have a degree from a British or overseas university, we will consider applicants who do not have a degree if they have an impressive portfolio, a creative track record or an alternative qualification.

If you are an EEA or International citizen, you must already be in possession of UK settled/pre-settled status or another visa which allows you to study for the duration of the course. If you do not already hold a UK status, unfortunately we cannot accept your application as we are currently unable to support a visa on our Diploma courses.

If you have any questions, please email

How to apply

Application deadline: Contact Registry

Applicants must supply the following:

  • Please provide links to your online portfolio, website or showreel and supply detailed notations of your contribution to the images. State whether the work is collaborative or created by you entirely.
  • If you are selected for an interview, you will be expected to show examples of your work in the form of a photographic stills portfolio, as well as digital format on a laptop or tablet and bring to interview some examples of models or puppet making.

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