How to Make a First World War Map

First World War Map

Making this First World War map was trickier than any of my other map making endeavours. Because I am pretty relaxed about how any of my maps end up looking, I free handed it. This is not for the faint hearted, especially when you have teenagers looking over your shoulder pointing out what you’ve missed/forgotten (OR as I like to say, ‘chosen to leave out’ 🤔 ).

I was, as I always am (missing pieces and all) thoroughly chuffed with the end result. After all, I am not creating borders worthy of future treaties, just an educational tool to visually represent historic going-ons, in this case World War 1. The fact that I missed out an island off the coast of wherever is neither here nor there. Said island has no place in ww1 so I am okay with it not being on the map. So there. Hrrumph!


I have been known to source whopping great pieces of card to make my maps on. Our map of the world was enormous and took up our table for the duration of our study into Marco Polo. Unfortunately, this meant that the dining room table was out of commission and I did not want that again. So this time I went with photographic framing board. I bought six A2 size.

Drawing the Map

I photocopied a map of Europe at the time of the Great War. First I folded the map into six equal parts to represent each of the six pieces of card. Next, I concentrated on one piece at a time, drawing the approximate shape of the lands with a pencil. Once I was happy with the shape of Europe, I went over the lines with a sharpie:

First World War Map

Paper Mache-ing the Map

One of my favourite materials to work with is shop-bought paper mache. It is made from shredded paper and plaster dust. You can add as much or as little water to it as you please, to obtain a thick or thinner paste. I try to keep it fairly thick because it is easier to model with and dries much quicker:

Here, the girls are creating a raised this ridge over the map borders:

The close up below gives you an idea of the consistency we use:

Once finished they are left to dry. This took about four days. During this time I was pondering a way to fix them together but still be able to pack them down away from the table:

Storing the Map

The girls painted the waters first, using blue and white acrylic paint, as I was still pondering how on earth I was going to store them:

I decided to attach two boards together to create three foldable boards. This allowed them to be packed away, but also helped to sturdy them whilst we were using them:

First World War Map

I used gaffa tape as shown below:

They folded easily enough:

And could be piled one on top of another and placed to one side when not in use. I know. I am indeed a genius 🧐

Painting the Map

The girls had already painted the seas. Now was time for the land mass. This wasn’t as simple as painting all the land mass one colour, as we had our other maps. The purpose of this map was to visually demonstrate the alliance system which was one of the main causes of the Great War. We decided to paint the neutral countries red; the allied powers green and the central powers yellow:

First World War Map

Although Italy began as a neutral power, it joined the allied powers in May 1915, so we opted to paint it green too:

First World War Map

The girls left the borders between neighbouring countries white so that I could use a sharpie to make the borders clear after the paint had dried:

First World War Map

Further Reading

If you have enjoyed this short tutorial of how to make a World War One Map then do read on about other paper mache maps we have used in our homeschool:

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