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Tutorial Tuesday – Styrofoam Headstones

by on October 15, 2013

Good morning, and welcome to another Tutorial Tuesday! We have a real ooky-spooky one for you today! We’re making some awesome Halloween tombstone decorations out of Styrofoam.

headstones_01You Need:

  • Styrofoam sheets (the ones we used were 1.25″ thick)
  • A hot-wire cutter
  • A hot knife (If your project has small details. Not necessary if you’re only making headstones.)
  • Chip brushes, 1″ and 2″ wide (do not use foam brushes for this project)
  • Small paint brushes
  • Mod Podge (optional)
  • Dark grey, light grey and black acrylic paint
  • A Sharpie (color doesn’t matter)
  • Grey spray primer

headstones_06  headstones_07

1. Draw your design on the styrofoam with the Sharpie marker.


2. Cut the foam with the hot wire cutter.

headstones_04 headstones_03

If you’re cutting something with small details out, make a rough cut to remove the excess styrofoam, then come back a second time to cut the fine details.


3. Using a scrap piece of Styrofoam, “sand” any rough edges off. This step is messy, so do it over a garbage can as shown, or over some newspaper.

The headstone after cutting.

4. Using the scrap piece of Styrofoam from step 3, make some gouges in the headstone to give it an aged, crumbled effect. To make a big gouge like the one shown, start with a shallow gouge, and press the Styrofoam in with your fingers to enlarge the mark.

headstones_11 headstones_10
5. Make indentations in the foam with the blunt end of the Sharpie marker. More detailed markings, like wings, skulls and writing, should be drawn on before indenting the styrofoam. You may wish to use the handle end of your small paint brushes to indent the writing and other small details.

After the cutting and indenting are done, you may wish to partially seal the surface of the Styrofoam with Mod Podge. Use one medium coat on all surfaces and let dry. In my opinion, the end result looks more like weathered stone. Also it may lend some strength to the Styrofoam and keeps it from drinking in so much acrylic paint.

6. In a well-ventilated area (and a particle mask doesn’t hurt either), spray all sides of the tombstone with gray primer. Don’t try for an even coat.

The brand of spray primer Dan’s carries doesn’t appear to attack the foam too much, but it is advisable when spray painting foam to keep the can at least a foot, if not further, from the foam. This is so that the propellant in the paint doesn’t eat away at the foam.

7. Brush on a coat of watered-down dark grey paint. Again, we’re not going for perfect coverage, but there should be no white spots by the end of this step.

headstones_19 headstones_20
8. With black acrylic paint and a small paintbrush, paint all indentations.

9. Dip the dry 2″ chip brush into a small amount of light grey paint. Wipe most of the paint off. With a light, quick touch, run the brush over the surface of the headstone. Reload the brush when needed. This is called drybrushing, and will deposit paint only on the raised surfaces. It also gives it more dimension and a bit of an aged look.

Touch up any black paint if needed.



While this method works really well for fake tombstones, you can make any sort of silhouette shape you desire, and paint them black.

Don’t blink.

Thanks to many people for helping me get this tutorial together. It’s mostly Maria’s brainchild, and she and Justin did the styro cutting. Maria, Justin and Rebecca all took pictures, and Justin did the painting for the sample tombstone used in this tutorial.

Don’t miss a single riveting tutorial! Bookmark our tutorial page and check back on Tuesdays for new ones.

Is there a tutorial you want to see? Leave a comment!



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