Oct 18

How to Halloween Crafts – Making Tombstone Decorations

How To Make Tombstone Decorations (courtesy of BigScreamTV.info)

Exactly What You’ll Need:

3/4” and 3” to 6” Styrofoam Insulation

Flat Black Spray Paint

Wire Coat Hanger

Spray Adhesive or Glue Gun




Utility Knife

No haunted house would be complete without a cemetery full of headstones! And, you can get these headstones at just about every party store or Halloween department, as my trusty assistant, Teresa, will tell you. But, they’re really expensive! For a piece of Styrofoam, it’s like maybe $7.00, probably $15 or $20 for a tombstone, and, they’re kind of not-so-great looking. I mean, they’re flat and they’re not personalized, that’s for sure. So, you can make your own tombstones, and I can pretty much guarantee that they’re gonna look better than the ones that you can buy.

Now, earlier today, we went to our local home center…go to your lumber yard, home center, anything like that. And, you wanna ask before you go – make sure they have Styrofoam insulation. The great thing about this is it’s extremely inexpensive. For a 4′ x 8′ piece of Styrofoam, you could pay maybe as much as $15, $16 at the most. So, you can make a lot of headstones from a 4′ x 8′ sheet of Styrofoam. You can also get it in smaller pieces. This is about 2′ x 4′, so this is like $3.60, and you can fit this into the car quite easily. However, don’t be afraid if you’re gonna get a really huge sheet, because this stuff breaks apart and cuts apart really easily. Just bring a little cutting appliance with you to the home center.

Probably, one of the more important things to think about before you get started, is where to get started! You probably want to do this on the driveway, on the patio, in the basement…somewhere where you can clean up pretty easily, because as soon as you start cutting this stuff, it starts fragmenting and you get little Styrofoam balls everywhere. If you want to do it in the yard, you might want to put down a drop cloth, some plastic sheeting.

OK, great! You don’t need all that much to work with this stuff. The very most important thing you need is some utility knives. Especially, the retractable utility knives are the best thing to use, because it cuts really well when they’re really sharp, and as soon as they get dull, you can either break them off or just chuck them and put a new blade in there. And these knives are really, really inexpensive and easy to find just about anywhere. And then what you’re gonna need is a marker so that you can draw out your shapes. And if you want to do any kind of circular, like a rounded top, you can use string and your marker, and we’ll show you how to mark out a really nice circular shape on the top, just using those 2 items. And then, of course, my favorite – the wire hanger. And, of course, a pair of pliers and/or some wire cutters. And, like I’ve said before, you don’t need to have wire cutters because most pliers will actually cut your wires. And, I also have my trusty hot glue gun and the bowl of ice water, in case you get a little hot glue on you! You dip your hand in there and you don’t get burn marks!

Before we get started, you’ll note that all of the Styrofoam actually has plastic coating on either side. Usually the manufacturer is printed on one side and there’s a solid color of plastic on the other. Leave this on while you do all of your drawing and cutting, because it will help the Styrofoam stay together and it will be a lot easier to mark on. And then, when you’re all finished, you can peel it right off.

OK, I’m gonna show you real quickly how to do a nice, rounded top for your tombstone. We’re gonna make a decent sized tombstone; in fact, we’re gonna use pretty much the size of this. We’re gonna take off the top and make it nice and round. And, the easiest way to do that is to tie a knot in a piece of string. You’re gonna tie that and loop it right around your marker, and you can do about half the width – easy to find. Go right in about the middle, and you’re just gonna simply…

OK, I’ve got my retractable knife here, and I’m gonna pull it out so it’s a little bit thicker, a little bit wider than the foam is thick. Be sure you’re cutting on something that you don’t care whether you get marks on it. A piece of cardboard underneath works really well. Cement will do just fine, but it will dull your blade a little bit. Especially for a curve like this, you want to try and use the smaller blades, because they go around a curve easier. You just carefully…it cuts really good when the blade’s sharp! So, there you go – your basic, basic tombstone shape!

When you’re done cutting your tombstone, you can go ahead and feel free to peel off that plastic coating. Now, you notice there’s plastic coating on both sides; whereas, the tombstone is really only gonna be seen from one side, so you only have to peel off one side.

Now, we could just stop right here and paint this one, but, I guess we’re gonna go ahead and show you how to maybe make it a little bit extra fancy! OK, one of the things that you can do real simply, is to put some lettering on it, like Rest In Peace is sort of the typical thing to do. And, if you give yourself a general idea of where you want the letters to be, with your semi-retractable knife, it’s really simple to go in there and like – don’t do it so it’s the thickness of the foam itself. You go in there with it slightly shorter and you go in at an angle, you cut down this way and you cut down the other angle this way. Just about no matter what you do to it, it kind of looks like stone. And whenever you make little jagged lines and edges in it, it looks like weathered stone! You’re scooping out a little triangle of the foam. And this stuff can also be sanded and everything if you want to sort of smooth out the edges – but, we like it rough! See where it’s dragging a lot? Now, my blade’s getting a little duller, which I don’t mind because I like it nice and rough. But, you can always snap that part of your blade off. You want to be careful and do it with the pliers, and snap the blade right off. Put it somewhere safe, and then you keep going!

Alright, so you want to dress this one up a little bit with a couple of extra bricks? Yea! So, you take some of this stuff – it’s about a ½ inch, but you can find some different dimensions – you can use a yardstick, you can use just about anything. So, I’m just gonna make these bricks all about this size. The great thing about this is it’s all really forgiving – you don’t really have to do any extensive planning ahead of time. It’s just pretty much play as you go – really easy to do! This cuts real easy. So go ahead and peel off one side of the plastic, and leave the other side on there because that way it will keep everything all nice and glued together.

Right now, what I’m gonna do is, just for fun, is I’m gonna put sort of a skull right in the middle of there. I’m just gonna free-hand it. And, it can be sort of fun and lumpy and lopsided – anything will work! Get some big eyes, and I’ll do like a separate jaw piece. You can always cut some of the teeth into it, but I’m not gonna do too many, ’cause that’s an awful lot to cut out. OK, cut out your shape. And there we have a bunch of cool details! We can make him laugh, put his face in any position.

Now, actually, how we’re gonna attach these pieces onto this one piece of Styrofoam is we’re gonna use some spray adhesive. Now, you can use hot glue, but you HAVE to use a really low temperature hot glue gun and you gotta hold it up away from the foam. Otherwise it will melt it, and sort of dig in to it and it won’t adhere. So it’s a lot easier, I think to use – it’s either called spray mount or spray glue – and you don’t want to use really heavy duty stuff, ’cause that will eat into your Styrofoam as well. So, what you’re gonna want to do is probably put down a piece of plastic; otherwise, you’re gonna get sticky stuff everywhere. Let’s just use this other piece of – we’re gonna sacrifice this and do it over the top of that. Let’s get the big piece. OK! You don’t want to get spray glue everywhere else. And then, what you wanna do is spray it lightly on both sides of where you’re gonna be putting down. You don’t have to get the whole surface. Try not to get this on your fingers, because it really doesn’t like to come off very easily!

OK, give him a nice, jaunty angle, there, like he’s laughing. OK, now, we’ve got a little empty spot up there. I’m thinking a crack! Nice, big crack. Let the crack go all the way down there. And then, all we have to do is paint it, and it’s done! Stick our hanger in and put it in the ground!

Before we go ahead and paint this, ’cause otherwise we’d have to wait til it dries, we’ll go ahead and put some wire into the bottom of this. Now, wire will work if you don’t have any wind or anything. But, if you’ve got a really heavy tombstone, or you’ve got some wind and stuff, you can always do what we did last year, and screw on a piece of wood or something like that that you can poke into the ground, ’cause that will hold the Styrofoam up a little more. But, for this, this will be great with a couple of pieces of wire. We take our hanger and cut of the top part, and I’m just gonna go ahead and cut it in half. Get it straightened out as much as possible, and you want to go ahead and stick it into the bottom, there. And you can play around for whatever works for you. If you need a long piece of wire, if you want to use 3 or 4 of them, and then you can always angle them a little bit so your tombstone is like leaning back or leaning forward. And now, we’re ready to paint it!

We’re gonna put the finishing touches on our headstone, and that means we’re gonna paint this baby! But first, or course, you’re gonna make sure that you’re outside, in a well ventilated area, and we’ve laid down some plastic. And, what’s great about this drop cloth, which you can get at most any home center or paint store, is that it’s multi-purpose! We are gonna use it in all of our dummies to stuff our dummies with, and we’re gonna use it for some other effects later on, so it has a lot of purposes. All you need is a can of flat, black spray paint. Remember to get flat black – it’s gonna look the best. You don’t want any shiny tombstones out in your cemetery – you want some really dingy, old, weathered tombstones! Remember to shake the can, hold it about a foot above the Styrofoam and start spraying in sweeping motions. Now, the thing about spray paint, as you’ll notice, is it actually eats into the Styrofoam a little bit, Which is fine, because it’s gonna make it look a little bit more like weathered stone. You can see how it’s eating away and making it look even more rotten. You don’t want to make it solid black. You want to move the spray can over in sweeping motions and just kind of dirty it up. Make it look gray and weathered in certain areas. If you hold the spray can from a certain direction, you will actually get some shadowing and highlighting. Notice how I’m holding the spray can at an angle, off to the side. Not straight overhead. You don’t want to make splotchy black marks. You just want to cast some really nice, weathered patterns.

You may want to go a little bit heavier around the edges, because, of course, that’s where the wind and rain would be hitting the tombstone if it had been out here for hundreds of years. Remember only to spray paint it lightly. You don’t want to cover it in flat black – you just want it to look like it’s been weathered. And look how nicely the paint is actually eating into the Styrofoam! It’s actually a chemical reaction between the contents of the paint and the Styrofoam. So, that’s another reason why you definitely want to do this outside. The results are awesome – it actually makes it look like it’s stone!

Alright! There we have it – there is our tombstone! Our masterpiece, where it took the sculptors years to create these, it took us probably less than 20 minutes. And what’s really awesome is it cost maybe around $7.00. That’s an awesome addition to anybody’s haunted cemetery!



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