The Ten Minute Tombstone


Image credit: Pinterest, GardenNightmares

Add a haunting tombstone to your horror haunt in minutes – yes, really! Here’s how.

Ready to scare up some inexpensive, fast and head-turning fun? In this article, we take you through designing an easy, super-spooky  Halloween prop tombstone.


When you think of Halloween,  what popular home haunting scene comes to mind?

The graveyard, of course! And yes, headstones. The creepier the better.

You’ll be surprised how easy it is to craft your own faux headstones to fill your spooky cemetery this Halloween. Read on for the full tutorial.


Gather Your Building Materials

Because we’re going with a simple, classic design in this tutorial, we are going to use a high-density Styrofoam sheet for the body and join it to a lumber wood base.

Heads up (see what we did there?): high-density Styrofoam is the firmer Styrofoam variety that usually comes in blue or pink. The low-density option is softer; you can usually see the individual Styrofoam balls it’s made out of. Generally, it’s white.

We’re using versatile, inexpensive low-density Styrofoam for this tutorial, but if you have a high-density sheet on head, it will work just as well. Our motto: work with what you have to achieve the effect you desire.

Drawing / Stenciling The Tombstone Shape

If you’re like me, you’ve gotten less than your fair share of talent when it comes to drawing. This is why I always like to use geometric shapes. By using geometric shapes, I’m usually able to find objects that can be used to trace these shapes, such as a planter pot.

Some people may call that cheating – I like to think of it as making sure it’s going to look good. (And isn’t that the point?)

Try and keep your stenciling to the edges of the Styrofoam so as to end up with as little waste as possible. This way there will be less scrap Styrofoam in the landfills.

Cutting Out The Shape

IMPORTANT! This article assumes you have the skills, knowledge and previous experience needed to be able to safely operate and use any of the tools which may be required to complete this project. If you don’t – just buy a tombstone! We’re serious about this. Alternatively, have a friend lend a helping (and qualified) hand.

As for our method at Screaming Scarecrow Studios: believe it or not, I like to cut the Styrofoam with a serrated bread-loaf knife or a smaller keyhole wood saw. Carefully cut along the trace line and then “touch-up trim” as necessary.

Attaching a Wood Base

The best part about attaching a wood base to your tombstone is that it becomes self standing, which can be safer than using ground stakes. Depending on how thick the Styrofoam body is, you can use a combination of 2 by 6 & 2 by 4 lumber or 2 by 8 & 2 by 6 lumber.

In this example we’re using two inch hi-density Styrofoam, so we will need to cut two pieces of 2 by 6 the same as the measurement across the front of the tombstone’s body. In our case, it’s about 17.5 inches.

Then measure the depth of the two pieces of 2 by 6 plus the body – this will be the measurement of the next two 2 by 6 cuts. In this case, about 5.25 inches.

Once they are cut, place all the cut pieces of 2 by 6 around the Styrofoam and screw them together by using 2 ½ inch screws – I like to use 3 per joint.

Once this is complete, measure across the width of the 2 by 6’s. This measurement will be the amount we need to cut the 2 by 4. In this case, it’s approximately 20.5 inches.

Cut two pieces at this length and line them up in the same manner as we did for the 2 by 6.

Next measure the depth of the two pieces of 2 by 4 plus the body – this will be the measurement of the next two 2 by 4 cuts. In this case approx 8.5 inches.

Image of nail compared to the depth of the 2×6 plus the body

The next step is important because it helps ensure the tombstone body and base will ultimately stay together.

Hammer three 6 inch nails through the 2 by 6, the Styrofoam body and the other 2 by 6. (Always use safety-goggles when hammering.) Do this from the front as some of the 6 inch nails will stick out the back. To handle this we’ll place one of the longer cut 2 by 4’s under the bottom 2 by 6 so the excess nail can go into the 2 by 4. Be sure that 2 by 4 is lined up correctly with the 2 by 6.

Once the nailing is done, place the remaining three cut pieces of 2 by 4’s around the Tombstone body with its attached 2 by 6 base. Screw these pieces together using 2 1/2 inch screws – 3 per joint.

Now for a little added reinforcement. We’ll go ahead and add a few extra screws which will further hold the 2 by 4’s to the 2 by 6’s for a nice solid base.

Painting the Tombstone

There you go: you now have a self-standing, anti-tip Home Haunter’s Halloween tombstone that is ready for finishing!

The choices for finishing are only limited by your imagination and your budget. For the sake of the Ten Minute Tombstone, we’ll keep the finish simple – something appropriate for mid- to back-row placement.

For this project we’ll paint the entire tombstone with flat gray latex paint. (Note: It needs to be latex because oil based paints will dissolve or eat into the Styrofoam.) If you have a latex allergy, DO NOT use this method. Use an alternative method instead.

Once the gray coat of paint is dry (or once your choice of finish is ready), use black and white spray paint to add some highlighting.

First, holding the can about 8 to 12 inches away from the tombstone and moving in quick, light passes, spray the edges with the black until you have the desired amount of black paint along all the edges.

Tip: you can practice this spraying technique on the tombstone, and if things go wonky,  wait until it dries and then paint over with the gray. Let the gray dry and then try the spray paint again. It’s really hard to go wrong with this, as the tombstone is meant to look weathered and imperfect.

After you are satisfied with the black, which really adds character to the tombstone, use the white to highlight some of the edges. You are using white because in the darkness, white on an edge will help the tombstone stand out, giving it more definition.

You’ll end up with a combination of white over black highlights. Practice this technique until you’re happy with your results.

Finally, step back, and while you are enjoying your new creation, think of all the cool tombstones you are going to create using The Ten Minute Tombstone technique! Just keep reapplying the same conceptual steps over to build your graveyard.

If you really want to get fancy, you can etch creepy (or hilarious) sayings into your tombstone face. You’ll want to do this before spray-painting. You can also paint your sayings onto your “stone” after it’s been painted.

Thanks for reading, and Happy Halloween!



  1. Nice Pictures ! …… Would of never thought of it that way on how to make them …Ummmmmm Cool!

  2. Great idea! How do you stake them into your yeard securily so they don’t blow away with high winds or a storm?
    Thank you for sharing!

  3. That’s the beauty of this type of construction – Because of the Styrofoam top and the heavy wooden base, they are very bottom heavy. It will take quite a wind to blow them over.

  4. I like that! I live in Nebraska and we can get quite the winds and rain. I have struggled for years to keep my homemade tombstones from blowing away or ripping apart. I will definately try this. Thank you so much for the idea!

  5. The base is the whole innovation of the ten minute tombstone! By building a tombstone that has a wide/heavy base you’ve built a tombstone that is self standing with little or no muss & fuss.

    However, to answer your question, I would otherwise partially bury them in your yard, about 4 inches deep. Since this could mess up your turf, what you can do is slice the ground in an even, straight fashion, remove the turf intact, plant your tombstones, and keep your turf watered nearby. Then after your haunt remove the tombstones, replant the grass in the hole and water well. The grass should survive if it hasn’t been out too long (a few days).

  6. They have painted tombstones at dollar tree so you would only need to build the base and add color. Dollar tree is great!

  7. They have painted tombstones at dollar tree so you would only need to build the base and add color. or you could use two and put them back to back. Build up the base and paint!

  8. I read some of the posts and I think it is a great place! Do you have a sense of wonder about my personal box I have a nice joke for you) Why was Santa’s little helper depressed? Because he had low elf esteem.

  9. the base is such a fantastic idea. It’s so completely simple (probably why I never thought of it)! Almost all of my tombstones are out and staked into the yard already, but i have 2 left which I was going to put out tonight after work. I won’t bother to stop at the hardware store and buy stakes, instead I’ll go straigt home, use some of my scrap wood left over from other props and build a couple of bases. I’ll be building bases for all of my tombstones after halloween tear-down is complete. Thanks so much for that awesome idea!

  10. I wish I had found this page when I did my tombstones. One think I can think to do is if the foam is lifted just a bit in the wood maybe a lead weight or cement could be added to add som real weight. Great stones. Now to find blue or pink foam in central cali…

  11. these are awesome, my favorite holiday is halloween and the kids and I are making our own decorations this year. We finally have a front yard and i can wait to make my grave yard! Any ideas on how to pattern a celtic style cross headstone?

  12. This was a great idea!! I made 10 tombstones and they all look great,what i did was when i was finished i had small tombstones that you buy in store that come 2 in package and glued them to front of my tombstone to give it that final touch and it stands out like in 3-d and looks awesome!!!

  13. I made a Celtic Cross a couple of years back out of pink foam board. It has stayed in great shape!! You will need some foam adhesive also. My Tombstones tend to be taller than most so the cross is approx. 4 feet tall. Start with a normal cross pattern then add the detail as much as you want or can handle. Dremels work great for detail.

  14. Hey man, this is a great resource! Your tombstone design is awesome, particularly the base! Like everyone else on here, I stake my tombsones in. You did a great job of explaining in the step by step and had some nice pictures to support it. Great job, keep up the good work, and have an awesome Halloween!!!

  15. I think this was a great project! Thank you for the informative step-by-step instructions. This was the first halloween prop I’ve put together and I couldn’t have done it without your help! Thanks again!

  16. I use the scrap Styrofoam from this project to stuff thing like white trash bags and make ghosts (works great to hang from tree limbs light weight to blow around) or scarecrows. If the pieces are big enough you can make cutouts to glue onto the tombstone, bats, crosses etc. I am a believer that everything that can be used should be!

  17. Great ideas. Gave me motivation to finally do my own. Ours were all 3/4″ plywood, 2x6in and 2x4in boards. Made them 38inches tall and 24inches wide, 2.25 inches thick. Sealed them and painted them like yours. They are outstanding and should last many years. Thanks for inspiring ne to get off my couch and get these done.

  18. Made these three years ago and LOVED the way they came out. We moved out of state so I gave them to a friend. Now I want to make them again and I had bookmarked your site to keep track of it. THANKS!!!! 🙂

  19. spray paint EATS (dissolves) stryofoam. so unless the first coat of paint is amazingly thick there is a hole in you plan.

  20. How True – Spray paint will disolve your unprotected styrofoam props – However,
    We ve always found that a good base coat of grey latex paint takes care of this.
    Keep in mind that there is low density (white) and high density (pink & blue) styrofoam – the white stuff is softer and has more space between the expanded foam so this type of foam may require a thicker base coat for protection.
    This is one of the reasons that we like to use the pink or the blue foam for the tombstones in our Halloween graveyard.
    Lastly, don t worry too much about the Eating Effect of spray paint because, with some practise, one can use this technique to age & weather their gavestones and that only adds to the props creep factor!
    Happy Halloween Haunting
    Cheers Screaming Scarecrow

  21. The 2’x4’s around the base are an awesome idea! I have been struggling with rebar and installing PVC pipes into my tombstones and wished I could just add some weight to the bottom. Using your technique I think I could get by with just adding tent stakes at the 2×4 base and have a really secure tombstone.

    I also wanted to recommend using something like acetone or paint stripper in a spray bottle to add some cool aging to your tombstones. It leaves a corroded stone look when misted onto the foam. Just be careful when using that stuff and wear gloves, eye protection and a respirator!

  22. Love the idea! Can you tell me where you found the styrofoam? I’m having a tough time locating hi-density styrofoam online.

  23. Don’t use styrofoam, go to a home improvement store (Lowe’s, Home Depot, …) and get 2″ insulation foam panels, it comes in 4′ x 8′ pieces, is much sturdier and doesn’t melt as much when you use spray paint.
    For the bases I used a 2 x 10, cut about 7″ longer than the tombstone, for the base and then used a 2 x 2 on top of that to make the frame to put the tombstone in. Much faster and very sturdy and secure.

  24. Loved your grave stones! I used 1/2 inch boards for the markers. They are incertable, due to storage problems. This also lets us use both sides for names. This adds time of course, but well worth it. Our friends and neighbors thought they were real stone. Parents stop to read the names and try to figure out how we made them.
    Thank you for your great idea!

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