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!