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I just love Halloween! And I’m so excited for Halloween 2021. Things are sort of back to normal and I’m here for all things creepy, cute, trick or treaty, and generally anything Halloween. And for the longest time I thought it would be so much fun to have a graveyard with funny names. So this year I decided to make it happen.
But, I must tell you, my front yard will not look like a graveyard, after all. It turns out my dad loves these stones SO MUCH that I’m going to give him this set. So look forward to some new fresh designs in 2022 when I FINALLY make a set for my own yard :)
Ready to see how to make these? It’s a lot of steps but it doesn’t have to be daunting. After you get one done you can knock these suckers out while watching your favorite scary movies!
Step 1: Choose Some Fun Halloween Tombstone Names
DIY Foam Tombstones are pretty popular so I was able to find some fun tombstone names online. But I also came up with quite a few of my own. The spelling of certain words I mixed up because I wanted the names to look like actual, well, names. So “worms” becomes “Wurms” and “afraid” becomes “A. Frayd”. When coming up with names of your own make sure your spellings work phonetically. I made “Ima K. Daver” which I loved at first but then I actually carved it. And as I walk by and read it in my head instead of hearing “I’m a cadaver” I hear “I’m a Kay Dave Ur”. But the tombstone still darn cute :)
- Al B. Bach
- Anita Grave
- Barry D. Hatchett
- Barry M. Deep
- Bea A. Frayd
- Bea Yotch
- Ben Better
- Ben Down
- C.N. Wurms
- Candy Steeler
- Colin Sick
- Dee Cayen
- Dee Kaid
- Dianne Rott
- Doug Graves
- Down Undah
- Dustin Ash
- Electra Fide
- Em T. Grave
- Fester N. Rott
- Frank N. Stein
- Hal. O. Wheen
- Helen Bach
- Ima K. Daver
- Ima Specter
- Izzy Dedd
- Izzy Gone
- Justin A. Boxx
- Justin A. Grave
- Kat Acombs
- Manny Festation
- Myra Maines
- Norma Lee Livin
- Otto B. Levin
- Otto. B. Breethun
- Paul Bearer
- Saul Overnow
- Seymour Wurms
- Stella Live
- Sy O’Nara
- Yul B. Next
Supplies Needed to Make Foam Halloween Tombstones:
- 1″ or 2″ thick 4′ x 8′ Foam Insulation Board – Qty 1
- Construction Adhesive (Foam Safe)
- Matte or Satin Polyurethane/Sealer
- Drylok Primer Tinted a Light to Medium Gray
- Dark Gray Matte Exterior Paint
- Temporary Spray Adhesive
- Spar Urethane (for Weather-Proofing)
- 0.5″ – 2″ thick Foam Insulation Board for Bases
- 0.5″ PVC Pipe
For this project I’d recommend purchasing 2″ foam insulation board, however, I couldn’t find it available anywhere. It is possible to glue together 2 layers of 1″ foam to get the same thickness but you will need to factor in the a little extra expense for adhesive. Also you’ll have to deal with the extra hands on time it takes to glue the pieces together and the dry time. (This sounds daunting but I don’t think it should be a deal-breaker.)
Some adhesives will melt foam. Be sure to check the list of substrates on your adhesive prior to purchasing. I very much like this Loctite Construction Adhesive as it works to both glue the tombstone together and can be used to caulk in any unexpected gaps that occur.
What Kind of Insulation Foam Board Should You Purchase?
There are 3 different types of foam you can find at the hardware store. What you want is extruded polystyrene (XPS). It is easy to find as it is normally a color like pink, blue, or green. It’s a super smooth and easy to carve foam that will make this project so easy to complete.
You want to avoid expanded polystyrene which is a white foam sheet. It looks an awful lot like those cheap foam coolers you can grab at the convenience store in the summer. The structure is very cellular and can make smooth carving difficult. Also avoid polyisocyanurate and it is a rigid foam that is covered in paper or silver material. It won’t cut as easily and smoothly as extruded polystyrene.
- Craft Knife & Lots of Extra Blades (I used my Cricut True Control)
- Retractable Utility Knife
- Caulking Gun
- Tape Measure
- Spray Bottle
- Respirator or Other Protective Mask
- Surform Rasp or Coarse Sanding Block
- Tartar Removing Dental Tools (yes, really :)
- 3/4″ Spade Drill Bit
- Hack Saw
A lot of tutorials you’ll see to create foam tombstones require the use of a Dremel tool. And while a Dremel works really well it also creates a ton of foam dust which is dangerous to breathe in. Plus if you don’t already have a Dremel it’s an expensive purchase for some Halloween yard décor. If you already have a Dremel, it’s a good option to use to carve your tombstones. Be sure to wear a respirator or other protective mask if going this route. Insulation foam is NOT something you want in your lungs.
I tried the Dremel and it was also hard for me to hold steady and I kept messing up my shapes, taking away too much foam. So I opted to use these tartar removing dental tools to pick out larger chunks of foam from the design. There was little to no tiny pieces of foam removed and I felt comfortable not wearing a respirator.
2021 Free Printable Foam Tombstone Designs:
All of the designs for the Halloween tombstones you see here plus a special bonus design are conveniently packaged in a ZIP file ready to print. To make this project less expensive, rather than creating the designs to be printed on huge pieces of paper, each tombstone design is on 6 pieces of 8.5″ x 11″ letter-sized paper. If your printer ink is expensive I’d suggest printing elsewhere. You can order letter-sized black and white prints for around 15 cents per copy. Check with your library, too. Here I can print black and white copies for only 10 cents apiece… score!
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Free Printable Halloween Tombstone Designs
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How to Make Foam Halloween Tombstones:
Print the free design of your choice. Trim the excess paper around the designs, overlay them and tape together to form one pattern that is approximately 18″ x 24″. Backlight makes this a lot easier. You can use a light pad like my Cricut Bright Pad if you already have one. If not simply piece the pattern together on a large window with the sun shining through.
Trim around the fully pieced pattern so that you only have 0.25″ or so of space around. Spray the back with repositionable/temporary spray adhesive. Having your pattern stick to the tombstone as you work is super important. Be sure to apply a good amount of adhesive behind any printed part of the design.
Cut the Foam
Along the long side of the foam insulation board measure 24″ in a few positions from top to bottom. Connect them with a yardstick to create a line down the center of the sheet. Along the short side, cut a piece of foam slightly wider than the size of the design from your foam insulation board. If your design is 18″ wide once the pattern is pieced together, cut out a piece that is approximately 18.5-18.75″ side. Cut down the center line you drew to create two rectangular pieces of foam with a retractable utility knife.
Carefully place the pattern, glue side down onto the foam and smooth out. With repositionable spray adhesive you can pick the pattern up and move it, if necessary. Allow time for the glue to dry just a little bit, an hour is good. However, temporary spray adhesive will eventually become permanent. Glue your pattern on as you plan to transfer the design, not days before.
Transfer Your Halloween Tombstone Designs:
With a retractable utility knife first cut all of the way through the outer edge of the tombstone pattern to cut the shape out of the foam.
Swap tools and load a new, sharp blade into a craft knife. Carefully trace all of the outside edges of each line, letter, or design, cutting through both the paper pattern and the foam at the same time. You want your blade to go down into the foam about halfway. Once the entire design has been traced peel and remove the paper pattern.
Quick Tip * If you’re having places where the paper is moving around on you in places where the pattern is doubled, gently peel away the top, unglued layer retaining only the back piece that is actually glued to the foam.
Making 1″ Foam Insulation Board 2″ Thick
If you already have 2″ thick foam insulation board, congratulations! You can totally skip this step. If you, like me, were only able to grab 1″ thick pieces, you’ll need to glue the two rectangles you just cut together. First, if there is any kind of material covering the foam peel it away.
Head out to the garage or into the pantry and grab some heavy items. I used the extra brick I have in the garage from when my home was built and it works super well. You can also use gallons of water, cases of sodas, cans of paint, and any number of things. Pieces of wood that are wider than the width of the tombstone will help evenly distribute the weight but isn’t strictly necessary.
Load & prep foam-safe adhesive into your caulking gun. Squeeze a thin line of adhesive around the inner edge of the design, approximately 0.5″ inward. Too close to the edge and you risk glue seeping out the sides. Drawing a curvy line, apply a decent amount of glue all around inside of the stone. Place the two pieces together, the printed side down on top of your work surface. Space your boards and weights across the back of the stones. Allow the glue at least overnight.
How to Carve Foam Halloween Tombstones:
Using your craft knife, still with a nice and sharp blade, cut at approximately a 45° angle inward on each side of the lines to cut.
Grab either the hook for narrow parts of the design or wide flat tool for the outer perimeter engraving or larger design elements from your tartar removing dental tools or something equally pokey – like a Cricut Weeding Tool! Push the tool underneath the angled cuts and pull up. The foam cut outs should easily pop out. A dry paintbrush can help you quickly remove smaller pieces.
Creating Tombstone Bases
The easiest way to create your bases would be to cut rectangular shapes larger than the tombstone itself out of 2″ foam and stack it. If you have thinner foam, cut the first piece the size you want the base to be. Cut 4 sides that match the base and foam adhesive them together. Use scraps and more foam adhesive in the corners to make the base nice and sturdy. Don’t glue the base and the stone together just yet, first we’re going to add PVC pipe so we can easily anchor these in the yard.
Add PVC Pipe To Anchor in the Yard
Grab a drill and a 3/4″ spade drill bit bit Hollow out 2 holes up into your tombstone as deep as you can go. Take care to drill straight up. If you veer off the drill bit can come out through the back or front of the stone damaging the carving.
Transfer the general location of the holes you created in the tombstone onto the top of your base. Using a retractable utility knife, cut squares around your marks that are slightly larger than the circles of the pipe. Slide a length of 0.5″ PVC pipe into each hole of the tombstone. Push the base onto the PVC and make sure that the stone and base are centered well. If not make additional cuts in the base as necessary.
Mark the end of the PVC just inside of the base on each side. Trim the PVC to fit. Apply a line of glue around the first 2-3″ of PVC and slide into the tombstone. Apply glue to the bottom of the stone and place on top of the base, running the pipe through the cuts. Allow time for the glue to dry.
Once dry you can flip the stone over and fill the bottom with spray insulation foam & allow to dry. Do not overfill as you’ll have to carve away the excess and your pipes might get pushed crooked. OR just apply more glue where the pipe, stone, and base meet and allow to dry.
How to Age Your Foam Stones:
There are a lot of ways you can potentially age your tombstones but I decided to use my surform rasp. Place the rasp on the foam, especially around the edges and sides of each stone and pull toward you. The grater-like mesh of the tool will pull away chunks from the foam making it rough. The more pressure you use, the more foam will come away.
If you don’t have a rasp you can always use a very coarse sanding block. It will take a little more work and the foam you pull away will be much more fine. It’s a good idea to wear a respirator or mask if aging by sanding. Quick Tip * The smaller the number on sandpaper, the more coarse the grit. e.g. 60 is coarse and 220 is fine.
Adding Cracks for an Even More Aged Look
You might have noticed that on my tombstones I have some pretty awesome looking cracks. They are super easy to make. Decide where you want the crack to be so that it doesn’t affect the design elements. Using your retractable utility knife draw the shape of the crack. Dig into the foam on either side of the crack at an approximate 45° angle and dig out the foam from the crack. Go back along the inside of the crack with your dental tools or a flat blade screwdriver or something similar to roughly tear up the foam inside of the crack. When you get to painting, paint the inside of your cracks the same gray color as the rest of the stone. Don’t paint dark gray like your words or the cracks will stand out way too much.
Turning Your Tombstone into a Primed Canvas That Looks Like Concrete
You can technically prime your tombstones with anything you already have on hand. I would, however, recommend you get a quart of Drylok Primer. It’s a masonry primer that has sand or something in it that adds the most brilliant texture to your tombstones. The little flecks of stuff make it look like it’s a stone truly cast of concrete. And it’s so easy! You just brush it on and let it dry. I was able to get a quart at the hardware store for less than $10 and I have 1/3 to 1/2 of the quart still left!
Be sure to prime everything, even in the carved bits. Drylok can be really hard on paintbrushes. I actually purchased a bulk box of chip brushes from Amazon and they worked beautifully. And oddly enough, they were so much cheaper to buy from Amazon than anywhere else.
Painting Your Halloween Tombstones:
For this project I’d suggest purchasing a quart of flat exterior paint in a dark gray and a quart to 1 gallon of plain flat exterior white. You can mix up all of the different gray tones you need just with these two colors. FYI – I made 6 foam tombstones and purchased a gallon of white exterior and used about half of it. Lastly purchase a small sample sized pot of moss green.
First paint the inside of your design with straight dark gray paint so that the words and engraving really stands out. It’s okay if you get paint outside of the lines. Just make sure to get every little nook and cranny in these cuts painted. Allow the paint some time to dry.
Mix up a light gray and paint everything but the carved areas.
Lightly sponge a green colored paint to mimic moss around the edges and in clusters on the stones. You can use an actual sponge or ball up an old rag. Allow the paint to dry completely.
Mix up a slightly lighter gray than what you used for the base and sponge sporadically over the entire stone, including the mossy bits. Allow plenty of time to dry.
Next you’ll create a paint wash to add a little “dirt” and age onto the stones. In an old spray bottle mix together water and a small amount of the straight dark gray paint. Add a drop or 2 of dish soap and shake well to fully incorporate. With your tombstone standing spray it lightly from top to bottom and allow the watered down paint to drip and pool. Let the paint dry completely between coats and spray additional layers as needed.
Want Your Tombstones to Stand the Test of Time?
If using mostly exterior paint your stones should do pretty well in the elements. However, if you want to keep these stones for years and maybe even grow your collection year year, it’s definitely a good idea to seal them. Be sure to use an outdoor safe sealer – I like Minwax Helsman Spar Urethane in satin.