DIY Tombstone Tutorial!

Nothing is more quintessentially goth than doing a photoshoot in a graveyard, it’s sort of a right of passage for every ubergoth. Sneak into the cemetery, drape self over graves, try to look both morose and totally bored while overheating in layers of stretch velvet. We here at the ‘Cult don’t like to do exactly what’s expected of us, so instead of taking our family to the nearest cemetery we built our own! (Which you will see in a soon to be released photo series!!!!!)

Here’s how we created the unique and spooky tombstones in our Gloomth graveyard. It’s a pretty cheap and creative way to get some awesome props for your Halloween yard decor or to place around your home year round to scare off normal people. 😉


-Polystyrene insulation. We used the 1/2″ thick stuff, we had 2 sheets of it. Can be found at your local hardware/construction shop fairly cheaply. It’s a firm sheet insulation of various widths, comes in blue and pink.

This is the insulation brand we bought. I have no idea if it is better/worse than other brands.

-Box cutter. Ideally you have one of those heat-up wire dealies for cutting foam, we did not and it’s tricky with a box-cutter, but it can be done.

-Water based primer paint. It has to be latex or water based, everything else disintegrates the foam. We used a light grey color, a dark grey would work also.

The primer brand we used. Again, just for reference not because I think it’s the *best*. I have only made these once.

-Medium grit sandpaper. We used those nice little squares with the foamy middles as you can get 3 in a pack for like $1.50. A stronger grit would tear the foam.

-Paint brushes. Various sizes.

-Xacto knife or craft knife or some kind.

-Rags or paper towel.

-Acrylic paints.

Step One:

Atticus is very helpful.

Cut out your tombstone shapes from the polystyrene insulation. Trace outlines in pencil onto the foam and then saw away with your blade. Remember tombstones come in all kinds of interesting shapes and sizes, try to vary the ones you create so they look realistic when arranged. This can be tricky as the foam is stiffer than it looks, be patient and saw (not slice) for best results. Sand the edges with the medium grit sandpaper for a smooth finish.

Tombstone shapes cut out but not sanded yet.

Step Two:

Prime the stones! Paint a thick coat of the primer over the stones and allow to dry completely.

We used a dollarstore small paint roller to apply the base coat, which was super quick and efficient. Also shown, dollarstore plastic tablecloth used as paint drop cloth.
Primed tombstones!!!

Step Three:

Paint and distress your stones!

I stupidly did not wear gloves so was covered in various shades of grey paint for a couple of days.

We started by layering shades of grey paint sloppily onto the stone and then scratched and distressed the paint with rags and paper towel to give it an uneven realistic look. Then we painted lettering and designs onto the stones with a darker grey paint (black is too cartoonish). Then distressed them some more.

In process tombstones. Like my crappy paper cupcake liners used as paint cups? Fancy fancy!

Last we dripped light grey and medium grey watered down paint over the stones for a rained-on and weather-beaten look! We even sawed into some with a butter knife (tricky) to create false cracks (dab inside the cracks with paint or else the pink foam inside is visible which kind of dispels the magic, haha) to give the stones an abandoned feel.

Some of the finished tombstones. 😀

We taped small wooden dowels to the backs to mount them in the ground. 🙂

Voila! Your very own graveyard! 


11 thoughts on “DIY Tombstone Tutorial!

    1. My friends actually kept all these tombstones after the shoots and they’ve used them outside for 2 months every fall since and they still look great. They have however been nibbled by squirrels which is weird. 🙂

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