DIY Make Your Own Tombstone Tutorial!

Maybe you’d rather not haunt your local cemetery, or maybe you’d like graves with all your exes names on them. Whatever your spooky reasons here’s a tutorial on making durable custom tombstones to create your very own graveyard! Perfect for this strange stay-inside Halloween when you want to gaze out your window at a morose view.

*This is a repost of a popular tutorial I created in 2012!

Here’s how we created the unique and spooky tombstones in our Gloomth graveyard photoshoot.


-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!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.