This is a quick technique I came up with to create my own tombstones. As you no doubt know, normal spray paint “melts” the polystyrene. By masking areas that you want to remain as detail on your tombstone, then spraying with aerosol paint you can achieve an embossed design. Also by applying a stencil pattern you can also get an engraved design.


You can also achieve several layers in your design and detail, which I hope to be able to demonstrate in this how to.


You will need


Expanded Polystyrene Sheet (The thicker the better)

Masking Tape

Sharp Knife

Marker Pen

Adhesive Letters (Various Sizes)

Spray Paint


I was fortunate enough to get some good size and thickness polystyrene pieces free from the store I work at. Many stores discard the packaging that comes with their products, so it might be worth asking around in stores for any polystyrene that they do not require.


First decide on the shape, inscription and any design you want for your tombstone.


Draw the tombstone shape onto the polystyrene sheet (making sure that the edge for the base is square to the sides)


Mask out the areas of your design. At this stage it is not required to cut the shape of your tombstone out.




For the lettering, I bought adhesive letters from Wal-Mart (the larger letters) and the Dollar Store.


You can print out the inscription on thin card, in the largest font that would fit the tombstone, and then cut out the letters with a craft knife. These would then lightly glued into place on the tombstone.



I decided to include a gothic cross design that I come upon on the web. For the gothic cross, I used blank CD labels to draw the design onto. This gave a perfect pre-cut adhesive circle to work with. (The stencil for the design is made in two parts). The first part of the cross was put in place.


Once everything is in place, lightly spray the entire tombstone with spray paint, being as even as possible. The paint will slowly react with the polystyrene that is not masked off.


Allow the first coat to dry. The Cross design was removed and the second part overlaid on the cross pattern.




The tombstone can then be given a second coat.



Once this is dry, remove all the masking tape and lettering.



Finally cut the shape of the tombstone out.



In all the process of creating the tombstone took around 3 hours.


If you want to add cracks to the tombstone, this can be done by scoring out with a screwdriver.  


All that is left is to paint the tombstone, remembering of course not to use spray paint!


This is the finished tombstone :



Another tombstone I have completed - some pics of the various stages :


Rough draft of the tombstone



The paper templates used to transfer the design



The templates in place. These were drawn around, then the scroll template was reversed and placed in position and again drawn around. Then using a craft knife the design was cut out


This is the tombstone design, masked out...



Then the lettering was placed into position



After spraying and adding some detail, the tombstone was given a coat of paint



Finally, given a aged weathered look





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