Luckily, this project is perfect for that situation. I needed a large art piece to go on the wall behind my bed, but art is expensive. So I thought I would use rasterbator.net to enlarge a picture to tape up there. My girlfriend wasn't too fond of the idea of taping up sheets of paper to our wall, though. So from there I started trying to come up with a lightweight (renters) and relatively classy solution to our dilemma. That is how the faux wood foam core frame was born.
Step 1: Gather Your Materials
Tri-fold (or other size foam core board)
Bottle of brown paint
Wood graining tool (can be found at big box hardware stores or online)
Ruler or measuring tape
Cup of water
Hot glue gun (and sticks)
Step 2: Remove the Sides
First, unfold the sides of the board. Then get out your x-acto knife (I know, I'm using a utility knife. It's only because I couldn't find my x-acto knives though. The whole process would've gone easier if I had them) and cut along the fold lines until you're left with a large rectangle and two smaller half sized ones.
Step 3: Make Your Marks
Take your ruler or measuring tape and mark out two inches from the edge of the board. Then mark two inches from the bottom, and connect them to form a little plus sign. This will help you line up the edges.
Repeat this step until all four corners are marked. Then, take one of the extra pieces you cut off from the sides and use it as a straightedge to draw lines connecting the marks.
Now you should have a penciled rectangle.
Step 4: Cut It Out!
The foam core is surprisingly difficult to cut through cleanly, so this was the step I was dreading the most. My lines weren't perfectly straight, but in the end it gave the project a more organic feel, so I wouldn't worry about it too much.
Step 5: Cut It Out! (pt. 2)
Then use the straightedge to connect the marks.
Repeat until you have four long strips marked, and then cut them out.
Step 6: Test Paint!
I mixed my brown paint with water kind of haphazardly, just until it was kind of runny. Then with a medium brush, I coated the paper in a few strokes and quickly rocked the wood graining tool along it.
It took a few tries to get used to how the tool worked, but once it figured it out I was amazed at how realistic it looked.
Step 7: Base Coat
Next, paint the inside and outside foam edges. These dry darker than the top does, and it gives it a cool effect.
Then, set it aside to let it dry. This is going to be the base coat, so no wood graining tool yet.
Paint the thin side strips, using the same long strokes and then set them aside to dry.
Step 8: Grain Coat
Make a new water and paint mixture, this time less runny, so it will end up a little darker. Paint it on the same way you painted the first coat (only do one side at a time, because acrylic paint dries pretty quickly, even with water added) and then take your graining tool down over the wet paint in a rocking motion.
Now you have a wood grain texture! If it doesn't come out exactly how you want, just brush some more paint over it and try again.
Repeat for the other sides of the frame and set it aside to dry. The thin strips actually look pretty realistic on their own, so we'll leave them alone.
Step 9: Assembly!
I made the mistake of standing mine up to dry overnight, and it bowed out more than it would've if I had it flat, so don't repeat my mistakes.
The rest is pretty straight forward, attach the long strips to the edge of the frame on the back with hot glue. It took some time for me to get them on straight because the board was so bent, so I used a heavy sketchbook to hold the frame down while I glued it together.
For the shorter sides, I just took the pieces, sized them up between the long ones, and cut where the boards met. Then I glued them on, using a little extra along the corners.
Because my cuts weren't perfectly straight, I used some of the hot glue to fill in the gaps.