Introduction: Cardboard Gravestone

About: I enjoy making tombstones/props from foam and other materials- mainly for Halloween.

Halloween is rapidly approaching, but there is still time to make some props for your home haunt! I typically make gravestones from foam, but I was inspired by the Cardboard Contest (please vote for me if you enjoy this Instructable and find it helpful!).

This gravestone will blow away most store bought items and can be done very cheaply and quickly. You can make several of these to create a very believable graveyard.

Keep in mind, unlike foam and other materials, cardboard will not necessarily hold up to moisture and other elements. If you don't want a soggy gravestone, consider the damage that could be caused by water sprinklers, rain, morning dew, etc. It's probably best to set up cardboard props the day of Halloween or prior to guest arrival if you're having a party.


- Cardboard

- Packaging Tape

- Box cutter and/or X-acto knife

- L-square of other item to create 90 degree angles

- Items to place on gravestone (refer to step 1)

- Hot glue or other adhesive

- Paint (refer to step 5)

- Paint brushes

- Spackle/caulk (optional)

Step 1: Imagination and Illusion

For the cardboard gravestone in this Instructable, I used a small foam skull and some very cheap fake flowers/leaves from a craft store. However...

The photos show some foam (not cardboard) gravestones I've carved/created. I've included them to demonstrate possibilities. Each have different themes and items added to make them interesting. There is nothing wrong with a gravestone that only has writing on it (In fact, I think decorating with some simple gravestones mixed with more detailed ones can help create realism), but we want to make something special in this Instructable.

Refer to photos:

With the Barad-dûr (Eye of Sauron Tower) and owl gravestones, all items were carved. With the next two, I used large foam skulls which were store bought (stock up on these items during post-Halloween sales!). In addition, one incorporates a rubber snake and the other has a dollar store knife and an old t-shirt which was used to create the bandanna and eye patch. The "Tomb of the Stormtrooper" uses a $10 store bought mask. Once attached and painted, it is possible to make these items appear to be carved out of stone along with the rest of the gravestone.

Step 2: Basic Shape

With cardboard, I thought it best to go with a simple shape. I created a rectangular shape (14 inches wide and 18 inches tall) then marked a spot approximately 2 inches above the center of the top line. Draw a line from that point to the top corners of the rectangle to create a triangle.

To give the illusion of thickness, I created 2.5 inch flaps which will be folded toward each other. Use an L-square to create 2.5 inch lines at 90 degrees from all corners of the rectangle and 90 degrees from the apex and end points of the triangle. My project came out fine, I recommend you also make a flap at the bottom.

Cut the entire shape out. As suggested in photo 3, cut along the drawn outer lines using a straight edge as a guide if possible. This will help make a straight, clean cut. Scissors can be used, but most likely won't cut the cardboard as cleanly.

Step 3: Assemble

To assemble, we need to fold the flaps toward the back of the gravestone. Use your cutting tool and run it along the inner lines of the flaps (the lines with hash marks in photo one above), but do not cut all the way through. Fold the flaps until their edges meet then tape to hold in place. I used tape on the inside as well as the outside portion of the gravestone.

I added a piece of cardboard to create an area to secure the gravestone (refer to 3rd and 4th photos). This will allow you to place a wood dowel or similar object in the ground and place the gravestone on top so it will stand upright and not blow away. Another option would be to secure a small length of PVC pipe to the back of the gravestone.

Optional (refer to photo 5): Use an existing box or make your own to create a base.

Step 4: Epitaph and Decorating

I found cutting letters out of cardboard a little tedious, so I suggest keeping it simple (nobody is going to stand there and read a lengthy epitaph anyway- there's candy to be obtained!). I went with "RIP", but a name, date, or similar is also sufficient.

I printed "RIP" from my computer, cut out the letters, then traced around them onto the cardboard. CAREFULLY cut the letters out of the cardboard, but don't discard them because you can save time and effort by using them on another gravestone. For this gravestone, I used the cardboard the letters were cut from then cut a border to add interest. Position it and glue it to the gravestone to give the illusion the letters were carved into the "stone".

Next, I cut the back off of a foam skull and glued it to the gravestone. I also cut and hot glued the fake flowers and leaves to the cardboard.

Optional: Use Spackle/caulk to fill in the crevices and exposed corrugations around the edges of the letters and elsewhere.

Step 5: Painting

You could just use gray spray paint on this, along with a little black maybe, and call it done. People will still see a gravestone when they go by your house. But, if you want to have a little fun and a more realistic gravestone, there is a wealth of painting tutorials out there. So, Google some painting techniques, experiment, and find what works for you. Try different techniques so all the gravestones you make don't look the same. I also recommend checking your local hardware store for "oops paint" to save money.

As for this project, I kept it simple. I first added a couple light coats of gray DryLok to the entire gravestone (refer to photo 1). DryLok is thicker than regular paint and has a gritty texture. Next, I put a little black paint (latex, acrylic, doesn't really matter) on a brush and mixed it in a cup with a little water to thin it. Brush the black watery mixture along the top edge and let it flow down the gravestone naturally. Continue to do this in random areas of the gravestone and adjust the paint/water ratio depending on how dark you want certain areas to be. This process helps bring out raised areas and stain the gravestone to make it look aged. Use a rag to wipe some off if needed. I also sparingly used a very dark olive acrylic paint mixed with water. This adds a green, mossy, yucky look just like an old gravestone might have if it had lichens on it (refer to photo 2). Dry brushing is always a part of my gravestone painting. Add a little white or off-white paint to a brush then remove most of it by brushing it onto another surface. With hardly any paint on the brush, hold it almost parallel to the areas you want to highlight and gently brush. This will allow you to paint all the edges of the gravestone, the tips of the flower petals, the raised portions of the skull, the edges of the letters, etc. This small step will really give the illusion of stone (refer to photos 3 and 4). If you used DryLok, you can lightly run the brush along the entire surface of the gravestone and it will whiten the little specks of grit I mentioned earlier.

Bottom line: Experiment and HAVE FUN!

Step 6: Options

There's a reason I use foam, but cardboard is a great alternative for those who want another option. I understand there are some limitations, so I thought of some options.

First, if you want a more ornate/complicated design for your gravestone shape, instead of building it the way I have here, cut out several of the same shape and glue them together.

Secondly, you could just hand paint an epitaph or make/use a stencil to paint letters, numbers, or other symbols on the painted gravestone.

Thirdly, as I indicated in the second step, the options are limitless when considering what you want on the gravestone. I suggest printing out or hand drawing scrolls such as the one in the photo above and cutting them out of cardboard. This will add interest to the gravestone, but take hardly any time or money.

Well, that's it! Feel free to ask questions if something was unclear and please consider voting for me in the Cardboard Contest.

Cardboard Contest 2016

Second Prize in the
Cardboard Contest 2016