STOLLOWEEN How To: Character Tombstones

How To: Character Tombstones


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The Character Tombstones were created using Dow Supertuff-R Polyisocynanurate Insulation Foam, recycled cardboard and homemade papier mache clay. The results are something like my pumpkins, tree faces mixed and mashed with some Jim Henson and HR Puffnstuff. The largest tombstone stands 3 ½ feet tall while the two smaller tombstones stand about 2 ½ feet tall. The resulting pieces were fairly easy to create and will add a fun and unique element to our Halloween cemetery.

The project started by sketching some possible Character Tombstone designs on paper. Once three designs were chosen they were further developed and finally cleaned up in Photoshop.

Dow Supertuff-R Polyisocynanurate Insulation was used for this project because it was free being recycled panels from a replaced garage door.  The foam panels were one inch thick.  The plastic and foil wrapping was removed before starting.

The basic shapes of the tombstones were drawn onto the foam surface then cut using a sharp knife.

A two inch border was drawn along the inside perimeter of the tombstone. A sharp knife was used to cut along this line then the interior section was pushed in creating a ¾ inch recessed section. Hot glue was used to keep the recessed section secure.

Using the concept artwork the faces were then drawn onto the recessed section of the foam. The same technique was used to cut out the eye and mouth features and recess them against the background. The result was recessed eyes and mouth surrounded by a raised beveled border. Easy cheesy.

The nose was created by cutting out  exactly half of the shape of the nose that was drawn onto the foam. The “half nose” was then glued to the foam giving a nice three dimensional representation of the desired shape.

One inch strips of recycled cardboard (cereal,  cracker, dog biscuit boxes) were hot glued to the perimeter of the eyes and nose  creating a nice guide for when the papier mache clay is applied. The technique is  identical to the process used to make the papier mache pumpkins.

Eyeballs were added by cutting circles from leftover foam scrap. The eyeballs were hot glued into the recessed eye sockets.

Lettering was added to the foam by printing out the desired letters (R.I.P.) and tracing onto the foam. The engraving of the letters was accomplished with an x-acto knife and a wood burning tool.

Eyelids were added using pieces of recycled cardboard. The eyelids and lettering were both afterthoughts added after the initial concept artwork was completed. Looking at the piece in progress I felt that these additions would add to the overall effectiveness of the prop.

Additional beveling was created on the outside edges of the tombstones by cutting away the foam at a 45 degree angle with a sharp knife. The outside bevel was purposely left jagged and rough to simulate aging and weathering.

Papier mache clay was added and smoothed into the corners of the recessed areas to create a rounded effect. The clay was also used to build up and sculpt the features of the nose, eyes, eyelids and teeth. The clay was added over several sessions, a basic build up which was allowed to dry then further detailing. All clay work was done within a 24 hour period.

Once the papier mache clay had dried the props were painted. The tombstones were painted with a coat of flat black exterior latex paint then dry brushed with a combination of 50/50 gray paint and white primer to highlight to facial features, lettering and beveled edges.