Tombstones look great outside or indoors this time of year. Create a variety of sizes and shapes for the best effect.
With one large sheet of Styrofoam you could get four nice size tombstones made at a fraction of the cost than buying equal-sized props that are commercially made.
Use carbon paper to draw out your design and write the epitaph. Lay the carbon paper over the tombstone. You may want to tape down the ends to make sure it stays in place. Use a ball-point pen to trace over carbon paper transfering the pattern onto the Styrofoam. If the transfer marks are not dark enough, go back over them with a marker.
In a well-ventilated area, use a hot tool point, in this case, a soldering tool, to go over the pattern lines (image 1). Heat melts the Styrofoam instantly, so you will need to keep the tool moving at a quick pace. Decide which areas to push in and which to leave up. To create deep cuts or cracks, hold the tool to the Styrofoam surface a bit longer, dragging the line out (image 2). For more accurate design work, you can cut the lines with an X-acto knife.
Using a mixture of drywall compound and any color water-based paint, called Monster Mud, apply the mud with a brush to the entire surface of the tombstone (image 1). Be sure to cover all sides, letting each side dry completely, before moving on. No Styrofoam should be showing when you are done (image 2).
When the mud coat is completely dry, paint the raised surfaces with a darker gray (or black and white paint mixed together) craft paint and a wet brush. Some of the mud color can be left as is. This will help to achieve a more realistic stone color.
Once tombstone is dry, paint any carved or low surface areas with black craft paint and a small brush. This will help the details to stand out. Let dry.
Using a dry, wide brush and a small amount of white craft paint, gently drag the brush over the tombstone surface. High surface details will catch the white paint and give the Styrofoam the look fo stone.
To add a layer of grunge, use a very wet brush and some brown craft paint. Stand the tombstone up and starting from the top, let the wet paint drip down the surface (image 1). Let dry. The completed tombstone is perfect for any graveyard or Halloween setting indoors or out (image 2).
Lynne and Shawn Mitchell have a website called How to Haunt Your House. They have also authored How to Haunt Your House books I and II.