DIY Halloween Tombstones
Here you'll learn how to build your own tombstones and transform your yard into a spooky Halloween graveyard.
Sure, you can go to Target, Wal-Mart or some other store and buy tombstones, but then your graveyard will look like every other yard in the neighborhood.
The store bought gravestones usually have just a basic "R.I.P." or "Happy Halloween" on them. I like more realistic tombstones with funny or scary epitaphs and also enjoy decorating the house for Halloween. So a few years ago I decided to build my own graveyard. Here are my tips for doing it yourself.
Choose A Material
I built my tombstones using two materials: plywood and styrofoam.
Styrofoam is good because you can buy it in larger thicknesses (2" or more) at your local crafts store and it's already textured so it looks more like a gravestone from the start. Sheets of styrofoam insulation from a building supply store can also be used. Styrofoam can be tricky to do the lettering on, is more fragile and thicker pieces get expensive.
Plywood is easy to work with, durable and you may already have scrap pieces buried in your garage. A standard 4'x8' sheet will be enough for about 6-10 tombstones depending on their size and shape.
There are other materials you can use (stone, resins, etc) but I don't have any experience using those so I'll focus on plywood and styrofoam.
Choose A Design & Epitaph
Tombstones come in many shapes and sizes. You can look at the sample pics below to get some ideas. Start with a basic and simple design such as the one pictured here. It's simply a rectangle with the top corners rounded off.
Where To Find Epitaphs
There are many sites on the web with listings of epitaphs. Most of them are redundant. These will give you a pretty complete listing of what's out there.
- Tombstone Sayings
A good collection of different epitaphs and funny tombstone names.
- Funny Stones To Tickle Your Funny Bones
A good long list of epitaphs, many that I haven't seen on other sites before.
- Funny Epitaphs
A shorter list of humorous epitaphs.
Build The Tombstone
1. Determine the size of your tombstone. 18"w x 24-30"h is a good size for a basic stone. Make sure there is enough room to write the epitaph.
2. Trace out the design of the tombstone on your plywood or styrofoam. A French curve or cans of various sizes are good tools to help with drawing curves.
3. Cut out the stone. A jig saw works well for plywood. You can use a keyhole (drywall) saw or large utility knife for styrofoam.
4. Paint the stone. For plywood, start with a base coat of grey or off-white. Next, apply a coat of stone texture spray paint to give it a weathered appearance. For styrofoam, you can just use the stone texture paint.
5. After the paint has dried, paint the epitaph and any other design elements (skull, scrollwork, etc) on to the stone with a small brush and black paint. For styrofoam stones, it helps to press the letters into the foam first before painting them.
6. The last step is to attach mounting stakes to the back and place the stone in your yard. Use whatever you have available to keep your tombstones in place. For styrofoam stones, bamboo plant stakes pushed into the bottom work well. For plywood stones, you can screw shelf brackets or eye hooks into the back then use tent stakes to secure them into the ground.
Handy Tools For Making Tombstones
These tools will help you make your own gravestones. I use them and they make the job go much quicker.
Graveyard Accents - Tips to add a creepy atmosphere to your graveyard...
- Don't mow the grass for a couple weeks to give it a neglected look.
- Spread fallen leaves around.
- Leave dead flowers on some of the graves.
- Place fake bones, hands and skulls around the graveyard.
- Hang a Halloween chandelier with flicker bulbs in your graveyard.
- Dress the family up in ghoulish graveyard costumes to scare and entertain visitors.
- Position lanterns or electric candles in front of graves.
- Make a "Danger" or "keep out" sign from a scrap piece of wood. Use a jig saw to cut jagged edges on the ends for a broken look.
- Use a fog machine or dry ice to cloak your graveyard in an eerie blanket of fog.
- Hang moss on your grave stones and other props.
- Make up a sinister sounding or funny name for your cemetery and make a sign for it to welcome victims...er, guests.
- Pile fresh dirt (a couple bags of top soil) in front of gravestones for a fresh grave look. Put a piece of plastic or tarp underneath the dirt for easy clean up later.
- Play scary sound effects or music in your graveyard. Look online to find sound effect CDs or MP3s.
Skulls For Your Graveyard
Skulls are a natural fit for a graveyard, but be strategic about where you place them. Discovering one near a grave or in an unexpected spot will give someone a treat. Here is a unique skull I found that's scary looking enough to frighten trick or treaters and is also interesting.
Tombstones From Disney's Haunted Mansion
The Haunted Mansion at Disney World has always been one of my favorite attractions there. Its graveyard with the funny tombstones was the inspiration for making my own.
After Halloween Sales
Prepare for next year by hitting the stores right after Halloween. Most retailers discount their Halloween merchandise by 30-75% starting November 1st.
I've scored good deals the day after Halloween on all kinds of graveyard props including lanterns, plastic cemetery fencing and zombie flamingos. Yes, I've even bought some gravestones that had unique designs and the clearance price was right.
Watch How A Tombstone Is Made
Here's a good video showing how to make gravestones from styrofoam insulation.
Store Bought Gravestones
In case you don't have time to build your own tombstones (give it a try, simple ones don't take long to make), buying one online or at the store is another option.
Real Tombstones & Graveyards
Inspiration for your own tombstones
Visiting or looking at pictures of real graveyards is a great way to find ideas for your own tombstone designs. Old graveyards like the ones pictured below can provide you many creepy ideas.
Want to Learn More About Graveyards and Find Inspiration for Yours?
Some Homemade Halloween Graveyards
Here are a few other Halloween graveyards for you to admire and be inspired by.
Graveyard Photo Credits
Photos in the Choose A Material, Choose A Design and Epitaph and Build the Tombstone sections are copyright and used by permission of Mac33.
Disney's Haunted Graveyard Tombstones:
Brother Claude and Here Lyeth His Loving Wives used by permission of Miss Shari.
Good Old Fred used by permission of BoredTrini.
Sweet Leota used by permission of canno1979.
Master Gracey used under Creative Commons from devilelephant.
Brother Dave used under Creative Commons from The Consortium.
Real Tombstones & Graveyards:
Tombstone in Satnitz used by permission of iproduit.
Gravestones used by permission of Ben Adlin.
Tombstone used under Creative Commons from A.M. Kuchling.
Irish Castle Graveyard used under Creative Commons from Qole Pejorian.
Boot Hill used under Creative Commons from danesparza.
Skull w/wings used under Creative Commons from mchphotography8.
Some Homemade Halloween Graveyards:
Used under Creative Commons from their respective owners.
Was this guide helpful to you? How did your Halloween graveyard turn out? Please leave a comment below.
Scary Graveyard Tales...
sanamushtaq on August 22, 2020:
thanks for sharing good experience with us
Rose Jones on October 20, 2013:
Back to look at this interesting lens - maybe we will try to build this for Halloween this year.
CharMarie on September 22, 2013:
We did this several years ago, and we used the styrofoam. Our graveyard came out great! We actually did it indoors and used both a black light and a strobe light to add to the effect. Love your Halloween lenses! :)
Marelisa on September 08, 2013:
This is fantastic! Halloween isn't such a big deal here in Panama, which is too bad since I would love to drive past someone's front yard and see something like this. :-)
AJ from Australia on October 31, 2012:
Melissa Miotke from Arizona on October 31, 2012:
Great lens! Happy Halloween:) Blessed
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on October 31, 2012:
Graveyards are great for the front yard. This guide is useful.
rjvader on October 24, 2012:
Very nice, styrofoam seems like the way to go (too lazy to drag the circular saw out of storage)! I also think it'd be cool to go with the "fresh grave" look and leave a mound of dirt in front of the tombstone with a bloody hand reaching out from it.
FloridaDino on October 23, 2012:
some nice ideas here, kids would love it! nice lens
pawpaw911 on October 23, 2012:
Pretty cool DIY idea.
MaggieHen on October 18, 2012:
We do this in our yard, and we take our old shirts and use gloves that we get throughout the year (yes we get them just for this purpose!) and make zombie arms. Then get a shirt and old mannequin head and you can have a zombie halfway out the ground! LOVE this lens!
shewins on October 15, 2012:
Spooktacular gravestones, thanks for the Halloween tips!
vexashop on October 11, 2012:
VspaBotanicals on October 07, 2012:
What a great idea! Great lens!
dragonlildragon on October 06, 2012:
Very informative, I have not tried to build a graveyard yet though.
Riding_Tall on October 05, 2012:
I am currently looking for some Halloween costumes; you gave me some great ideas.
johnsja on October 02, 2012:
Great idea for Halloween. Thanks for sharing.
LucyMac LM on September 27, 2012:
Haven't built one yet, might give it a go. Great idea.
christineallen on September 26, 2012:
This is such an original lens, I love it. Those hands crawling out of the ground give me the creeps!
kiratalley on September 25, 2012:
Interesting, great idea on building a graveyard ... too bad I'm in a Condo and don't have a backyard!
davehalloween on September 25, 2012:
Awesome and scary ideas. I love it!
Ashly Rain on September 22, 2012:
Scary stuff :*) Great leans and I'll refer back if I decided to build a graveyard.
melissiaoliver on September 20, 2012:
Some really interesting ideas! Great lens
Tony Bonura from Tickfaw, Louisiana on September 19, 2012:
Great fun lens. Thanks for sharing your tips.
moonlitta on September 19, 2012:
Graveyards are such amazing places- it's great we can be in one without actually being dead:)
dellgirl on September 18, 2012:
What a fun lens. Now I can make my own Halloween Graveyard...if I want to.
anonymous on September 17, 2012:
Have a very Happy Halloween! :)
Onemargaret LM on September 15, 2012:
Very creepy indeed! Nice lens though! Happy Halloween!
KimGiancaterino on September 14, 2012:
Happy Halloween 2012!
jannymanla on September 14, 2012:
Should be creepy but sounds fun.
Shannon Williams from Davisville, WV on September 13, 2012:
Thanks for the tutorials! Can't wait to try them out!
WriterJanis2 on September 13, 2012:
Very fun and creepy ideas.
sweetstickyrainbo on September 03, 2012:
you need a comfy place to keep your corpses
Twilight-Squid on September 02, 2012:
Ooh, nicely done, and taking notes for the new Halloween Graveyard decor.
Trixiesmom2u on September 01, 2012:
Great tips! Wonderful Halloween lens.
wrapitup4me on September 01, 2012:
Everything anyone could ever want to know about having his/her very own graveyard!!! Awesome!
Oosquid on August 31, 2012:
Your own boneyard for Halloween - what a grand idea! Thank you for all the tips!
charkvibl on August 30, 2012:
My relatives are really into making their lawn a spookfest. It's the best in the neighborhood...with many of these additional ideas, this will surely be a Halloween to remember. Thanks!!
faulco blogger85 on August 30, 2012:
Great ideas for creating spooky halloween party ambience!
Allanna on August 30, 2012:
Wow lots of things to scare the neighbors! fantastic job.
Rose Jones on August 29, 2012:
Very instructive, very fun. Blessed!
cynthiam68 on August 29, 2012:
These are really great ideas. Will probably look into doing some of this in our back yard.
mouse1996 lm on August 29, 2012:
These are great suggestions. I would like to try this one day.
eccles1 on August 29, 2012:
Great Idea! Happy Halloween
Tamara14 on August 29, 2012:
Creepy indeed :)
MifuneGoon on August 29, 2012:
Great advice, great lens! I've never done a Halloween graveyard, but now at least I've got a start.
olmpal on August 29, 2012:
What a great idea and tips! Come from and live in another country where we don't celebrate Halloween, but I'm fascinated with this cool Halloween concept!
siobhanryan on August 28, 2012:
I love Guardian of the tomb-Blessed
WebMarketingPro on August 28, 2012:
What a great lens! Alas, I have no garden... :(
'Vikk Simmons from Houston on August 28, 2012:
Love your idea! Who'd a thunk? :)
santadelcobre on August 28, 2012:
This is a cool Halloween project to do with the kids, thank you for suggesting it.
JoleneBelmain on August 28, 2012:
I put in a graveyard last year for the first time, and man did it ever turn out great. I think everyone that came to the door last Halloween had to check it out. Great leans :)
suzy-t on August 26, 2012:
Great idea... I've tried some store-bought gravestones but they don't last and lack that personal touch. I love the funny epitaphs. The Haunted Mansion at Walt Disney World has some funny ones.
Angela F from Seattle, WA on August 25, 2012:
Nice job and a fun Halloween project. *blessed
Stephen Bush from Ohio on August 24, 2012:
angelaglassburn on August 22, 2012:
I can't wait for my kids to do this halloween project! Love this idea!
Rosyel Sawali from Manila Philippines on August 20, 2012:
Cool! I wish we have a backyard to do this... ^_^
WendyKaye on August 09, 2012:
Loved it! I am looking forward to trying some of these ;)
HappyLilly on August 08, 2012:
Great work. You saved me a bunch of work for this Halloween decoration.
Marlies Vaz Nunes from Amsterdam, the Netherlands on August 08, 2012:
Brilliant lens! Blessed!
anonymous on July 28, 2012:
Great!!! That was very good, I'll have a go now and halloween!!
anonymous on July 13, 2012:
How fun! I suppose I shall have to try your technique! Thanks!
anonymous on July 01, 2012:
Now I want to make some homemade tombstones for Halloween this year!
ResearchAddict on June 26, 2012:
Great inspiration for a Halloween party!
melsie on June 21, 2012:
Great starter tutorial. I thoroughly enjoyed this. :)
Lynda Makara from California on April 15, 2012:
Love it, especially the tombstones pictures at Disneyland and the links to epitaphs. Good job!
MacPharlain (author) on April 14, 2012:
Smkcda LM on April 14, 2012:
Great lens! Not bad for a Friday the 13th visit.....
Laraine Sims from Lake Country, B.C. on April 13, 2012:
This is pretty spooky! Picked this lens for a Squid-quest. Blessings.
MindPowerProofs1 on April 11, 2012:
Great ideas. Thanks for sharing
julieannbrady on March 20, 2012:
Gosh, I truly love touring graveyards! So, count me in.
Tolovaj Publishing House from Ljubljana on March 08, 2012:
Great, now I have everything I need. When I finish, I'll send you invitation:)
Ladyeaglefeather on March 02, 2012:
this is very cool, thanks.
TagGrafx LM on October 28, 2011:
Never made a graveyard, but now I'm confident I can. I have the space for it and maybe it will encourage more kids to come trick or treat this year.
E L Seaton from Virginia on October 27, 2011:
Nicely done. Hope you win a prize for most authentic graveyard.
halloweenprops on October 25, 2011:
Might put into practice a few of these ideas. Could use a few more garden props.
Pnorway on October 24, 2011:
Awesome lens. 5 days left. lol
Bellani LM on October 24, 2011:
Love it. Want to try it now. Thank yu
anonymous on October 19, 2011:
Fun ideas! My wife and I are making some tombstones. I have extra 1/2" cement board that I am using. Nice thing is that it's water resistant (much more so than plywood) it's gray in color and durable.
blsriramsmkting on October 17, 2011:
Nice job sharing the tips ... Have a great halloween
arbellizi on October 16, 2011:
Thank You for the lens, You are helping other people in their Halloween preparation's, This is why this lens is great.
BTW - Halloween is the best holiday ever :-)
Lisa Remmick on October 11, 2011:
I have yet to make a graveyard, but will plan better for next year. Too many commitments this year, but you have some great info here.
LaurenIM on October 05, 2011:
Yes, we have some people who go all out around here. If I had a substantial yard, I probably would do the same.
anonymous on October 02, 2011:
I have been making graveyards for years and people love it, It takes some time because I am very particular, but I get a lot of compliments on my graveyard, I even have neighbors coming by and taking pictures. Its the best part of my decorations!!
Diane Ellen on October 01, 2011:
I like your ideas of making unique decorations. Kind of cool if you really get into the Halloween spirit.
Nightcat on October 01, 2011:
Awesome an well put together. Blessings to you!
squidclaire on October 01, 2011:
Not sure how a graveyard is going to effect my house price but worth it, lol. Awesome stuff, only 4 weeks to go!
Brandi from Maryland on October 01, 2011:
Fun! Maybe when my kids are older we'll do something spooky like this! :)
shahrukh021 on September 29, 2011:
love the tombstone ideas
Adinantiquejewe on September 28, 2011:
Great lens and I wish you a great halloween time.
Luvnit on September 28, 2011:
Awesome lens, I definitely learned a few things, thanks for sharing!
fugeecat lm on September 27, 2011:
I really like the graveyard accent section.
JeremyAce on September 27, 2011:
This sounds more to my taste. Store bought stuff is so expensive you have to keep it but then you have to store it. Making my own? Well I can still keep it but I can also get rid of it if I want!
laguild on September 27, 2011:
Fun. I am going to try to do this for my Halloween Party
hlkljgk from Western Mass on September 26, 2011:
cool. so much less expensive than buying your own.
ValarieMiller on September 26, 2011:
this is awesome! you really love halloween - great lens!
RosemaryLucas on September 23, 2011:
I like the idea of the inscription on the tombstone being personal and unique.
mumsgather on September 23, 2011:
Ooh! I'm spooked! Quite idea.
Donnette Davis from South Africa on September 23, 2011:
Stunningly eerie graveyard ideas :)
chelseamarsden on September 23, 2011:
Have been thinking of trying something eerie this Halloween and you have given me some great ideas. Thanks!