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How To Build Your Own Halloween Graveyard

Updated on August 10, 2019

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.

Next, select the epitaph or saying you want on the stone. You can get ideas for this from websites, sayings you've seen elsewhere, Disney World or your own morbid creativity.

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.

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.

Jig Saw 4.5a #4290 Skil
Jig Saw 4.5a #4290 Skil
This economical little saw is perfect for cutting curves on plywood tombstones. It's the same one I use.
Staedtler Mars 571 Set of 3 Shapes of French Curves, 57140WP
Staedtler Mars 571 Set of 3 Shapes of French Curves, 57140WP
A good set of French curves will help you draw any curves you want to make on your tombstones. These are similar to the ones I have.

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, 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.

Private Label Tribal Tattoo Human Skull Statue Figure
Private Label Tribal Tattoo Human Skull Statue Figure
There's something about a decorated skull that is morbidly cool. If you already have some plain skulls, you could paint your own unique designs on them.
Brother Claude
Brother Claude | Source

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.

Master Gracey
Master Gracey | Source
Magic Kingdom
Magic Kingdom | Source

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.

For more good pictures of old gravestones, check out the Historic Graves project or search on Flickr.

Irish Castle Graveyard
Irish Castle Graveyard | Source
Tombstone | Source
Skull w/wings
Skull w/wings | Source
Eliminator Lighting Fog Machines EF-400 Fog Machine
Eliminator Lighting Fog Machines EF-400 Fog Machine
A fog machine adds the finishing touch to your haunted graveyard's atmosphere. Hide one underneath a bush or behind a tombstone. For the best effect, place multiple fog machines around your graveyard. The fog juice liquid that goes in them is a good item to look for when shopping the after Halloween sales. It will last until next year and beyond. This is similar to the one I have.

Want to Learn More About Graveyards and Find Inspiration for Yours?

Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography
Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography
Cemeteries everywhere are rich in history, art and interesting stories. Take some time to explore and appreciate them. Here is a good book on the symbols, images and monument designs used in cemeteries to get you started. Use it to find inspiration for your own homemade graveyard.

Some Homemade Halloween Graveyards

Here are a few other Halloween graveyards for you to admire and be inspired by.

Halloween graveyard
Halloween graveyard | Source
 Photo# 754 - Graveyard - 2007 Halloween
Photo# 754 - Graveyard - 2007 Halloween | Source

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.

Have A Happy Halloween!

Was this guide helpful to you? How did your Halloween graveyard turn out? Please leave a comment below.

Scary Graveyard Tales...

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    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 

      6 years ago

      Back to look at this interesting lens - maybe we will try to build this for Halloween this year.

    • CharMarie profile image


      6 years ago

      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! :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      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. :-)

    • Rangoon House profile image


      7 years ago from Australia

      Happy Halloween!

    • Melissa Miotke profile image

      Melissa Miotke 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      Great lens! Happy Halloween:) Blessed

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Graveyards are great for the front yard. This guide is useful.

    • rjvader profile image


      7 years ago

      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 profile image


      7 years ago

      some nice ideas here, kids would love it! nice lens

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Pretty cool DIY idea.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      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 profile image


      7 years ago

      Spooktacular gravestones, thanks for the Halloween tips!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      cool idea

    • VspaBotanicals profile image


      7 years ago

      What a great idea! Great lens!

    • dragonlildragon profile image


      7 years ago

      Very informative, I have not tried to build a graveyard yet though.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I am currently looking for some Halloween costumes; you gave me some great ideas.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great idea for Halloween. Thanks for sharing.

    • LucyMac LM profile image

      LucyMac LM 

      7 years ago

      Haven't built one yet, might give it a go. Great idea.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      This is such an original lens, I love it. Those hands crawling out of the ground give me the creeps!

    • kiratalley profile image


      7 years ago

      Interesting, great idea on building a graveyard ... too bad I'm in a Condo and don't have a backyard!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Awesome and scary ideas. I love it!

    • Ashly Rain profile image

      Ashly Rain 

      7 years ago

      Scary stuff :*) Great leans and I'll refer back if I decided to build a graveyard.

    • melissiaoliver profile image


      7 years ago

      Some really interesting ideas! Great lens

    • tonybonura profile image

      Tony Bonura 

      7 years ago from Tickfaw, Louisiana

      Great fun lens. Thanks for sharing your tips.


    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Graveyards are such amazing places- it's great we can be in one without actually being dead:)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      What a fun lens. Now I can make my own Halloween Graveyard...if I want to.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Have a very Happy Halloween! :)

    • Onemargaret LM profile image

      Onemargaret LM 

      7 years ago

      Very creepy indeed! Nice lens though! Happy Halloween!

    • KimGiancaterino profile image


      7 years ago

      Happy Halloween 2012!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Should be creepy but sounds fun.

    • wvclaylady profile image

      Shannon Williams 

      7 years ago from Davisville, WV

      Thanks for the tutorials! Can't wait to try them out!

    • WriterJanis2 profile image


      7 years ago

      Very fun and creepy ideas.

    • sweetstickyrainbo profile image


      7 years ago

      you need a comfy place to keep your corpses

    • Twilight-Squid profile image


      7 years ago

      Ooh, nicely done, and taking notes for the new Halloween Graveyard decor.

    • Trixiesmom2u profile image


      7 years ago

      Great tips! Wonderful Halloween lens.

    • wrapitup4me profile image


      7 years ago

      Everything anyone could ever want to know about having his/her very own graveyard!!! Awesome!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Your own boneyard for Halloween - what a grand idea! Thank you for all the tips!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      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 profile image

      faulco blogger85 

      7 years ago

      Great ideas for creating spooky halloween party ambience!

    • Allanna profile image


      7 years ago

      Wow lots of things to scare the neighbors! fantastic job.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 

      7 years ago

      Very instructive, very fun. Blessed!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      These are really great ideas. Will probably look into doing some of this in our back yard.

    • profile image

      mouse1996 lm 

      7 years ago

      These are great suggestions. I would like to try this one day.

    • eccles1 profile image


      7 years ago

      Great Idea! Happy Halloween

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Creepy indeed :)

    • MifuneGoon profile image


      7 years ago

      Great advice, great lens! I've never done a Halloween graveyard, but now at least I've got a start.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      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 profile image


      7 years ago

      I love Guardian of the tomb-Blessed

    • WebMarketingPro profile image


      7 years ago

      What a great lens! Alas, I have no garden... :(

    • Vikk Simmons profile image

      'Vikk Simmons 

      7 years ago from Houston

      Love your idea! Who'd a thunk? :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      This is a cool Halloween project to do with the kids, thank you for suggesting it.

    • JoleneBelmain profile image


      7 years ago

      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 profile image


      7 years ago

      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.

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 

      7 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Nice job and a fun Halloween project. *blessed

    • bushaex profile image

      Stephen Bush 

      7 years ago from Ohio

      SquidAngel blessings.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I can't wait for my kids to do this halloween project! Love this idea!

    • iamraincrystal profile image

      Rosyel Sawali 

      7 years ago from Manila Philippines

      Cool! I wish we have a backyard to do this... ^_^

    • WendyKaye profile image


      7 years ago

      Loved it! I am looking forward to trying some of these ;)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great work. You saved me a bunch of work for this Halloween decoration.

    • marlies vaz nunes profile image

      Marlies Vaz Nunes 

      7 years ago from Amsterdam, the Netherlands

      Brilliant lens! Blessed!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great!!! That was very good, I'll have a go now and halloween!!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      How fun! I suppose I shall have to try your technique! Thanks!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Now I want to make some homemade tombstones for Halloween this year!

    • ResearchAddict profile image


      7 years ago

      Great inspiration for a Halloween party!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great starter tutorial. I thoroughly enjoyed this. :)

    • Lynda Makara profile image

      Lynda Makara 

      8 years ago from California

      Love it, especially the tombstones pictures at Disneyland and the links to epitaphs. Good job!

    • MacPharlain profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      @LaraineRoses: Thanks!

    • Smkcda LM profile image

      Smkcda LM 

      8 years ago

      Great lens! Not bad for a Friday the 13th visit.....

    • LaraineRoses profile image

      Laraine Sims 

      8 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

      This is pretty spooky! Picked this lens for a Squid-quest. Blessings.

    • MindPowerProofs1 profile image


      8 years ago

      Great ideas. Thanks for sharing

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Gosh, I truly love touring graveyards! So, count me in.

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 

      8 years ago from Ljubljana

      Great, now I have everything I need. When I finish, I'll send you invitation:)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      this is very cool, thanks.

    • TagGrafx LM profile image

      TagGrafx LM 

      8 years ago

      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.

    • Countryluthier profile image

      E L Seaton 

      8 years ago from Virginia

      Nicely done. Hope you win a prize for most authentic graveyard.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Might put into practice a few of these ideas. Could use a few more garden props.

    • Pnorway profile image


      8 years ago

      Awesome lens. 5 days left. lol

    • Bellani LM profile image

      Bellani LM 

      8 years ago

      Love it. Want to try it now. Thank yu

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      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.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Nice job sharing the tips ... Have a great halloween

    • arbellizi profile image


      8 years ago

      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 profile image

      Lisa Remmick 

      8 years ago

      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 profile image


      8 years ago

      Yes, we have some people who go all out around here. If I had a substantial yard, I probably would do the same.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      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 profile image

      Diane Ellen 

      8 years ago

      I like your ideas of making unique decorations. Kind of cool if you really get into the Halloween spirit.

    • Nightcat profile image


      8 years ago

      Awesome an well put together. Blessings to you!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Not sure how a graveyard is going to effect my house price but worth it, lol. Awesome stuff, only 4 weeks to go!

    • Brandi Bush profile image


      8 years ago from Maryland

      Fun! Maybe when my kids are older we'll do something spooky like this! :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      love the tombstone ideas

    • Adinantiquejewe profile image


      8 years ago

      Great lens and I wish you a great halloween time.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Awesome lens, I definitely learned a few things, thanks for sharing!

    • fugeecat lm profile image

      fugeecat lm 

      8 years ago

      I really like the graveyard accent section.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      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 profile image


      8 years ago

      Fun. I am going to try to do this for my Halloween Party

    • hlkljgk profile image


      8 years ago from Western Mass

      cool. so much less expensive than buying your own.

    • ValarieMiller profile image


      8 years ago

      this is awesome! you really love halloween - great lens!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I like the idea of the inscription on the tombstone being personal and unique.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Ooh! I'm spooked! Quite idea.

    • profile image

      Donnette Davis 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      Stunningly eerie graveyard ideas :)

    • chelseamarsden profile image


      8 years ago

      Have been thinking of trying something eerie this Halloween and you have given me some great ideas. Thanks!

    • Grandma-Marilyn profile image


      8 years ago

      If I wanted to make an eerie graveyard, you have given some great details.


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