Halloween decorating can be a lot of fun for both the creator and the neighborhood. There are a lot of options for those who like to decorate their yard for this be-a-kid day, uh, night. Many different people either go all out or simply hang a paper skeleton on their front window. For those that go all out, the neighbor kids will gravitate to your place, so there will not be a shortage of ghosts, goblins and ghouls stopping by on October 31st.
One extremely fun type of decor is to make your front-yard into a grave yard. One can go completely elaborate with lighting, sound, lots of head-stones and even a mausoleum. However, you can start simple and do lots of grave-stones with very little effort and creativity. Head stones, grave stones and grave markers have been around since the dawn of time and have always been “markers” for the buried. They also can form the creep affect which is paramount on Halloween. If you’re semi-creative or very creative you can have lots of fun making head stones.
To start, head over to your favorite lumber yard or home improvement center. Locate the insulation isle and find the pink or blue sheets of foam insulation. Your best bet is to use either the 1 1/2 or 2 inch sheets. Either size will work and color is irrelevant as you’ll be painting over them anyway. Once you have your trusty sheet of foam home and in the garage, you’ll need to find some stencils and/or pictures by perusing the web or just about any source where graves are displayed. There are tons of head-stone and grave yard sites that can tickle your idea and imagination bone. If you don’t have a reference, your town probably has a cemetery near by. A digital camera and a nicely lit day work just as well. Of course, the other more creative approach, a favorite, is to completely make up the shapes from memory. Everyone has been to a grave yard at one time or another, so there are plenty of references. Each sheet should yield about 6 to 8 head stones which is usually plenty to get started.
Cutting extruded styrofoam can be very easy and while there are several ways to perform the cutting, a large kitchen knife usually reserved for that large watermelon during the summer will work just fine. Knives tend to leave rough edges and that’s fine for when you want that very old look which is common in grave yards. Other cutting tools that can be used are special styrofoam electric cutters that you can find on the web as well as there are several sites that offer a “How-To” on making your own cutter with a soldering iron and some heavy copper wire. Now that you’ve cut out your head stone shape, you’ll want to put some kind of writing, eulogy or some kind of markings. Here a wood burning tool works good, a sharp utility knife or a set of those craft knives with a variety of blades. For lettering you can either use some kind of stencil set and or print something from your favorite word processor. Either way, you can either go authentic or funny. Draw an outline of the wording, drawing or date onto the front of the head-stone and cut out the lettering causing an embossing affect. If you have a wood burner and are familiar with it’s use, you can simply melt out the letters. Embossing the wording, lettering or date give it a 3-D affect and an authentic look. Plus, at night, it adds a creepy affect if lighting is involved. For added interest, use a friend or neighbors name to add that extra touch. However, make sure they’re a good friend and not someone you really want to see buried. That could lead to a whole other set of problems.
After all of the prep work is done by cutting your shape, adding your wording or markings, you’ll need to prepare it for presentation. With any type of sandpaper, clean the entire surface and make sure the cut edges are void of any extra pieces hanging where your knife did the cut. Now that it’s clean and ready, you should use a “latex” paint to prime or cover the entire surface. Latex paint creates both a barrier and surface for the final coloring. Use a light or white latex that can be found on the “Oops” shelf at just about any home improvement center. Let the prime paint dry before going onto the final coat. Once dry, you now have several fine finish choices to wrap up the project. One technique is to spray water on the primed surface and lightly spray a black or gray paint letting it drip down through the cracks and surface of the head-stone. You can also “dry” brush getting the same affect by taking a light gray or darker colored paint and lightly applying it on the corners, in the engraved writing or in cracks. Taking a dry paint brush, lightly swipe in a downward fashion the dark paint until it creates streaks on the lighter surface. For added affects, you can also add moss found in any hobby shop or where ever dried flowers or model trains are sold. This takes a lot more patience and simply painting should do the trick. For that perfectionist, cracks, additional coloring and the moss affect can really take it to the next level. Once your first one is done, repeat until you have enough to make your own yard of head-stones. Putting a grave yard in your own front yard for Halloween can be both fun and rewarding if you anticipate lots of trick-er-treaters. Typically, the kids love the added affect and will definitely stop by your house to relieve you of the enormous amount of candy you have at the ready.