Skip directly to content

Dave's Approach to Carving and Painting Faux Wood from Foam Board




The reason I highlight Dave's work isn't because he's discovered a completely new approach to building signs out of foam board; the point is the care he takes and the personal touches he's added.

He's quick to give credit to Spookyblue's technique as the basis of his own. He has since tweaked his approach.

Without further ado, I give you Dave's tips and techniques.

"I used a scrap piece of foam board (like the pink one pictured) left over from other projects. I have done most of my projects with it so I always have leftovers.

I like to push myself to complete a project as quickly as possible, so I look for short cuts that speed the process along. I use a hot knife (the kind scrapbookers use that come with many different attachments, similar to the one on the left), the cutting point and tapered point to create the wood grain and removal along the sides. I find it much easier then sandpaper and a pencil or pen. It takes a little practise but once you get use to it, nothing else will do.

I don't do any kind of layout before I begin; just a square piece of foam, hacked up and shaped to my liking. I cut away sections and pieces until I am happy with the look. I use a medium sandpaper (60 grit) to ease/round the edges and rough up the surface in a few select areas. I then carve the grain pattern, knots and worm holes using the hot knife.

Now here is a trick I learned from the forum - a heat gun. After you are happy with the sanding and carving, gently go over the surface of the foam board with the heat gun. It will round off the hot knife cuts, help the foam accept the paint and will slowly melt the areas around the knot holes. Again, it will take a little practise, but boy does it make a difference in the final product.

I use ordinary latex paints to add the colour. These are just paints I buy at hardware/home improvement stores. Basically, I do it very similar to Spookyblues version. I paint the entire piece with the flat black and let it dry. I then use a foam applicator/brush to add the lightest colour next. Since there are no individual bristles, I follow the grain of the wood. Keep the paint to a minimum (dry brushing) and it will not go into the grooves. I let that layer also dry then add a mid tone brown.

The lettering was almost a stencil (I printed and cut out the text) but because of the texture of the foam, it was more of a guide. I ended up painting most all of the letters again by hand. You adapt and make due with what you get sometimes! Just to add something extra, I spritzed it with both a flat black and light grey spray paint to weather it even more. I didn't need to put any kind of finish on the completed project."

For more projects by Dave, check out his his website.