Manning Makes Stuff - Halloween decorations, paper mache masks, costumes, party ideas, and more

Manning Makes Stuff - Halloween decorations, paper mache masks, costumes, party ideas, and more

Spooky mausoleum drawers Halloween decoration

Published by Manning on June 21st, 2015

Halloween party morgue drawers decoration

I was in charge of creating some decorations for a huge cemetery-themed Halloween party at a friend’s house several years back, and we decided to turn the dining room into a morgue/mausoleum by putting fake marble drawers on the wall. These were fun and extremely easy to make, and they’re great for a cemetery-themed party, a zombie-themed party, an asylum-themed party, etc. Here are the materials I used:

  • foam board — white
  • masking tape
  • spray paint – black
  • spray paint – white
  • acrylic or tempera paint – dark red
  • poster board — black
  • grease pencil — white
  • X-acto knife
  • (Optional: zombie hand!)

I had no idea what I was doing here (surprise!) and just made this up as I went along, and everything turned out great. I started with pieces of foam board that were about 36″x24″, and cut them in half with an X-acto knife. I’d measured the wall of the dining room/mortuary and determined that I wanted 12 drawers, so that’s 6 pieces of foam board.

I put down some old black foam board outside to protect my work area; this worked fine, but my favorite method of protecting an outdoor work space is a shower curtain from the dollar store, weighed down with bricks.

I put masking tape all along the edges of a piece of foam board. I used masking tape that’s a little more narrow than normal, just ’cause I had that lying around. Any kind will do.

Morgue drawers Halloween decoration tutorial

With the masking tape in place, I used black spray paint to very lightly paint some marble texture. You want to do this from about 12 inches away from the foam board, and do very light bursts, moving very quickly across the surface. It’s a good idea to err on the side of being too far away and moving too quickly; you can always do additional passes with the spray paint. Do too much/too close/too slow and you’re screwed!

Mortuary mausoleum decoration

A neat thing I discovered while doing this is that if your spray paint can is almost empty, it sometimes spits out bigger drops of paint, which actually looks really neat! See those solid black dots scattered around? That’s from that. Probably not a desirable effect for most painting projects, but it looks great here.

Once you’ve got a good marble-looking pattern on your foam board, you can remove the masking tape.

Zombie Halloween party mausoleum decoration made with foam board and spray paint

Now we’re going to create a fake 3d effect on the corners, to make the drawer look like it has beveled edges. You can use a piece of poster board or cardboard as a mask — I used an old notepad ’cause it was handy. Place it over the white corner of the drawer at a 45-degree angle, and lightly paint a shadow on the corner. Be careful not to get a lot of paint on the inner part of the drawer; you want to concentrate on the white edge, moving outward. You can see in the photo that I was a little sloppy with this, but it worked out fine. If you want to be really careful you could cut a better mask out of poster board with an X-acto knife, so that you’re really protecting everything but that edge. I always tell myself with these Halloween projects, A) the lighting is going to be low and that’s going to hide a lot of mistakes, and B) no one’s looking at the little details with these big decorations. It’s a party! People have better things to do than inspect the fine details. Like drink.

Continue masking and spray-painting all the corners, and then do another light spraying to dirty up all the edges a bit.

Getting there! Each of these only took a couple minutes! And because you’re using so little paint, they dry almost instantly. However, you’ll still want to let them air out outside for a couple days, to get rid of the spray paint smell.

I actually went overboard with the black spray paint in a few places — remember, I was making this up as I went along! — so I ended up doing another couple passes with some white spray paint, to town down the black. You can’t really see the white here, but it really helped bring the contrast down overall.

Once I was done with the black and white marble texture, I used some acrylic paint to add blood all over the things. Keep in mind, blood isn’t bright red, so you’ll either want to buy dark red paint, or mix a little bit of black into normal red paint. You may also want to water your paint down a bit, depending on how thick it is.

Do it yourself fake blood effect

I mainly used my hands to apply the red paint; I just squirted some paint into my hand, rubbed it around to evenly coat my palm and fingers, and wiped it onto the foam board. I also shook the paint bottle over the foam board to let some drops splatter onto the surface. Make sure you’re protecting your work area if you plan on doing this! You can get even better control for this splatter effect, and finer drops, by loading up a wide paintbrush with paint and whipping it at your surface. If you’re not getting as much splatter as you like, your paint is probably too thick; just water it down and it’ll work great.

When all the paint was dry, I decided to cut a few of the drawers into pieces to make it look like the marble had cracked. I used an X-acto blade for this, then mounted the individual pieces on black poster board. Of course, you could also just draw cracks, but I wanted to give them a little bit of a 3d effect.

Zombie hand and bloody handprints!

I made small nameplates out of black poster board — if I’d had more time I might have tried to find a way to make them look like brass, with metallic paint or whatever. Not shown here, I used a white grease pencil to write the names of some of the Halloween party guests on the nameplates. People got a real kick out of this!

That zombie hand on the left is an extremely cheap rubber hand from the Halloween aisle at the dollar store. It came with a fabric sleeve, which I ripped off, and the wrist/arm underneath is just cardboad! Ha! I repainted the whole thing really quickly; I sprayed the whole thing black, let it dry, then did some heavy drybrushing with light purple paint, and then some very light drybrushing with a tiny bit of white paint, to really bring out the contrast.

I wanted to make one drawer look like it was open and have the hand sticking out. So, I build some small walls for the drawer out of foam board, and taped the whole thing together. The walls were only about four inches wide; I only wanted the drawer to look slightly open, just enough for the zombie hand to poke out, and not enough for the drawer to get in people’s way.

A problem I run into all the time with my Halloween decorations is that I can never get a good photo of them in the lighting of the party! I’m a firm believer that lighting makes a Halloween party more than anything else, so I always replace all the lightbulbs with different colored party bulbs, with colors that go with the theme of the party. This year we did all red lights everywhere. And as a result, the pictures without Flash came out pretty crappy. I also learned another important lesson here: the black paint on the white foam board appears with higher contrast in this red light than I’d anticipated. If I had it to do all over again, I’d go way easier on the black paint (or I’d cover it up with a lot more white paint at the end). Also, if I really had a lot of time, I’d buy a huge roll of white paper and create a fake marble surface for the entire wall before installing the drawers. (Of course, you’ll want to measure/cut/tape/paint this whole paper surface outside ahead of time; you do NOT want to paint something like that right on the wall!)

Spooky lighting is key to any Halloween party

We installed the morgue drawers on the wall with masking tape; they’re super lightweight and they stayed up there just fine. We also added a spider or two; you could do all kinds of stuff with incorporating fake spider webs, a rubber snake, fake roaches, etc.

We went with red lighting for this cemetery-themed Halloween shindig

Zombie hand escaping from morgue drawer

Have fun!

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