Wednesday 28 October 2015

Using Foam Board. . . . .

Good morning everyone. Julia here to share some ideas for using foam board. I first came across this product on an Andy Skinner workshop and felt inspired to continue using it afterwards. I really love the versatility it provides and the rigidity it provides to different projects.

                                 Image result for westfoam foam board        Image result for westfoam foam board     
You can see the layers clearly here. Two outer layers of card with an inner core of expanded foam which is quite rigid.

I've opted to show you a small number of things you can do with foam board but there are many more ideas out there so do put it in a search engine and see where it takes you. I'm going to look at the following uses for foam board:
  • Using foam board as a substrate for paints and mediums
  • Simple carving
  • Die cutting 
  • Dry embossing
  • Constructing 3D projects
Foam board is available from a number of companies and like many products, the quality varies from company to company. I have used both black and white foamboard and tend to use the 5mm thickness. It needs to be treated carefully but once it has been altered, it's durability does improve greatly. I will say that a heat gun is usually not a good idea when using foam board as it's very easy to melt the internal layer of foam - I have first hand experience of this!

Using foam board as a substrate for paints and mediums

  1. Always prepare your foam board with gesso or matte medium prior to use.
  2. Cut to size before preparation. 
  3. Sandwich dry foam board between heavy books if it starts to buckle after drying.
  4. Use a heat gun with extreme caution.
  5. Remember that the cut sides of the board need to be finished too.
Some images to give ideas for using foam board:

Seal your foam board then add modelling paste through a stencil.

Black gesso is used to cover the stencilled foam board.

Cover the gesso with white antiquing cream. Leave to dry and remove where required using a baby wipe.

Use 'interference' paints to pick out some of the stencilled modelling paste.

Add texture sand paste over the foam board in a thick layer. Use a Gelli Comb or even the end of a paintbrush to make a design in the paste. Leave to dry.

Seal the texture sand paste with your chosen medium. Use Tinting base and a drop of colour to create a base layer. Remember to include the sides too!

Use a paint mister to add flecks to your painted surface.

Layer paints and washes to achieve your desired finish.

Add a little graphite stick and you have a quick rust like finish. 

Seal the surface of the foam board with paint then add modelling medium of your choice through a stencil.

When dry, use the stencil and apply paint onto the raised design.

Use interference paints to subtly change the black circles.

This sample of foam board has been sealed then painted with tinted crackle paint. When still wet, drops of interference paint are added and everything is left to dry. (This technique has been based on a Tutorial by Andy Skinner and can be found here. Andy uses crackle glaze rather than crackle paint.) Once dry, antiquing cream is used to add definition to the crackle. The cream is simply wiped off the spots of interfence paint. Note: removing antiquing cream from crackle paint is a delicate business so be careful but I think the results are worth it.

Simple Carving

Carving foam board is very easy with a sharp craft knife. I use the scalpel variety but as long as your knife is sharp and the size is suited to the design you wish to carve, any knife will suffice.

This foam board has been carved in a freehand style then sealed with matte medium.

Designs can be drawn onto the foam board and cut with scissors (or a knife).

Once cut, the shape can be distressed as desired.

My heart has been painted, antiqued and is now ready for stamping, embellishing etc. 

Here's how I used the two hand carved pieces of foam board. Some acrylics and stamping have been added.

A little rusty wire completes the look. (Thanks to Andy Skinner for the inspiration.)

Die Cutting

Foam board can be die cut very easily using dies which are suited to a variety of material. Thin wafer dies will not cut foam board - at least mine wouldn't!

All these shapes have been die cut from foam board. The edges are very crisp and the shape is true even though a roller type machine has been used. You may or may not find that your machine flattens the board slightly. You may also need to 'help' your sandwich through the machine!
Close up image of die cut foam board.

Here's what I did with some of these die cuts:

Modelling paste is stencilled onto the sealed die cut. Die cut leaves and berries are glued on. everything is covered in gesso followed by layers of paint and antiquing cream. One leaf has been embossed and the details will come later in this post.

Another die cut bauble. Stencilled with modelling paste again and layered with paints and antiquing cream. Note: the top cog has been embossed and painted with a contrasting colour.

Both of these pieces could then be used as part of larger project.

Dry Embossing
Foam board can be easily embossed in a folder but you have to be prepared to accept that the board will squash down into a condensed layer. This shouldn't be seen as a a problem because the resulting substrate is quite strong and the embossing is beautifully defined.

Beautiful definition on folder embossed foam board.

After sealing with gesso, apply a coat of tinting base yellow acrylic. Finish with a layer of a good metallic fluid acrylic.

Apply antiquing cream and dry. Remove antiquing cream from areas required using a baby wipe.

Love the difference once the antiquing cream has been removed and the final piece is buffed with a dry cloth.

Leaves and cogs from the baubles prior to finishing. Remember the die cut heart earlier too? 

Completed folder embossed cog.

The little heart finished with acrylics and antiquing cream.

Photo is a little dark but you get the idea of what the heart has been used for: the starting of an ATC perhaps or a layer for a canvas? Who knows!

Creating 3D Projects:

Foam board is ideal for constructing three dimensional projects. It glues together  well and the possibilities are endless. Here's a project I made in an Andy Skinner workshop last year. The class were given some pieces of foam board and other materials. We could look at pictures for inspiration and some of Andy's own samples but there was no fixed idea given as to the final piece we had to make. In other words, it was get stuck in and create - very scary! Here's what I made using lots of foam board:

A shadow box created from foam board.

Foam board die cut heart.

The edges of the foam board have been hand carved to produce a distressed look.

Die cut foam pieces - I added these later at home. As you do!

A surface cut on the foam board gives the impression of layered pieces.

The edges of the foam board have been painted and stamped to finish them.

I hope this has given you some ideas for using foam board. Use it as a simple background layer or construct a three dimensional masterpiece - foam board is a joy to work with and it opens up so many possibilities!


  1. Fabulous tutorial and ideas Julia... A reminder to get out the foam board! Nikki x

  2. Such fantastic ideas and so many beautiful projects to inspire all

    Love Chrissie xx

  3. Love all the projects, will have to try them!

  4. Very creative and just fabulous creations. Lots of ideas and inspiration, thank you x I have lots of foam board left over from my Uni days and never thought to use it in this off to the attic to give this a try, thanks again x

  5. Wow, probably one of the best and most comprehensive tutorials I've seen. I don't think I've ever considered foam board at all, shall now look into it. Thanks Julia ;)
    Donna xxx

  6. Really brilliant and quite clever! Great idea for making lightweight dimensional embellishments! :)

  7. What a super tutorial and wonderful techniques and results.
    TFS Julie x

  8. Great information Julia, never knew much about this. Thanks so much for sharing

  9. Fantastic amount of ideas tu use foam board! Thanks for the inspiration, Julia!

  10. Wow Julia.........I love your wonderful creations and what a fabulous step by step too...will definitely be having a bash

    Sending my best wishes to you and the team
    Annie xx

  11. OUTSTANDING! tutorials Julia!!
    I am going shopping today for a piece of foam board and hope to play with some the ideas and techniques you have shared!!
    just FAB!!
    Jackie xo

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    1. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G tutorial Julia, so many ideas, a months worth of inspiration posts in one go...this has set my mind buzzing! Bravo teamie. Ruth xx

  13. A fabulous and helpful set of samples. Love the effect, and it has prompted me to get my foam board out.

  14. This is a fabulous tutorial Julia! I'd forgotten the versatility of the long ignored foamboard. Now your inspiration and a little time just might see some come out of the stash cupboard!

  15. Fantabuloso!!!!!!!! a brilliant and inspiring post with so many great ideas. I've never used foam board before but I can see that I need some right now! Love all the different finishes you've created, Toni xx

  16. Fantastic post Julia ! Love all the different ways you've used the foam board. Sue C x

  17. Fabulous inspiration, Julia! I love all the examples you've given, and can't wait to give some of them a try!