How to Carve Patterns into Styrofoam

carving dwarf patterns in styrofoam

Styrofoam has great properties for carving as it allows precise cuts without crumbling away. This means you canĀ carve really intricate patterns, making for some really fantastic terrain pieces. Generally it comes in blue from the craft stores, but building insulation is the same stuff. Continuing on from our previous article on building a Dwarf watchtower, the next stageĀ is to carve a Dwarfen pattern into the styrofoam tower, but the process is exactly the same for any patterns you’d want to create for any terrain piece.

Equipment List

Styrofoam (blue craft foam, Celeox insulation etc.)
Sharp knife (modelling knife, scalpel, Stanley knife etc.)
Cutting mat
Card
Pencil
Pins
Ruler

Step 1 – Design the pattern

First off you need to design what you’re going to carve onto your styrofoam and measure it out so it fits where it’s intended to. Best thing to do is to draw it on paper, cut it out out and pin it in place on the styrofoam. If it looks good then you’ve nailed it, if it looks crap go back to the drawing board.

Dwarfen Battlements Pattern for Styrofoam

Step 2 – Create a card template

Once you’re happy with your design, transfer it onto a piece of card. After which, use a sharp knife (and a ruler if needed) to score through the card to create a template of your pattern.

Cardboard Styrofoam Cutting Pattern Template

Step 3 – Transfer to styrofoam

With your template complete, use the pins to temporarily fix it to the desired location on the styrofoam. Then using your knife, begin to cut the styrofoam through the template – make sure your cuts are reasonably deep but only follow the template. When you’ve finished, carefully removed the pins and the template from the styrofoam and you should be left with an outline of your pattern.

Transfer template to styrofoamCut around the syrofoam pattern
Step 4 – Carving the pattern

This part is slightly tricky, but quite fun. Essentially we want to make it look like the pattern has been carved there by master craftsmen/craftswomen, so we need to deboss the pattern we have. Using your knife, cut at a 45 degree angle into one side of the pattern cut-line, continue to cut parallel to the cut-line until you reach the end. Repeat this process for the whole pattern. Remember to be consistent in which side of the pattern cut-line you cut, otherwise it will end up looking odd.

Cutting an emboss into styrofoam 1Cutting an emboss into styrofoam 2Cutting an emboss into styrofoam 3Cutting an emboss into styrofoam 4

Step 5 – Marvel at your newly acquired foam cutting ability

carving dwarf patterns in styrofoam

That’s it! You’re ready to paint it – remember to first base it in a sealant (watered down PVA glue works) and if you want to spray it use a water based spray paint, as most spray paints contain solvents that will melt the foam.

Tell me wot ya fink, git?