Halloween Craft: Haunted Mansion Inspired Plaque

Haunted Mansion Inspired Plaque
My favorite kind of Halloween decor is the neo-Victorian, Edgar Allen Poe, Haunted Mansion, decayed glamour kind of decor. The glitter and bright colors are lots of fun, but I love the cold elegance of the dilapidated luxury. But of course, for something that’s only going to be displayed for a few weeks a year, I’m not going to pay for actual dilapidated luxury. I’ve got to fake it. This plaque is made out of, essentially, play doh and a wooden board, but looks like something you’d totally find while you were waiting in line at Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion.

Halloween Plaque Tutorial Step 1
Using an air dry clay (I used Crayola air dry clay in white), cover a wooden board. I found a wooden plaque cut in this great decorative shape, and it’s really what’s doing 90% of the work here. The clay shrinks when it dries, so it will crack. Add more layers, filling in the cracks as you go. I found that watering the clay down to a paste really made this job easy. Build up a few layers so you’ve got at least 1/4″ thick and all your cracks are small enough to be stable. Let it get good and dry. Like, three days dry.

Halloween Plaque Tutorial Step 2
While my plaque was drying I also made these decorative flourishes. They’re just a couple of snakes that I rolled to follow the line of the wood plaque. You don’t want to let them dry on the plaque, because of the shrinking and cracking problem, so let them dry thoroughly before moving them.

Halloween Plaque Tutorial Step 3
My flourishes cracked as I was sanding them. I wasn’t being very careful. If you make the same mistake you can just glue them back together. This is one project where messiness and breakage only work in your favor.

Halloween Plaque Tutorial Step 4
When everything is thoroughly dry, glue the flourishes to the plaque. I used Gorilla Glue, making sure to get both pieces wet before applying the glue for the best possible adhesion. I found Gorilla Glue to be the best because it expands, so it compensates if your flourishes or plaque surface aren’t perfectly level, or if breakage makes it so your pieces don’t fit perfectly.

I also used an exacto knife and the back of a paintbrush to carve our family name into it. I just used my own writing, but if you’d like something else you could used stamps or even a computer font to trace the letters on. Then just carve off your pencil markings or stamp marks.

When the glue is dry paint the entire piece black, making sure to get in all the crevices.

Halloween Plaque Tutorial Step 5
Now it’s time to paint. I used a couple different grays and a khaki brown to make a stone look, and in the center is a blending gel. This helps the colors to blend together and look less like awkward sponge pounces.

Halloween Plaque Tutorial Step 6
When you sponge the paint on around your carvings, it’s best to keep your dauber on the dry side. You don’t want the paint to flow into your carvings. Be patient and take your time layering the paint on. If things begin to look a little flat or muddled in one spot, come back in with a little more black or khaki to create more dimension. Use the blending gel to blend your edges together so that the finished product isn’t covered in these little sponge dots.

Halloween Plaque Tutorial Step 7
Keep layering the sponge painting, dry brushing every once in a while to blend the colors and soften the sponge edges, until you’re happy with the final look. Touch up the black of the letters if you need to.

Halloween Plaque Tutorial Step 8
Add a coat of sealer to protect the paint finish.

Spooky Halloween Plaque
It wasn’t part of my plan, but I ended up painting this nearly the same color as my house. It blends in just about perfectly. If I didn’t know it was made out of crayola clay and acrylic paint, I’d think I actually meant this plaque as an actual decoration. Which is kind of perfect. It’s just real enough to look neglected and decayed, which is exactly the look I was going for.