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What Is Foamboard?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 24 September 2016
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Foamboard is a composite made by layering styrofoam between paper or plastic to create a lightweight, sturdy material which can be used for a variety of things. It is also sometimes seen marketed as foamcore, and comes in a variety of colors, thicknesses, and strengths. Most art supply stores carry foamboard, as do some home and office supply companies. As a general rule, it comes in standardized sizes which the end user must cut down to fit.

The styrofoam core of foamboard can be made in varying degrees of density. More dense styrofoam will hold up longer, but will make the board much heavier. Lighter styrofoam is favored for most projects. The outer layers of foamcore are usually made with a heavyweight paper, although lightweight cardboard may sometimes be used. Both matte and glossy variations are available, and white and black are the two most common colors.

A sheet of foamboard is much sturdier than a comparable sheet of paper or cardboard. However, it can still bend or warp. For this reason, a supportive backing is needed for extremely large pieces. It is also not considered to be archival, since the papers used may be acidic, so it should not be used as a backing for valued artwork.

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There are a number of potential applications for the board. It is ideally suited to signs and displays, since it comes in large sheets and it can be painted or decorated. Crafters can also glue things to it. In sign format, foamcore can be mounted on a stick for carrying, hung in a window, or attached to a wall. It is often used for displays in classrooms and informational fairs.

Although crafters and teachers use a great deal of foamboard, other professionals find it useful as well. Architectural models are sometimes built using foamboard, and artists may use it to mount secondary prints or other less valuable projects. It can also be used as a base layer for sculpture projects.

Working with the material does require some skill. An extremely sharp knife should be used against a hard surface to ensure clean, even cuts. Dull knives tend to make ragged cuts, tearing the paper covering rather than slicing through it. In addition to looking unsightly, these cuts can catch on things and tear, pulling off part of the facing. A sharp razor and a metal ruler to use as a cutting guide are highly useful tools for projects using this material.

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wavy58
Post 4

I work at a restaurant, and we use white foamboard to advertise the specials of the day. We used to use a chalkboard, but we have a lot of small children who come in, and they have a bad habit of wiping the words off the board.

Since my handwriting is the neatest of everyone who works there, I was chosen to write the specials on the board with a black permanent marker. We use the glossy kind of foamboard, because it is just more attractive. Then, we mount it on a stand in the foyer where everyone can see it before they sit down.

Oceana
Post 3

Cutting foamboard can be a nightmare if you don’t have a sharp blade! I have run into several catastrophes this way.

When I first bought my mat cutter, the blade was very sharp. However, I cut so much foamboard with it that within a year, it dulled considerably. It would no longer cut all the way through the board. It would leave paper edges hanging off, and when I pulled them, too much would rip away from the foam.

I started using a yardstick and a sharp box cutter instead. Most of the pieces I needed were too big to fit on the small mat cutter all at once, and having to chop them in sections added to the messiness. I can easily replace a box cutter’s blade.

OeKc05
Post 2

I used to back my drawings with foamcore. I won’t after reading this! I had no idea it was acidic!

My artwork probably wasn’t in too much danger, though, because rather than adhering the whole board to the paper, I just used one tiny piece of art tape to secure it at the top. Then, I taped a mat frame around the front of it.

Later, I switched to mostly using flat mat board as backing. The foamcore was just too thick, and it added stress to the hang tag on the back. If I want to frame something, I have to remove the foamcore so that it will fit in the frame.

kylee07drg
Post 1

I learned about foamboard in my college illustration class. My teacher taught the class to use it as backing for our works. The type of things we created in that class would not be considered valuable artwork, so it didn’t matter that it wasn’t archival.

She told us to use a special sticky substance to mount our works. It looks like tiny white dots, and it comes in sheets bound together like a sketch pad. We just rub a sheet on the back of our work and press it onto the foamboard. It’s not messy like glue, and it clings well.

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