I threw a Barbie-themed party for me and my friends (all adults), and it was a highlight of the year! Because I wanted to really make it special and fun, a lot of detail went into planning, from decor to food and everything in-between.
One of my favorite pieces were two arched backdrops that I put together from various materials, as an alternative to spending a ton of money on already-made specialty items. They were very obviously DIY, but I’m proud of them! I made two: one that was around 6 ft. tall, another 4 ft.
Here’s how I made my DIY foam arch backdrops.
Okay, here’s the genius of it all: I used insulation foam from Lowes for my arches. Not only are they affordable (mine were $14 each, compared to pre-made arches that can cost over $100 just to rent, let alone buy), but it also caters to those of us who don’t have the tools/supplies/skills to bust out a wooden craft project.
The foam came in boards of 8 ft. by 4 ft., at 1 in. thick. (They also usually sell varying sizes, especially with thickness.)
And while you can definitely purchase a cloth cover from Etsy or buy a metal frame or even use paint, I decided to cover my foam arches with contact paper. I went with two shades of pink, which fit the theme perfectly.
Supplies I used
- Two white foam boards from Lowes, size 8′ x 4′ x 1″* **
- Sparkly pink contact paper from Amazon (it required at least 2 rolls of the largest size)
- Matte pink contact paper from Amazon (required at least 2 rolls of the largest size)
- Box cutter
- X-acto knife (though for some people, you can use either a box cutter or an X-xacto knife for all purposes!)
- Duct tape
- Packing tape
- Measuring tape
*Note: I later went to Home Depot to grab a foam board to make a Barbie box. I went with a different brand that came in the color purple and I loved it so much more. It was really easy to work with and cut—I wish I would have used this type/brand to begin with. Linked here!
**Another note: we have a small car (a Chevy Trax), and the foam boards did NOT fit! We had to work some cutting magic in the parking lot. You can pay for shipping, or you can use a box cutter to cut it into sections. I recommend cutting down the middle, because then the foam board can still be taped back together. It holds enough to lean against the wall.
Create your plans
Step one is to map out your arch dimensions on a piece of paper. I ended up making a sketch to visually figure out how I needed to measure to create both arches.
For both arches, I decided to divide the entire 8′ foam board into 2′ sections. For the taller 6′, I put the top of the arch at the first 2′ line (6′), and the base of the curve at the second line (4′). With the shorter 4′ arch, I marked the top of the arch at the second line (4′), and the base of the curve at the third line (2′).
I chose these sizes (6 and 4′), because of our basement ceiling height, which is just barely 6’5″. If you can work with taller arches, go for it! There’s no one-size-fits-all for these.
Mark up the foam
Note: if you had to cut your foam in any way to fit into your car (like I did), you need to re-connect the pieces. I used duct tape to repair the foam down the middle line, and used a few pieces horizontally as a support.
Next, I used a pen and a measuring tape to draw straight lines across the foam board at the appropriate heights (6′ and 4′, then 4′ and 2′).
Then, I did my best to free-hand draw one side of the arch. I started at the top and curved down to meet the second line.
Trim – start with one side
After one side looked good on the foam, I used my box cutter to trace the line and trim the shape of the arch.
When cutting through the foam, you’ll likely have to go through with the box cutter a few times before it fully breaks. Be careful and go slowly—you’ll have to apply pressure to separate the foam until it snaps.
After one side was finished, I used the excess that was cut off to trace the other side of the arch. This removed the guess work and ensured a perfectly even arch.
Smooth any rough edges
After both sides of the arch have been cut, go through with an exacto knife to smooth out any rough edges from cutting. I used packing tape to go over the edges, smoothing them for easier contact paper application.
Apply the contact paper
The great thing about the arches is that only one side has to be covered. I opted to wrap the edges to create a more seamless and smooth look.
For the contact paper, I rolled it out and measured the length needed to cover the board, then cut the paper into strips using scissors. I ended up needing four strips (not all of equal widths). When applying, I started with the center piece and covered one side before moving to the next. I left about two inches on the sides, so that the paper could wrap around the edges.
Note: I had issues because I didn’t order enough rolls of contact paper (I didn’t do the math correctly!), and had to wait several days for more to arrive. When in doubt, order more than you think you need. It’s better to have excess to use for other signs or props than to not have enough.
Applying contact paper can be tricky, but my method is to go slowly and to start from the top, going down. I would remove all the backing at once, then slowly apply pressure as I firmed it down to the foam board.
After laying down one strip, I usually left about a cm’s worth of paper to layer for the next strip.
I did not need to use a smoothing tool, but those are great if you come across air bubbles.
Once the contact paper was applied, I went through with packing tape to secure wrapped edges on the other side. This kept the paper taught over the edges and kept it smooth.
And…viola! That’s it! It’s a pretty easy process, especially after you’ve finished one board and move onto the next.
For the big day, I opted to use balloons to decorate the arches, along with a balloon-filled B. They worked as a great photobooth background for the party!