Saturday, June 30, 2018

DIY Star Wars Tsum Tsum Display - From Insulation Foam!

A few months ago my friend Chris gave me an interesting challenge: find a fun new way to display 10-20 Tsum Tsums in a Star Wars nursery.

This one really kicked my butt, and it took me AGES to think of anything remotely interesting, but at long last, here's what John and I came up with:

It's cute, right?

There's room for at least 10 more Tsums, which is essential since Chris plans to buy more.

 The best part is it's made from pink insulation foam sheets, which are cheap and feather-light. (Find them at any hardware store.) The foam also sands and paints beautifully, though I should warn you getting the edges super smooth is hard, and will take more work & sanding than I put in. Ideally you'll want to put a finish on your display that's meant to look aged or rough. (Or just paint it all flat black; that covers a lot of texture sins.) For a nursery, though, I wanted to keep it bright and clean - and Chris requested the hot pink, which I'm diggin'.

I really like the possibilities here: you could carve different shapes or letters into your square of foam. Spell out a name, or use a simple silhouette like we did. (Mickey head, anyone?)

I'm sure a lot of you can figure this DIY out just from the photo, but let me walk you through it and give you some tips.

[Quick heads up: you will need a scroll saw or handheld jigsaw for this. (Scroll saw is best, since the blade stays straight.) However, it's a great beginner project, since the foam cuts like butter. So if you've got a saw in the garage, give this a try!]

Right. First, print your design full-size. We used the tiling feature on our printer, then taped the pages together to make a template:


 No need to cut the template out; just place the paper on your foam and trace it with a pen or chopstick - anything sharp enough to dent the foam underneath. 

 Bonus judgey Pascal for scale.

 Oh, and make sure you place the design so there's at least an inch or more of foam around the outside edge. Ours is about 18 inches square in total. You can size up or down depending on how many Tsums you want to display. (This size should hold about 20.)

Remove the template, and retrace your lines with a pen so they're easy to see:

Next, we cut!

Tsums are about 2.75 inches long, and I wanted their little heads to stick out, so we made our display 2.5 inches deep. The pink insulation foam comes in several thicknesses up to 1 inch, so we stacked two one-inch pieces and one half-inch. (Our half-inch piece is blue, but it's basically the same stuff.)

 See the three layers?

NOTE: You must use a water-based glue on insulation foam; anything like E-6000 or even hot glue will melt it. Use white craft glue or wood glue instead.

Before you glue your 3 pieces together, though, check your scroll saw blade. If it's like ours and on the short side, then all 3 layers won't fit - you'll have to cut two together and the third separately. (Tedious, I know.) You lucky ducks with a giant 7 inch blade, though, should have no problem cutting the whole stack in one go.

You'll need to drill or poke a hole to get the blade started - standard scroll saw procedure.

Once everything is cut and glued - or glued and cut - sand the edges to smooth them out. Again, if you want them super smooth you're going to need a fair bit of sanding and drywall spackle. I chose to do  the bare minimum, though, and trusted my black paint to cover the worst of it.

I painted the edges first, since those are hardest to reach.

As with the glue, you also must - MUST - use water-based paint. That means no spray-paint, unless it's water-based! Same with the clear coat. Don't assume that just because there are a few layers of paint on there you can top it off with a lacquer; it WILL seep through and melt the foam underneath. Ask us how we know.


Cheap acrylic craft paint is perfect, and if you want a clear coat, Mod Podge worked well for me. Just make sure you have a lot of both; the foam acts like a sponge and really soaks it up.

To hang, drill or poke two holes in the back about an inch deep. Now you can put two nails or screws in the wall, and the whole display will hang flush! (If you use a wire or sawtooth hanger, then it will tip a little - not good for Tsum stacking.)



This is just on my office wall, but at least the blue's not too bad for a background.

And finally, a quick note about durability:  

This foam is not durable

It dents and scratches very easily, and is definitely not meant to be handled. For a wall display it should be fine, but if you're planning on putting it somewhere it could get knocked about, you'll want to make this out of wood instead. Ditto if you plan to put something heavier than Tsums on it.

I hope this inspires some more Tsum Tsum displays out there! And as always, if you do make your own please share pics with me on Facebook, or tag me on Instagram - I wanna see.


 Stay tuned for updates from our big house renovation, plus we've got SuperCon the weekend of the 12th coming up in Fort Lauderdale - see some of you there?


P.S. If you liked this, then I bet you'll love our Death Star Funko Pop shelf! Or, for more DIY goodies, check out my Craft Page with over 150 different projects and tutorials.


  1. Just a thought - if you wanted to keep it light and make it a little more durable, could you glue a thin layer of wood to it? I've got some I used to make my son's growth chart, and a fireplace cover, and a organization board that is about 1/8" thick. It'd make it a little heavier, but not too much so.

    1. Yes! Oooh, I like this idea! They sell thin sheets of Balsa wood that you can even cut with scissors, so you could clad the whole thing in slightly-more-durable and definitely smoother wood paneling! Which you could even stain so it looks like the whole thing is solid wood!

      ::shouting:: JOHN! WE NEED TO MAKE ANOTHER ONE. :D

    2. Balsa on top was my first thought too when I saw the layering. ^_^ I love that stuff.

  2. Did you try a layer of gesso on it? Water based, can be used to smooth out imperfections, and the foam won't soak up your craft paints after.

  3. Ooooh, cool tutorial! Now if only I had any Tsums...

  4. I'm not sure if you could of, but would it of been possible to seal the foam before painting with spray on plasticote? I know that stuff works on the craft foam to seal it for painting

    1. As long as it's water-based, sure! I didn't mind using lots of paint since it's just the cheap craft stuff, but anything that might smooth out the edges better is worth a try.

  5. We LOVE it, and you guys for creating something so special for our new "bootleg kid" - thank you so much!

  6. You guys are so creative! I could see a bunch of these with different cutouts for a whole Tsum Room.

    Also, I never thought of Darth Vader as adorable -- until I saw a Darth Tsum. :)


  7. Fantastic tutorial, as usual. And I'll be at SuperCon also...just the one here in Raleigh on the weekend on the 27-29, not the one in FL. But have fun at yours! (I here Cary Elwes is going to be at the FL one....inconceivable!)


    1. I will also be at Florida SuperCon. Cary Elwes will actually be at Tampa Bay Comic Con.

  8. It looks great! I would be worried that the depth would cause instability as you piled more of the Tsum Tsums on it, especially if you wanted to pull one out of the middle, so I'd probably go 4" deep myself. If the collection isn't themed you could do their initial. Which makes me remember they make wire initials that go on the wall to collect wine corks in, wonder if you could stack two and wire them together for a small collection.

  9. That is awesome. Did you see the one from Ikea bag holders on reddit?

  10. I need more Tsums and a cool design/shape for multiple Disney sub-categories of them! (Disney, Pixar, Star Wars, Marvel...)

  11. OMG Darth Vader Tsum Tsum :D

  12. I have a bunch of the vinyl tsums and right now they are just stacked in a Tupperware type organizer acting like bookends but I love this! Now I gotta pick a shapeeeee...

  13. A note on working with pink/blue board: if you plan on painting it, you must do so on the side that does NOT have print on it. (The print is, however, on a thin film that can be peeled off, though that can rough up the surface a tad.) The print will bleed through almost all paints. (Found this out doing set construction with a local community theatre. We used insulation board for woodwork on play sets. It takes the special blades to make different style trims, for example, like a dream.)

    PS: I had no idea what a Tsum was until I saw them here... I think I'm going to have to pass on them. They are kinda creepy. LOL

  14. So many idea possibilities! Really looking forward to more house updates - we're now homeowners with a Great Jumbo Project House on our hands. Gulp. (but your painting demo was already super helpful!)

  15. I don't actually know that this will work, but you might want to consider "Pledge® Floor Care Tile & Vinyl Floor Finish with Future Shine" (UPC number 46500 00182 , SC Johnson product number 741321), also known as "Pledge® Floor Care Multi-Surface Finish". It's used by fine-scale modelers to put a gloss on plastic airplane canopies and as a clear-coat. It is acrylic -- it's used with an airbrush, so you'd need an airbrush. But it does put on a really nice, even protective coat.


Please be respectful when commenting; dissenting opinions are great, but personal attacks or hateful remarks will be removed. Also, including a link? Then here's your html cheat sheet: <a href="LINK ADDRESS">YOUR TEXT</a>