What am I talking about? (Styrofoam ? sheets)

In my spare time, I paint on old, distressed clothing, which I want to look as if it’s just that, clothing, hanging on a hanger, but with artwork on it. The painted section should look as if it’s hanging perfectly flat, so I’ve been backing my paintings with foamboard, attached with spray adhesive, which works.

It works a little too well, is my problem, is my problem though: the part I want to look flat looks TOO flat, mainly because I’ve been cutting foamboard to fit the size, and the foamboard is just too stiff. I want something with more give in it, but which will still make the section it’s backing to lay flat.

I was thinking of ordering some sheets of styrofoam–but is ‘styrofoam’ what I’m thinking of? If it is styrofoam (or even if it isn’t) where I do get some? Art stores around here don’t seem to have it–maybe a packing-supply company? Lowe’s? Home Depot? Which department? Mainly, I need to know what I’m trying to describe (I’m thinking this stuff probably comes on a roll, it’s maybe a half to 3/4ths of an inch thick, maybe a yard wide) and where to buy some quantities.

polyurethane foam sheets are what you might want. it is an industrial material used as cushioning, insulation.

Sheet styrofoam has a tendency to warp in my experience. Perhaps poster board would work.

Not sure exactly what you need, but you could probably find it in an art supply store, or perhaps in a hobby store.

How about some thick canvas? Cut up a tote bag if you want to do a quick test.

There is a foam store near me that sells a wide variety of densities and compositions. I happen to live in a very large city so you may not have the option I do. I would try the old Google fu

Foam store plus zip code

Happy hunting


Styrofoam is a trademark, I think. The generic term is expanded polystyrene. This is the stuff of insulated disposable coffee cups. It is typically either formed in molds to net shape, or made in large (really big, many feet on a side) blocks which are then sliced with a heated wire (think cheese cutter) to create sheets for utility use. The hot wire creates a thin melted layer which shrinks slightly as it cools, tending to warp the sheet. In most cases the sheet can be made to stay fairly flat by sanding off some of the outer layer on the concave side. Note that a hot wire can’t be used to do this, because it re-creates the problem you are trying to fix. Very coarse sand paper with minimal pressure works best, and don’t expect any sort of smooth finish. Another way (I have heard of, but never tried) is using a heat gun to add more tensile stress to the convex side.

Glue: 3M-77 spray contact adhesive works well for laminating, and does not attack the foam. The difficulty is getting things lined up as you bring them into contact. You get no second chances.

The soft foam used for seat cushions is usually polyurethane. Don’t know much about working with that.

I’ve got another idea. Use a piece of cloth backing and sew it with a few stitches to the back/inside of the part you are painting. It allows you to secure certain wrinkles or folds for a 3 D effect, by sewing those to the backing fabric as well.
Now, the backing fabric should be thin to allow for easy sewing.

Then…buy a sheet of iron-on backing. It is a kind of thin sheet of fiber impregnated with a kind of glue to give fabric a stiffness, but not too much stiffness. It is used to give parts of clothing shape and stiffness, like waistbands. I don’t know the English word for it, sorry.
It is perfect for your purpose. Apply the backing to the back of the fabric.

That stuff is cheap, can be cut to size with a scissor, and you can get at at any store that sells sewing supplies.


Jo-Ann also has various thicknesses of flexible foam


Yes, that is it, thanks!

Home Depot carries 4’x8’x1" sheets of rigid styrofoam insulation. It’s got an aluminum foil layer bonded to both sides that might be problematic for you, though.

I’ll check it out–I’ve got a HD a block away. Thanks

I think you have a few options but Styrofoam is not one of them as it is too stiff and will not bend much without breaking.

Polyurethane foam is a fine one.

You might check out carpeting and padding for placing under it. Some of those things are pretty stiff, and certainly durable, and pretty cheap and available. You can probably feel examples at any large DIY store like Home Depot.

Got to be light–I hang the finished product on a wall.

To the OP: Would you mind posting a link to some of your work? Sounds interesting!

Sure–I’ve got a website, but that has my real name attached to it. (I can just imagine what will happen once the snarkpit gets a hold of that.) Let me figure out how I can pull a few images off that to post here w/o giving up personal info.

While you’re there, check out foam underlayment. Many of these are online only but they will have some type in the store. Some of them are very cheap, if they work.

HeyHomie, I sent you a PM about my painting website.

Fubaya, some of those underlay things seem kinda thin–like 1/10th of an inch thick. Don’t know if that will support the cloth, even with good adhesive. But I’ll check it out in HD, thanks.