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How to Make a Face-in-Hole Board

These boards are always popular at events, and make for great photo ops! This one was recently made for a Vacation Bible School event. Although we no longer offer it as part of our rental inventory, it is a popular post so I am keeping up just to help out all the DIY face in hole board-makers out there. Here’s how it was made:


  • 1 large wooden board – I used 4×4 plywood from Home Depot
  • Primer (water-based)
  • Acrylic paint – I used Folkart from the craft store
  • Paintbrushes for acrylic paints – get good ones; they matter
  • A topcoat spray – I used Rustoleum Clear Enamel
  • Sandpaper
  • A jigsaw or other small power saw
  • Two hinges and 2×4’s for the stand (thinner boards are also good, but that’s what I had)
  • Chain to attach the legs of the stand to the board, so that they can’t slide out from under it

Before starting, I watched some useful videos on the internet. Google is your friend!

I cut the holes in the board first. I outlined a real face on paper to get the right size and shape – if your holes are too round and not oval enough, the board will not have the desired effect.

Next, I sanded the board – especially the holes – and primed it.

Drawing the robots was a challenge. If you’re not a great artist, one possibility is printing them out using the Adobe multiple page feature (where the printer prints one image over multiple pages and then you stick them together into one largei mage), and then tracing. I use Woodcraft Carbon Transfer Paper in the extra large size (you can buy it here). But it’s hard to get the pictures exactly the right size on such a large surface, and works better for intricate images, like lettering. These robots are just made of simple shapes – circles and squares. It’s easy to draw straight lines with any straight edge, and you can trace anything round to get a circle – a plate, bucket, garbage can lid, whatever. *Tip – if you need to freehand it, rest your arm or wrist on the surface for support when drawing and you will have more control.

After drawing them in pencil, I went over the pencil with a paint marker. Paint markers are really useful for outlining shapes if you don’t have enough skill with a brush to create smooth lines.

Painting is the fun part. Anyone can paint simple shapes. For some simple online painting lessons, totally free, check out the Art Sherpa.

I decided to paint the background first in yellow – to make it like an alien sky – but not to paint too much yellow where the robots were drawn. Not sure why, but sometimes, even with enough drying time, painting one acrylic over another can cause either too much blending or lack of coverage. I didn’t want to deal with that problem on a 4×4 scale.

I really wanted them to be more 3-dimensional and not too childish looking, so I spent time shading the shapes and adding details.

Metallic paint was used on the round robot, and gave it cool, realistic look. When using metallic paint you have to dry brush it. It’s already liquidy, and if you get your brush wet, it makes it too watery.

I wanted to add shadows to the robots and give the smaller one arms, but ran out of time. Oh well.

I painted the back side with white Rustoleum Enamel. It’s a great choice for this because it creates a weather-proof surface that is smooth to the touch, eliminates splinters, and will hold up to a lot of kids’ hands.

When the paint was dry, I sprayed the whole thing with about 4 (thin) coats of Rustoleum Clear Enamel to help protect and preserve it.

Last, I lined the face holes with felt so that there would be no chance of splinters. I just Gorilla-glued it on, and it hasn’t come off yet after several uses.

Then I just screwed the legs and hinges onto the board and added chains at the bottom to make sure they stay and can’t be kicked out from under.

The finished product: