HOLIDAY DIY: Dia de los Muertos Coffin

For Dia de los Muertos, coffins and flowers are common. The two day festival celebrates the lives of the departed. For this tutorial, I altered a dollar store Halloween coffin, into a Dia de los Muertos coffin. This is suitable for filling with treats, little toys, skulls, skeletons, or creating a mini shrine. In this tutorial you will learn how to make a faux wood grain, that you can use on many paper projects.  For Dia de los Muertos projects, I normally use marigolds, a flower thought to attract souls back to Earth. I changed it up and used roses instead. Onto the tutorial.

  • 1 Paper coffin - I bought mine from Dollar Tree, for $1. These nesting coffins would work well too
  • Tissue paper - I buy big packs of tissue paper from Dollar Tree. White or pastel would work best for this project
  • Scissors
  • Acrylic paint - I used black, brown, bright green, and red
  • Paint brushes - You need a small flat brush (soft, but stiff), a small detail brush, and a small flat stiff bristle brush
  • Small paper roses - I got mine from Michael's. These from Amazon will work too.
  • Fine glitter in black and red
  • Mod Podge Matte
  • Mod Podge Gloss
  • E6000 Glue
  • Paper plates - For paint and glitter
  • Wax paper
  • Paper towels - For cleaning brushes and any messes
  • A cup of water - For cleaning brushes after glue and in between paint colors


1) Cover your work surface in wax paper. This will protect it from glue, paint and glitter.

2) Tear a sheet of tissue paper into small pieces, about 1-2 inches large. Cut half of another sheet into 1/2 wide strips.

3) Using the flat paint brush, brush on the Mod Podge Matte in sections. Cover the section with torn pieces of tissue paper. Brush more Mod Podge Matte over the tissue paper, to seal it. Cover the both coffin pieces inside and out with Mod Podge Matte and tissue paper. Try to smooth out the paper as best as possible. There will be some creasing, and that is ok. Let the coffin dry completely before moving on.

4) The strips of tissue paper will mimic wood boards. Working in rows, like wood boards would lay, apply the Mod Podge Matte and strips in butting rows. Do this to the outside of the box. The top and bottom should be going vertical. The sides should wrap around horizontal. Seal the tissue paper with more Mod Podge Matte. Let dry completely before moving on.

5) Pour black paint onto a plate. Paint the inside and outside of the coffin black. Give it a couple coats, for even coverage.

6) Now for the wood grain. Pour some brown paint onto your plate. Dip your stiff bristle paint brush into the paint. Starting on the lid, drag your brush from the top to the bottom, creating streaks vs even coverage. Repeat this for the full lid, and the bottom of the coffin, adding more paint to the brush as needed. Set aside to dry for a few minutes.

7) For the sides of the lid and coffin, drag the paint brush horizontally, so the "wood grain" wraps around the sides. Set aside to completely dry.

8) Seal the box with Mod Podge Matte and the soft flat paintbrush. Let dry completely before touching again.

9) For the vines, I mixed an olive green paint by adding a little black to bright green. I used a small detail brush to paint on swirling vines and leaves. I let that dry completely. Then, went back with bright green and added highlights to the vines and leaves.

10) With black and red paints and the small detail brush, I painted buds along the vines.

11) The roses I purchased were in black and greys. I painted the grey ones red using red paint and the detail brush. If you are painting your flowers, make sure to get into all the crevices of the petals and the back, leaving the center of the back unpainted. This will make gluing it easier later.

12) Time for glitter. I recommend covering your work surface with paper towels and working over a thin paper plate. Using Mod Podge Gloss and the small detail brush, coat a rose completely, making sure to get into the crevices and the back, leaving that small back center alone. Heavily sprinkle matching glitter onto the wet glue on the rose. Make sure to get into all the crevices and the back. Repeat this for all the roses and buds that use the same color glitter.

13) Fold the plate in half, tapping the glitter towards the fold. Carefully pour the glitter back into the glitter container.

14) Clean up your work surface by washing your brush, and replacing the paper plate and paper towels.

REPEAT STEPS 12 and 13 for the remaining roses and buds using the other color of glitter. Throw away the used paper plates and paper towels. Clean your work surface of glitter the best you can.

15) After the roses and buds have completely dried, seal them with an even coat of Mod Podge Gloss using the detail brush. Let them completely dry before moving on.

16) Lay out the roses on the coffin lid. Use a little E6000 on the back of each rose to secure it to the lid. E6000 takes 72 hours to fully cure, but will be stiff enough after about 2 hours.

Fill your coffin with treats, a skeleton, or sugar skulls. Give it to a friend or loved one as a gift. You can add more sparkle by using flat back stones on the outside. You can turn the inside onto a shrine with photos of passed loved ones and things they liked. I'll likely display mine with my other two decorative boxes, a Dia de los Muertos Heart and an Anatomical Heart. You can paint other designs and play with colors for different wood grain effects...weathered, worn paint, white wash...whatever you want. Happy Makery!


  1. This would make great party favors. My boys would think these are so cool.

  2. What a fun craft! I have never crafted for Dia de los Muertos before but now I have the perfect inspiration to start!

  3. Very nice, I love all the creativity that goes into Dia de los Muertos.


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