What is Foam Core Board? Everything You Need to Know

What is Foam Core Board? Everything You Need to Know

Foam core board is a versatile, affordable and useful material you have almost certainly seen or worked with at some point. Ideal for school projects, home decorations, framing photographs, and a number of signage options, foam poster board is easy to work with. Foam board signs are highly cost-effective and can be reused. But what is foam board, and how can you make use of it? Read on!

two white foamcore boards

What is Foam Board?

Foam board is one of the most popular types of signage that you’ve probably seen in your local supermarket or in malls but probably never knew the name. PVC foam board is made from a lightweight polystyrene foam core sandwiched between two layers of either white clay-coated paper, cotton archival paper, or common brown Kraft paper.

The resulting foam core board is lightweight, sturdy, and easy to shape. It can be cut cleanly using a sharp utility knife or craft scissors. A picture framing mat-cutter can also be used to cut custom foam board signs into any shape you can imagine. Foam board poster material is widely used in picture-framing as an excellent backing for photographs and prints. Acid-free alpha-cellulose clad boards are one of the best foam boards for picture frames. They last longer and do not leach acids into the artwork.

Teachers frequently use colorful foam core board to create custom classroom displays. Architects and architectural students build demonstration models of their designs using foam board, which can stand stiffly upright when supported by a single edge.

Custom printed foam board is not as sturdy as printing on gatorboard, but it is far less expensive.

Foam Core vs. Foam Board

Technically, the foam core refers strictly to the layer of polystyrene foam at the core of the foam board. The term “foam board” encompasses all three layers that comprise the finished product. However, you will often find foam core and foam board used interchangeably. Foam boards are also known as foam core boards. These terms are synonymous.

foam core zoomed

Uses of Foam Board

The uses of foam board are legion. Trade show displays, lecture visual aids, in-store advertising, presentation demonstrations, architectural model buildings, and model structures of all kinds can all be crafted from foam board. Many businesses make extensive use of foam board signs for events and in-store displays for their customers.

foamboard marketing display


Foam core board is used widely for creating scale models. The material can be cut like paper, yet supports its own weight like cardboard. The smooth surface is ideal for printing or illustrating. The lightweight material can be cut to size and shape for a school project or marketing display.

foamboard window display

Window Displays

If your business displays products in the window, you have a need for foam board signs and material. Foam core board stars, hearts, moons, and other custom shapes catch the eye to advertise sales, demos, and new product launches.

foamboard presentation


Few lectures or presentations are complete without visual aids. The versatility of foam board makes it useful for a wide range of models and visual aids.

foamboard photo tiles

Modern Photo Printing

While foam core board can be used in framing, many photographers prefer the contemporary appeal of printing photographs directly on foam board. There is no frame, glass, or visible mounting to distract from the artwork. Choose from a matte or glossy finish to best suit your project.

man installing insulation panel


Foam core board offers exceptional insulating properties, and is used widely in all manner of construction. Flooring, ceilings, and interior and exterior walls lined with foam board prevent heat and sound from passing through.

package protection

Package Protection

Many companies use custom printed foam board packaging to protect fragile goods in shipment.

trade show booth display

Trade Show Booths

Versatile, lightweight foam board is ideally suited to several creative uses to set your trade show apart. It is used widely for creating custom shapes and structures for the booths, themselves, eye-catching signage and inexpensive giveaways.

Additional uses for custom printed foam board include:

  • Aisle markers
  • Menu boards
  • Notices
  • Advertise sales
  • Product launches
  • Science fair and research projects
  • Photo galleries
  • Lobby décor
  • POP displays
  • Photo booth props
  • Exhibits and kiosks
  • Sets and props
  • Puppet shows
  • Craft projects
  • Party decorations
  • Portable signage and the list goes on…

Advantages of Using Foam Board

If you’re looking for a sturdy material that resists bending and can support its own weight, foam board is ideal. Compared to other types of poster boards, foam board posters have a solid core and are completely rigid. The material lies flat without aid, it can stay straight when propped up or hung and is highly resistant to curling and bending. Foam boards are a better option if you're in search of a hard poster board.

Foam board is also very lightweight and is just a little thicker than other types of poster board. The foam core contributes to virtually no additional weight. Even large foam board projects can easily be erected, moved, or dismantled by an individual working alone.

Foam core board is easily cut into any shape you can imagine with a craft knife. Perfect for holiday messaging and making your signage stand out. You can laminate your foam board for a waterproof finish. Custom-printed foam board can feature glossy, textured, or matte finishes.

Disadvantages of Using Foam Board

Foam board signage is so inexpensive that you can replace it frequently without breaking the bank. And it will need to be replaced if you intend to repeatedly post, remove, and re-post the foam core signs. Although rigid, foam board is susceptible to damage, bending, creasing, and simple wear and tear.

Foam board is best used indoors. It is easily damaged by sunlight and water, and can easily become warped, discolored and distorted if exposed to prolonged UV light.

You won’t be able to hang a foam board in your bathroom or kitchen or anywhere that easily gets damp. Unlike other signage options like Sintra or PVC, foam board will need to be treated with the utmost care.

Foam Board Thickness and Size

There are four standard sizes for foam board prints: 8”x 10”, 16”x 20”, 18” x 24”, and 24”x 36”. Foam boards come in a variety of colors, thicknesses, and sizes. And the thicker the foam board, the more body and rigidity it will have. Whichever thickness you choose, foam board is sturdy and can be customized to any shape or size.

foamboard thickness options

Thickness of Foam Board

1mm and 2mm thick foam boards are the easiest to cut and can be easily hung with a stapler or with holes. This thickness is used for exhibitors or professional photographers to hang picture collage on the wall.

3mm thick foam board is the best option for presentations, lectures or for a mood board. Mood boards used by interior stylists or designers can be created with foam boards. Most retailers use this type of foam board to create attractive displays.

3mm thick foam board is also a budget-friendly option as they can be used for the same applications as a 5mm thick foam board. Because the panels are cheaper, they are also more flexible and easy to cut.

5mm thick foam board is the most common variety. It is widely used for various signage applications, trade shows, and projects.

10mm thick foam board is used to cover larger surface areas. Sizes of 40” x 60” upwards would need a 10 mm thick foam board, due to its greater strength and rigidity. This thickness is less likely to bend and is the best option for exhibition stands, theater performances or photoshoots.

foamboard printing

Foam Board Printing Options

While grammar school kids worldwide cut out pictures to paste onto foam core board, we recommend printing directly onto the substrate for professional results. This makes the finished product smoother and prevents separation and bubbles that can happen when you DIY-paste paper to the board. There are three types of foam core printing:

  • Double-sided foam core printing: Foam board printing allows double-sided printing. This ensures people can read your message from two directions. Hang printed PVC foam board from the ceiling or on a stand for supreme view-ability.
  • Laminated foam board prints: Extending the lifespan of your foam board print can be done by laminating it. Although there’s an extra cost, it gives your print a polished finish and makes it last longer.
  • Heavy duty poster board: To make the board more durable and rigid, you can upgrade from the standard 3/16” core board to ½”foam core board.
foamboard finish options

Foam Board Finishing Options

Foam board prints usually either have a matte or glossy finish. Matte finish is resistant to fingerprints and glare-free. Although matte has a soft, subdued appearance, it can make high-contrast photographs look grainy.

Glossy finishes are more prone to fingerprints and glare but can also repel moisture. The glossy finish is typically used for high contrast- high-saturation photos. It is more eye-catching and aesthetically pleasing, ideal for movie posters, and magazine covers.

foamboard mounting

Foam Board Mounting

Foam board mounting is the method of attaching a photographic image to a foam board for display. This can be achieved with glue, adhesive spray or double-sided adhesive sheets, however, many foam boards come with self-adhesive coatings.

Difference Between “Mounting on Foam Board” and “Printing on Foam Core”

Foam core mounting is when a preprinted image is affixed to a foam board. Foam board poster printing, however, is the result of printing an image or message directly onto a foam core board with the use of high-quality printing machines. You can also mount photos on other similar boards.

With foam core printing, you get vibrant images, extend the lifespan and it allows you to cut the artwork into four sections for display. Directly printing on foam board provides a moisture barrier when the print is laminated. By laminating the print, the chances of warping are reduced, so it can be displayed outdoors and last longer. If the image is mounted onto the board, it can become more susceptible to the outdoor elements.

Now that you know all about foam board, its many uses, and the effectiveness of foam board poster printing, what are your plans? How will you use PVC foam board for your next project? Whether you’re building a creative craft project for the home, engaging signs for your business, or framing photographs, foam poster board is your ingredient to success.

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  1. fred plews
    fred plews

    thank you for this imfo, i have been trying so many diferant places , with no luck, i want foam core sheets for mineture model making, hopeing these places you have mentioned can supply, if not could you please give me alternatives, i live in barnstable,

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