How to Design Your Own Headstone Online: Step-By-Step


The act of designing a headstone may not excite you. However, designing a headstone online can at least remove some of the pressure from your family. 

Browsing online can ensure you find the right provider at a comfortable price. You will also have an easier time choosing the headstone you want.

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Not sure what to expect when you want to design a headstone online? We’ve outlined some steps you can take. Before you go any further, let us put you at ease that you can create an affordable headstone. 

Steps for Designing Your Own Headstone Online

When you design your own headstone online, your experience may differ from what we describe below. However, you should consider the following steps so you’re at least familiar with the process. You can also check out our post about buying a headstone online.

» MORE: An online memorial is a perfect ending to honor and celebrate someone's life. Create one for free.

Step 1: Contact your cemetery of choice

You should consult your cemetery of choice before you get too committed. The last thing you want to do is make a design decision that doesn’t follow the guidelines of your cemetery. 

Of course, you can always look for a cemetery with different, more accommodating guidelines. However, looking for a new location will likely cause you a lot of stress. All that effort to change your plans just to keep a headstone simply wouldn’t make sense. 

Step 2: Think about common design guidelines

Why do guidelines exist for headstones? Should you decide based on the wishes of your late loved one? Common design guidelines for headstones aren’t nearly as restrictive as you may think. Of course, they vary by cemetery. Common guidelines relate to the following:

  • Largest and smallest marker size
  • Materials you can use
  • Photographic materials allowed
  • Edge types
  • Color restrictions

Consult your cemetery for more information. 

Step 3: Think about your must-haves

Now that you’re clear about the design requirements of your cemetery, you can think about the sort of images, phrases, symbols, materials, or general style of the headstone you’d like. This can also help you in the next step — setting your budget. 

Adding a bunch of elements to your headstone may make it more expensive. If you can, prioritize which elements you’d like to see and which ones you want to substitute with a more affordable option. 

You may want to look at sample images for inspiration. You can also visit your local cemetery and take a look at real-life examples rather than what’s on the internet. You should also consider the size and location of your plot and which shape or style will fit best. 

Step 4: Set your budget

Having a better idea of what you want on your headstone will likely give you a good idea of the cost. That said, you can find more affordable alternatives that still feature most, if not all, of the design elements you’d like to see.

Shopping online for a headstone — even with shipping costs — will still save you some money. Though headstones can range in cost from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars, you can find an affordable headstone.

Step 5: Choose a headstone provider

It may take you some time to choose a headstone provider. You can always consult your cemetery to see if it has any specific recommendations. Cemetery personnel might even connect you to a provider that offers discounts or who offers great service.

The provider that’s right for you might also come down to your confidence in designing your headstone online. That being said, if you only want a few things customized or have flexible preferences, you can easily find an affordable headstone from Amazon, for example. 

However, for more unique or custom headstones, your experience will vary. Some providers require you to call and work collaboratively on the design for the majority of the process, whereas others have DIY design tools online. 

If your cemetery doesn’t offer the right recommendations, consider a few others. The following providers offer online ordering and nationwide shipping. Some of these providers even have interactive design tools on their websites to make the process easier. 

  • Signature Headstones: This site offers online design tools as well as free nationwide shipping. Signature Headstones start at $134.
  • Legacy Headstones: Legacy Headstones sells online design tools and offers free shipping. Legacy Headstones start at $129.
  • Nationwide Monuments: Nationwide Monuments offers online design options as well as consults over the phone, nationwide shipping, and payment plans.
  • American Headstones: This site offers plenty of classic design options. You can easily contact American Headstones to request a quote and design advice.

Step 6: Create and order your headstone

Once you’ve chosen the right provider, it’s time to create your headstone and order it. You can also check out these headstone design ideas for inspiration. Your headstone provider should make it easy to see what elements will fit well on the headstone you’ve chosen. However, it’s customary to include the following:

  • The name of the deceased
  • The birthdate of the deceased
  • The death date of the deceased
  • Surviving family member names
  • Religious symbols
  • Prayer
  • Epitaph
  • Decoration elements
  • Photos

If you struggle with any of the messaging on your headstone, it may help you to think long and hard about your loved one. What were some of the things he or she always said? What did he or she value? If no profound or appropriate quotes come to mind, you should check out these headstone inscription ideas

Tips for Saving Money on a Custom Designed Headstone

With every expense that comes along with the memorial process, you may fear that a custom-designed headstone is out of reach. 

However, this isn’t the case! You can certainly plan for the right headstone to properly honor your loved one without going over budget. 

You can accomplish this with a few tips. If all else fails, of course, you can potentially reallocate some of your budget until you’re satisfied. 

Keep it simple

If you know that you have a budget (or a rough idea of one), mitigate your expectations. (A 10-foot monument made of marble and encrusted in gold leaf is out of the question.) 

However, you can find plenty of elegant, affordable headstones that you can design online, especially if you keep it simple. “Simple” may sound boring but can look beautiful and timeless. 

Play around with font designs, spacing, stone types, symbols, and more. You’ll be surprised what a few hundred dollars can create. You can also consult headstone professionals. After all, they’re there to create something custom for you!

Shop around

Another way to help yourself save on custom headstone designs online involves shopping around. Just because a retailer isn’t local to you doesn’t mean that it'll cost more. In fact, many headstone creators offer free shipping and other discounts. Don’t settle on the first place you come across. Furthermore, shopping around will also help you finalize your design plans or find needed inspiration.

Compromise if necessary

As we mentioned before, it’s important to manage your expectations if you know you need to stay within a particular budget. Well, that can sometimes be difficult if you’re making headstone design decisions as a group or among your loved ones.

If one person insists on having an angel added onto the headstone, raising the cost, perhaps a good alternative is to add this element separately on your own time. Or, perhaps, see if an angelic symbol can be engraved instead. 

If any of your ideas (or solutions) are a bit outlandish, you should also check with your cemetery professionals. Some cemeteries have a set of style guidelines or other parameters you’re expected to follow. 

When in doubt, ask

If you need help staying within a given budget when shopping online for a custom headstone, it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask professionals. You can filter your shopping results on some sites so you don’t get carried away. However, you should also ask if a site offers any sort of special discount if you don’t see one advertised.

In addition, you should also talk to other mortuary professionals you’re working with. They might have a good idea of local headstone creators or online retailers that other patrons have used in the past. 

Keep in mind, too, that wanting (or needing) to save money on a custom headstone isn’t something to be ashamed of. After all, your loved one is likely proud you’re trying to be responsible and find the best fit to honor their memory.

Tips for Making Your Custom Headstone Extra Special

If your loved one was extra special to you (which of course they were!) you likely want to make their headstone as unique and captivating as possible, if only through your eyes.

Therefore, you can take the word “custom” as lightly or as seriously as you’d like. Of course, all headstones are custom to an extent, but you can really exercise some creative freedom if you put your mind to it.

Some of the ideas below may seem obvious, but it’s all about where you go with it. Search online for unique headstones and reach out to memorial professionals. You’re bound to find someone who can help you make your dream a reality.


If you can think it, they can engrave it (well, most places). Some headstone creators may have certain limitations for the types of things they can engrave. Or, perhaps, they may only have a set list of imagery for you to choose from. You should also reach out to your cemetery to ensure they don’t have any specific limitations.

If you do run into some roadblocks for what you’d like engraved on your loved one’s headstone, perhaps it means you haven’t talked to the right people yet. There’s bound to be someone out there who can help you achieve the look you’re going for. In this case, don’t rush until you’ve created exactly what you’re envisioning. It’s okay to be particular. 

For example, many headstone creators can engrave larger, more complex images. Whether you want a portrait of your loved one, an image of their favorite place, or the entirety of their favorite poem, not much is out of reach.

Add a vase

Adding a vase instantly elevates a headstone, as you can keep it full year-round with different flowers, plants, and even personal effects or flags. 

You can also make the vase itself a work of art and unique to your loved one. Be sure to connect with the right headstone creator who can help you.

Add other sculptural elements

In addition to vases, you can also add angels, animals, and other sculptural elements to a headstone. Again, it’s important to ask your cemetery if it has any specific limitations. 

Even if you can’t add the exact sculpture you want to the headstone, there are ways of incorporating this imagery with ornaments or engraving. 

Embellish in other ways

Adding stones, metals, medals, paintings, ornaments, flowers, stuffed animals, LED candles, lanterns, and other adornments can help your loved one’s headstone feel special and easy to pick out among the crowd. 

Of course, this can all happen after your initial headstone is designed and ready. But you should certainly talk through some of your ideas with your headstone creator. They may surprise you earlier on in the process with what they can make. 

Designing Your Own Headstone Online: Frequently Asked Questions

When it comes to any sort of service we’re not used to, especially services associated with funerals and memorials, you may have expected questions about death and funeral planning

While designing your own headstone, some of the following questions may come to mind. Before going forward in your design and ordering process, it’s important to understand the details described below. 

Since it’s going to be around for a long, long time, it’s important to ensure that you like the headstone for yourself or if you feel it’ll honor your loved one well. 

How much do custom headstones normally cost?

Naturally, the more custom elements you incorporate in your headstone, the more it will cost (in most cases). Many providers offer baseline designs that have plenty of elements that you can tweak to fit your preferences at no additional cost. 

Most custom headstones start at around $200. Of course, the more simplistic the materials and the design, the less you’ll pay. Larger designs, more expensive materials, and more complex shapes can raise the price to several thousand dollars. 

All this considered, you should take your time to find a design that really speaks to you. It will hopefully survive for your family to enjoy forever. A more affordable headstone doesn’t automatically mean it’s “cheap” or any less special. 

Can you pay for a custom headstone in advance or in installments?

Depending on which provider you go with, you may have the option of paying for your headstone in installments. For example, Nationwide Monuments offer payment plans for headstones and other items on its site.  

Some headstones can cost a lot of money. For security and convenience, payment plans often make more sense than paying in full. Some providers also offer perks like free nationwide delivery. 

Even if you don’t see a clear description or offer of payment plans through your headstone provider, it never hurts to ask. Call the company to fully understand how it can work with you, the policies, and if it offers any additional discounts. 

How does delivery work when you buy a headstone online?

Even if you can buy a headstone right from your local cemetery, you must still transport it to your family’s plot. Shipping a headstone nationwide may sound infinitely more complicated, but these businesses have shipped headstones for decades. 

In fact, many providers ship directly to your cemetery of choice to eliminate any hassle or responsibility on your behalf. Some providers even offer free nationwide shipping. Choosing a provider that takes as much work off of your plate as possible will be well worth it. Headstones are large, heavy, and fragile, even though they last forever once in their final resting place. 

Designing Online Can Save Time, Money, and Hassle

Designing a headstone online may not end up as you originally imagined. However, plenty of companies specialize in these items, so it’s only natural they offer them online. 

Shopping online offers hassle-free convenience, too, and you can shop around on your time until you’ve found the right item. The process of shopping for and designing a headstone online requires the same type of process. 

Remember to follow (or at least consider) the steps in this post. You should have no issues finding and designing a headstone perfect for commemorating your loved one for years to come. 

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