GWP Group

How to use pick & pluck foam inserts for cases

How to use pick & pluck foam inserts for cases

Find out how to get the most from your pick and pluck foam inserts

Whilst GWP Protective focus on creating custom engineered foams that are precisely tailored to specific items, for one-offs and very low volumes pick and pluck foam inserts are a much more cost-effective option.

As with engineered Plastazote, this type of foam can be used to enhance the protection of items stored within the case by adding an enhanced level of cushioning against impact. They can also be used for keeping multiple items organised within a single case.

The foam inserts are manufactured in such a way that the end user of the case can tailor the foam to practically any item, creating a truly bespoke protective case system at considerably lower cost than fully engineered solutions.

This guide will show you how to use pick and pluck foam inserts and therefore get the most out of your protective equipment case.

Pick and Pluck Foam

What is pick and pluck foam?

Before going through the step by step process for creating your perfect pick and pluck foam insert, it is important to first explain what this type of foam is.

Usually, when you purchase a case with the option of pick and pluck, you will receive at least 2 pieces of foam (although it is more for the larger cases).

The bottom or base layer will be a heavier, denser foam that is used to provide cushioning at the bottom the case. This does not need modifying and should be used as supplied.

The upper layers will comprise of what is known as the pick and pluck foam. This foam is “pre-cut” into 1-centimetre cubes, which are still partially joined together.

What this means is that these smaller sections of foam can be removed neatly and easily, allowing for detailed profiles to be created. It also ensures as well as different shapes, different depths can be created in the pick and pluck foam insert.

Excellent results can be achieved if a little time and patience is used with the resulting protection offered by the case being very effective. The below guide provides a step by step “how to” guide on getting the best results from your foam inserts.

Continue reading to find out how to use pick and pluck foam inserts.

Free Guide: 15 crucial considerations for protection

Step by step – creating your tailored foam insert

  • Step 1: Work out the optimum layout

The first stage is to mark out the shape(s) you wish to remove from the foam.

pick and pluck steps

Lay out the items on the foam to work out the best configuration/orientation within the cases (this is particularly important when working with multiple items).

As a rough guide, for light weight items leave a minimum separation of 1/2″ (1.5cm), especially delicate light weight items (e.g. cameras, laptops) the suggested separation is 1″ to 1-1/2″ (2.5cm to 4cm), and for heavier items (with a weight of approximately 10 to 20 lbs.) leave 1-1/2″ to 2″ (4cm to 5cm) of separation.

One other thing to bear in mind is that, for maximum protection, it is also best to keep equipment inside the pre-cut grid area.

  • Step 2: Marking out the profiles

Once you have decided on your preferred layout, it is wise to mark the boundaries of the areas to be removed. Cocktail sticks, toothpicks or pins/needles all work well for the purpose of this.

With the various objects in place, insert the position markers around the object.

When the object you are marking out is halfway between one row of the pre-cut section sections, always choose to go in one row towards the object. This will ensure a much more snug fit and offer greater protection of the items being transported.

Remember to always err on the side of caution. If the space is too small, it is always possible to remove more foam at a later point (as it is obviously a bit harder, although still possible, to put it back in).

  • Step 3: Pre-cutting the foam

While it is not necessarily required, many people find it can be helpful to “pre-cut” the foam before plucking it.

Although it is quite easy and straight forward to remove the pick and pluck foam without doing this, the rows of foam cubes are stuck together quite well and pre-cutting the profiles can eliminate the risk of removing additional sections of foam accidentally.

Always remember to take your time and, if you are careful, you can skip this step if you feel confident enough.

  • Step 4: Picking and Plucking!

With the layout and areas of foam to remove identified, it is now time to start removing the required sections.

To pluck out the foam, simply place your fingers into the gap between the rows you have marked off and with a steady, consistent action begin pushing down and pulling towards you. You should find that the foam begins to separate before breaking off.

It is a good idea to try and remove large sections of foam at a time, as opposed to the individual cubes.

Pick and Pluck foam tutorial

This will provide 2 benefits, firstly saving you time, but will also give you large blocks of foam that you can use elsewhere if required.

It may be possible that you can use some or all of the “excess” foam to improve the fit by re-adding it, as it can be stuck back in with a suitable glue or spray adhesive.

  • Step 5: Testing and Modifying

At this point, you should have well-defined sections cut into the foam for the items that are going to be put into the case. This is a good time to test the fit by placing the items into the relevant sections.

If the cut-out sections are too small you can remove further foam, or if they are too large then you can add some of the excess foam back in as described above.

Pick and Pluck Foam Set

  • Step 6: Enjoy using your new case!

From start to finish, this process should not really take much longer than around 30 minutes.

This does, however, depend entirely on both the complexity of the items you will be storing/transporting in your case, plus the size of the items and the case itself.
As a very rough guide, a quarter of an hour should be about right for a simple, large item, while closer to an hour should be expected for numerous, intricate shapes.

Always remember to take your time, be patient, and you will end up with a foam insert that will offer a great level of protection.

Free Guide: 15 crucial considerations for protection

When should I use custom foam inserts?

The obvious drawback of using pick and pluck foam inserts is the time required to modify the layout. Whilst this is not an issue for one or two cases if you have 5 or more cases it may become impractical – particularly if you are creating complex profiles.

Other drawbacks include the inability to use multiple colours of foam (i.e. for branding or tool control), plus the overall look will not be as professional as custom cut foam. This may be important when used for sales or sample cases that are shown to potential customer for example.

Finally, it must be noted that whilst pick and pluck foam offers good levels of cushioning, this is considerably less than a custom engineered foam insert.

Specialist presentation foam

In fact, it is possible for the custom foam to have exact levels of required protection calculated and designed into the insert. This makes engineered foam more suitable for items which are exceptionally fragile, expensive or important.

Find out more

For further information on all of the foam options available from GWP, or the protective cases that can be selected with pick and pluck foam inserts, please use the links below.



If you found this information interesting / useful, but still have some questions or points you would like to discuss, please get in touch using the form below.

First Name (required)
Last Name (required)
Email (required)

For details of how GWP Group will treat your data, please view our Privacy Policy. Your info will not be shared with any third party.

More Guides & Advice…


Whatever challenges you may face with your packaging, or whatever improvements you are looking to make, these guides can help

Related information… 


Please use the links below for further information related to this guide that you may find interesting / useful

6 signs you need foam inserts
Transit cases - how to decide which is best for your business
The best (waterproof) equipment cases

What’s Happening at GWP?


Catch up on the latest news, events, community projects and more happening at GWP

Free, no obligation advice… 


If you would like to discuss your upcoming requirements, difficulties you are facing or to simply get advice from one our experts, please click below to get in touch.