Unique Pumpkin Painting Ideas

There’s a chill in the air, the days are getting shorter, Halloween decorations have been out in stores since summer started and there’s pumpkin-flavored-everything all around! That can only mean one thing: Fall has arrived! And what better way to start the season than with some painted pumpkins! I’ll show you several pumpkin painting ideas using three different painting techniques. Let’s get started!


What Kind of Paint to Use on Pumpkins

You can use several different types of paint on pumpkins, but the key to making it stick to the surface and look great is: GESSO! Gesso is a primer that is used to cover the pumpkin so that the paint has a surface to stick to. It also makes your paint colors appear brighter than if you were to just paint directly on the pumpkin. Tip: when painting with kids, you can skip the gesso part altogether (the pumpkins will still look great painted with their favorite colors and they don’t care if the colors “pop!”) OR you can gesso the pumpkins ahead of time so that they’re ready to go.

Acrylic craft paint (such as DecoArt) works great as an all-purpose paint and is non-toxic, so it’s safe to use with kids. Just be aware that it is not washable, so you’ll need to protect your surface and wipe up spills immediately. If it gets onto clothing, wash immediately or just wear an apron or painting clothes.

Spray paint is great for giving your painted pumpkins a unique look from faux marbling to stenciling or even directly spraying onto the pumpkin. Just be sure when using spray paint to wear a mask or use outdoors or in a well-ventilated area.

Paint pens are another type of paint to use on pumpkins. These are perfect for adding drips and fine details that are more difficult to achieve with a paint brush.

How to Paint a Pumpkin

It’s a good idea to start off looking around your home or everyday environment for painting pumpkin ideas. Do you have a favorite food, hobby or interest? Favorite color, sports team, or holiday other than Halloween? Start with a theme, gather some photos or real-life items for inspiration and pick your colors. In this case, we’re going to paint some donuts! Flat and/or mini pumpkins work the best, but you can apply this look onto any size or shaped pumpkin!

Once you’ve gathered your materials, give your pumpkin a light coat of gesso with a sponge brush. Because the pumpkin is smooth and non-porous, it will be a little difficult to get the gesso to spread evenly onto the surface. Pounce or sponge the paint onto the pumpkin rather than using broad strokes. It’s not necessary to paint the bottom of the pumpkin; just paint over any orange you can see when on display. When dry, you may add a second coat of gesso, again pouncing with a sponge brush, and let that dry, however a second coat is not absolutely necessary.

Paint on your base color (the top of the donut and the inside circle or “cake” part of the donut) with a bristle brush and let dry. The surface of the pumpkin will be a little bit rough due to the gesso, so a sponge brush will catch on the fine bumps (or “tooth”) and will not make for a pleasant painting experience! The bristle brush will also allow your paint to go on smoothly and will not soak up all your paint like a sponge brush. A second coat is not usually necessary with the exception of transparent paints (some colors are just more transparent than others, you just have to test them out). Also, sometimes the brush doesn’t get all the way in the grooves of the pumpkin and you’ll notice a little bit of the white gesso peeking out. Just go over those spots with a few light strokes, and really scrub the brush into the crevices to get full coverage.

Add on details (rainbow sprinkles!) with paint pens or a fine detail brush and paint. Be careful not to press too hard with the paint pen, or you might remove the paint layer underneath.

More Pumpkin Painting Ideas

Paint a layer of black paint onto your gessoed pumpkin. Be sure the gesso is dry or you’ll end up with a grey pumpkin!

Once dry, use the medium and fine point paint pens to add your doodles. Start with the medium point pen to draw in the main lines. Then go in with the fine point to accentuate the design and add fine details.

Now you have a beautiful, lace-inspired pumpkin and all it took was one coat of paint and one color paint pen! It’s simple but beautiful.

Faux marbling with spray paint is an easy technique yet the results look spectacular. It gives your pumpkin a mottled, textured look. Simply paint your gessoed pumpkin with white paint and let dry.

Then fill a medium, plastic storage container with water. Spray the paint onto the surface of the water and quickly (but gently) take your pumpkin and swirl it over the surface to “collect” the paint onto the surface of the pumpkin. You’ll see the skin of the paint on the water break as you dip the pumpkin in the water. Spray another color and dip another pumpkin.

You may get some bits of paint from the previous color, but that only adds to the unique pattern. If you don’t want multiple colors, use separate bins of water or change water between colors.

Drip painting is also a fun alternative to painting pumpkins and requires absolutely no artistic experience! Simply squeeze paint right out of the bottle onto your pumpkin and watch the colors ooze and drip down the sides.

As long as you don’t move the pumpkin or touch the paint until it dries, the colors will stay magically separate and you get a colorful, abstract look! Drips can also look creepy when you use red paint over a black, painted pumpkin.

I hope you’re inspired to try some of these techniques or come up with some painted pumpkin ideas of your own! Happy painting and Happy Halloween!