Tips For How to Paint a Pumpkin

Pumpkins are a fall staple, and from early September through Thanksgiving, we adorn our homes with them in as many ways as possible. Carving pumpkins may be the classic method, but painting pumpkins has become an equally popular way to decorate the gourds for Halloween. While pumpkin painting requires some DIY skills, it also creates lasting seasonal decor that won’t rot away at the first sign of a fall breeze.

For anyone wondering how to paint a pumpkin or what kind of paint to use for pumpkins, we did some research so you can create the ultimate painted design ahead of Halloween. Bright hues, intricate patterns, hilarious themes — with something as customizable as painted pumpkins, you can try as many different paint designs in as many colors as you’d like. The possibilities are truly endless.

Before you embark on your own pumpkin-painting adventure, there are a few things to keep in mind so this process doesn’t get too messy. For one, choosing the best paint for pumpkins is crucial if you want your designs to make it past Halloween and well into Thanksgiving. There are also other steps to consider, including priming the pumpkin surface and sealing your design once it’s all done. But no worries — we’ve got you covered with a rundown of all the need-to-know things about pumpkin art and selecting the best paint for pumpkins. Be sure to read through the tips ahead to create a stunning painted pumpkin that will last.

Additional reporting by Lauren Harano, Melissa Santoyo, and Chanel Vargas

1. How to Paint a Pumpkin: Choose the Right Pumpkin

Whether your pumpkin is store-bought or you grew a pumpkin yourself, the perfect paintable pumpkin will be one without blemishes, particularly without any rotten spots. Having an idea of how you want to paint the pumpkin can also be helpful in choosing the shape of your gourd. If you want to incorporate some warts or other features into your design, go ahead. Otherwise, it’s important to look for a pumpkin with shallow ribbing to give yourself an easier surface to paint on.

2. How to Paint a Pumpkin: Prep Your Pumpkin

Before you jump right into painting your pumpkin, you should prepare the surface by washing your pumpkin. Wipe it down with a sanitizing wipe or with a soft cloth and some mild soap. This helps to remove dirt and grime to give you a clean surface to paint on, and it also removes bacteria that might speed up the rotting process.

3. How to Paint a Pumpkin: Seal Your Pumpkin

Sealing your pumpkin before you paint it is optional, but it helps to prevent peeling and creates a better surface for the paint to adhere to. Choose an aerosol or brush sealant and cover your pumpkin in a thin layer of the product. Because the pumpkin is round, you may have to spray one half with the sealant and wait for it to dry before spraying the other half. It won’t necessarily preserve the pumpkin itself, but it can help with paint application.

4. How to Paint a Pumpkin: What Kind of Paint to Use For Pumpkins

The best paint for pumpkins depends on a couple of factors. If you’re painting pumpkins with kids, choose a washable paint so you don’t have to worry too much about the mess. If it’s just adults, acrylic or spray paint are the best paints for pumpkins as they won’t crack. You can also use puff paint for certain detailed painting, such as creating a lacy effect. If you’re feeling extra creative, you can even break out the chalkboard paint to create something a little different.

5. How to Paint a Pumpkin: What Kind of Brushes to Use For Pumpkins

While pumpkins can be pretty sturdy, their skin can be easily damaged if you’re not careful. When painting a pumpkin, you’ll want to avoid hard, bristly brushes. Opt instead for sponge brushes and brushes with softer bristles so you don’t damage the skin or scratch your pumpkin. If your pumpkin is already pretty rough, though, bristly brushes might be best.

6. How to Paint a Pumpkin: Plan Your Design

Now that all the prep work is done, you should consider how to paint a pumpkin. Some people prefer to be spontaneous with their decorating, while others like to have a plan figured out before they start. Whatever your style is, you should have a general idea of how you’re going to paint your pumpkin, as having a plan can help you execute the perfect design. Trace your design on your pumpkin first with a pencil, or you can even use a creative pre-designed stencil as the outline.

7. How to Paint a Pumpkin: Add Your Finishing Touches

Once you’ve applied the paint, your pumpkin may look complete, but it’s important to consider any finishing touches that could take your design from spooky to spooktacular. For instance, you may want to add a second layer of paint to emphasize certain details on your pumpkin, and a second layer of sealant could help to preserve your work even longer. If you’re feeling especially crafty, you can even break out the carving tools to etch the paint for a cool 3D effect, or get creative with the hot glue gun and add a pair of googly eyes.

Once you’re satisfied with your design, pick a spot for all of your friends and family to see and put that pumpkin on display all season long.