The right pumpkin painting ideas can turn your Halloween into a frightening spectacle, or a chic setup that complements your interior design scheme.
Pumpkin carving tends to get all the fanfare around October 31, but there are a lot of advantages to painting pumpkins. For one, you don’t have to clean out the inside of the pumpkin, so there’s less mess. Plus, pumpkins that haven’t been carved last longer, so you can enjoy the fruits of your crafting longer. Paint also offers a better chance to get creative with your Halloween decorating ideas, since the options for color and pattern are endless.
While the key to a beautifully painted pumpkin is the right inspiration, like when considering pumpkin carving ideas, it’s also about choosing the right pumpkin, something that won’t rot out before the trick-or-treaters arrive.
‘Avoid supermarket pumpkins and find a local farm, the pumpkins tend to be much bigger from farms,’ says pumpkin artist Jamie Jones (opens in new tab). ‘And always try and find a pumpkin with a long firm stem, a soft stem is a sign the pumpkin is starting to rot or has a fungus infection and won’t last very long.’
It’s equally important to clean your pumpkin prior to painting, which can be done with soapy water and a sponge.
Once your pumpkin is prepped, it’s time to get out the paintbrush for some of our favorite easy, no-carve pumpkin ideas.
Pumpkin painting ideas
‘Painting pumpkins is one of the easiest and most satisfying Halloween craft ideas,’ says Jo Bailey, stylist and Homes & Gardens‘ Deputy Editor. ‘Whether your pumpkin is part of your Halloween porch decor, or will take a seat at your Halloween table, these ideas will help you set a vision for your squash.’
1. Paint black-and-white stripes
If you prefer your outdoor Halloween decor to be on the restrained side, it doesn’t get more chic or classic than black-and-white stripes. To get this look, paint alternating colors between the ribs of the pumpkins, and finish off with gold spray paint on the stem, and a coat of high-gloss lacquer.
Want to enjoy your hard work for years to come? Paint ceramic or foam pumpkins instead. Choose a color scheme that will match your fall planter ideas for a perfectly coordinated look.
When should you put your pumpkins out? ‘Received wisdom is that pumpkins kept outside can last a good couple of months,’ says Rachel Crow, Homes & Gardens‘ Gardens Editor. ‘So you really can put pumpkins out as fall starts, the decorate them for Halloween in the days running up to the celebrations.’
2. Go for a coastal look
If you’re keeping your pumpkins inside, paint them to match your decor. If it’s a coastal look you’re after, for example, try varying shades of blue, white and copper. If your style is more modern, paint them in a metallic shade, or go for a monochrome look with all black.
‘Pumpkins make for fantastic Halloween table decor,’ says Jo Bailey. ‘However, they don’t last much more than a week to a few days indoors. Leave them in a heated room non-stop and you’ll soon be looking for ways to get rid of fruit flies. What I tend to do is leave mine on my porch, then bring them in when I’m entertaining to decorate the house.’
3. Paint on a spider web
For a detailed design, skip the paint brush and grab a paint pen, instead. Copy the spider web look, above, by drawing a line halfway down each ridge in the pumpkin, then connecting the ridge with a series of curved lines.
You can buy acrylic pumpkin painting pens from Amazon (opens in new tab).
It doesn’t get much easier than these metallic-painted pumpkins. All it takes to create this sophisticated, shimmering look is a can of spray paint (or two if you want to mix up the metallic hues).
‘I love this as a way to elevate Halloween decor. It’s subtle, but still festive,’ says Sarah Spiteri, Homes & Gardens‘ Editorial Director. ‘To do it yourself, tip your pumpkin on its side, and spray paint the exposed areas. When the first side is dry, flip it over and spray the other side.’
Be sure to spray paint outdoors, in a well ventilated area.
5. Try an ombre look
Blogger and stylist Dana Fox (opens in new tab) used an ordinary household item – nail polish – to transform this pumpkin into a chic centerpiece (or the perfect porch accent to complement Halloween door decor).
Fox started by painting the entire pumpkin with white latex paint, then used the polish to add an abstract gray design at the bottom.
6. Stencil your pumpkins
For more complicated patterns, like this vine look, or the Chinoiserie styles that have been popular on social media, grab a stencil.
Tape the stencil to your pumpkin, and use a foam brush to fill in the design with paint. Move the stencil around the pumpkin until its patterned to your liking (just be sure the paint is dry before moving the stencil, or you’ll wind up with a mess).
Amazon sells a vast range of pumpkin stencils (opens in new tab), from contemporary and comedic to more elegant, like the ones above.
7. Create a creepy crawler
For a creative-but-creepy painted pumpkin idea, try turning your pumpkins into spiders. ‘To get the look, use a stencil to trace two eyes onto your pumpkin (or draw them freehand, if you’re artistic). Then paint your entire pumpkin and stem black, except for the eyes,’ says Jennifer Ebert, Homes & Gardens‘ Deputy Editor (Digital).
‘When the black paint dries, paint the eyes white, and add a black dot for the iris. Spray it with a coat of glossy lacquer to make the design last longer.
‘Finally, hot glue or staple eight giant pipe cleaners (you can find black pipe cleaners at Amazon (opens in new tab)) to the sides of the pumpkin to act as legs.’
8. Get Inspired by the Day of the Dead
Instead of Halloween, look to Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, for inspiration. Dia de los Muertos takes place November 1-2, and is celebrated with colorful skulls, like the design above, that make the perfect muse for a painted Jack-o-lantern.
9. Get cozy with a plaid pumpkin
We love this look for a smart interior. To create a buffalo check pumpkin, start with one shade of white paint, and one shade of blue. Then, mix the two colors together to create a third shade, which you’ll use as the ‘overlap’ areas of your check (the medium shade of blue, above).
Then, draw a grid on your pumpkin, and fill in accordingly.
10. Decoupage your pumpkins
For another pumpkin painting idea that’s not exactly paint, but achieves a similar effect, try decoupage. With some decoupage glue, plus fabric scraps, pressed flowers, stickers or decals, you can create a one-of-a-kind design. Amazon’s basic decoupage kit (opens in new tab) will be useful to get you started.
What paint should you use on pumpkins?
The best paint for pumpkins will stay put whether they’re indoors or out.
‘I always choose an acrylic paint for craft projects like painting pumpkins,’ says Pippa Blenkinsop, Homes & Gardens’ stylist. ‘It’s easy to work with and it lasts.’
If you’re going for all-over color, though, grab the spray paint. It’s quicker, and it won’t leave behind brush strokes.
How do you prepare pumpkins for paint?
To ensure that your paint sticks to your pumpkin, it’s important to prepare them first. To do so, give them a wipe down with a cloth and some soapy water. Scrub any stubborn dirt spots or mud with a stiff cleaning brush or an old toothbrush, then wipe them down once more, and pat to dry. Preserving a pumpkin in vinegar first is a good way to extend its life.