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A view from above of kids painting pumpkins on a black table.
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Create Your Masterpiece! Nine Creative Pumpkin Painting Ideas for Halloween

Once the kids return to school, it’s time to prepare for one of the next big events on the fall calendar—Halloween! Carving jack-o’-lanterns is a time-honored tradition come this time of year, but it’s one that may have you wondering whether your kids are too young to participate safely. Here’s a solution: Round up some craft paint and brushes and let them get creative by adding spooky seasonal designs to those gourds.

Pumpkins are an excellent canvas on which to unleash your kids’ unique artistic talents, and there are many pumpkin painting ideas to take inspiration from. Painting pumpkins is also a safe activity that requires minimal cleanup. Your kids’ jack-o’-lanterns can be part of your fall décor until Thanksgiving if you like, and because they don’t require carving, painted pumpkins will last for weeks instead of a couple of days.

So why not do something different with the family this Halloween and give pumpkin painting a try? The big question here is not how to paint a pumpkin but what to paint on your pumpkin. Let’s get started!

Pumpkin Painting Prep

Before starting on pumpkin painting designs, let’s look at the best ways to prep your pumpkins for painting success. Kids can participate in most stages.

  1. Choose the right pumpkins: When you head to the market or farm with your kids to pick out your gourds, look for ones with smooth, even surfaces without any apparent cuts, soft spots, or insect damage. Pumpkins that don’t have deep grooves are easier to paint. Also, ensure that their shape is balanced and the pumpkins will stand upright on their own.

    Remember to think about the presentation. For variety, you can select different sizes or add butternut squash or a white pumpkin to the mix. If you’d like something more permanent, buy paintable faux pumpkins from your local craft store that your young artists can reuse and repurpose. Then they can save ones with their favorite designs and take them out every year. If they’re ready for something new, they can paint over the reusable pumpkin with a fresh design.
  2. Clean them well: Once you bring the pumpkins home, you and your kids should remove any dirt or soil with a damp paper towel or baby wipe. Avoid using any abrasive cleaning supplies that could damage the pumpkins’ skin and lead them to rot. Let them dry completely before moving on to the next step.
  3. Apply a base: Take your pumpkins outside and coat them with a thin layer of spray- or paint-on acrylic sealant available at most craft stores. (Adults should handle this part of the process.) Applying a sealant will help the paint adhere to the surface and make your kids’ creations last longer. Let the pumpkins dry for 24 hours before painting.
  4. Gather your materials: Good tools for decorating include acrylic paints, paintbrushes of different sizes, paint pens, permanent markers, water in a spill-proof container to rinse brushes, sponges, and painter’s tape. Don’t forget to protect the work surface with newspaper or a plastic tablecloth. Have all artists and adult supervisors wear old clothing so stains won’t be an issue.
A young girl painting Halloween pumpkins

Gorgeous Gourds in Five Easy Steps

Before bringing out the paints, help your kids pick out a design to use as inspiration, whether online or from a picture book. With the prep done, let the artistry begin! 

1. Set the Backdrop

A pumpkin’s bright orange color is a beautiful background for any art, but you don’t have to stick with it. Feel free to switch it up by applying a background color to your design. You’ll probably only need one coat if you use a dark color like navy blue or black, but if you want to paint in pastels, you’ll need two or three coats to get a solid color and keep the orange from peeking through. An acrylic spray paint will do the job in a flash, but an adult should take care of this step to ensure it’s done safely.

2. Work with an Outline

Using a permanent marker, help your kids outline their spooky designs on the pumpkins. You can draw freehand or use a stencil or printable template taped onto the pumpkin. Don’t worry about making the drawing perfect—kids will be painting over the lines later.

3. Start Painting

Once the designs are outlined on the pumpkins, it’s time for young artists to start painting. Encourage them not to limit themselves to paintbrushes only. Let them experiment with dabbing on paint with sponges, cotton balls, swabs, or even old rags. Acrylic paint is water-based, so if anyone makes a mistake, just wipe it off with a damp cloth and begin again.

4. Set Your Design

Once everyone is happy with their pumpkins and the paint has dried, take the creations outside and, if you’d like, preserve your kids’ pumpkin art by adding another layer of sealant. This step will keep the colors from running and help their pumpkins last longer. As before, an adult should handle this step.

5. Add Fun Details 

Be as elaborate as you want. Show your kids how to add an extra dimension by attaching crafty flair to their pumpkins using glue. They can enhance their pumpkins with glitter, buttons, googly eyes, rhinestones, pom-poms, raffia or yarn made to look like hair, and more. If you’d rather not use glue, opt for stickers, self-adhesive sequins, or washi tape instead.

Easy Pumpkin Painting Ideas 

Now that you’re familiar with the prep and painting process and how to involve your young Picassos in their pumpkin projects, let’s look at some creative designs. Some of these designs are great for Halloween night itself, while others will look good on a porch or in a window all autumn long.

Disco Pumpkin

Glam out your gourds with this fun retro design that will give them a mirrorball effect worthy of the ultimate dance party. Start by applying an even coat of black paint. Once it is dry, create a grid pattern using painter’s tape or draw the squares freehand using a permanent marker. Cover the spaces with silver metallic paint. Once it’s dry, peel off the tape and place your masterpiece where it can catch and reflect light. 

Painted Mummy Pumpkin

Coat your pumpkins in a layer of white paint. Once it’s dry, use a black paint pen or a fine-tipped paint brush to draw lines that look like a mummy’s bandages. Paint on two large glaring eyes, or glue on googly eyes for a sillier take.

Classic Jack-O’-Lantern Painted Pumpkins

Just because your pumpkins aren’t carved doesn’t mean you can’t draw inspiration from a jack-o’-lantern. Decorate your pumpkins with eyes and nose in the shape of a triangle, then add a large, toothy grin, all in black paint, for a classic look.

Seasonal Painted Pumpkin

This idea works well for artistically minded kids, or for an adult who wants to make a fall decoration while their kids work on the spooky stuff. Make a falling leaf pumpkin using a foliage-shaped stencil to outline the shapes of leaves. Paint them in fall colors of red, orange, brown, and yellow. You could also use a flower template to incorporate fall blooms like chrysanthemums, dahlias, or sunflowers.

A woman holding a brush to a painted pumpkin that reads “Fall.”

Constellation Pumpkin

Does one of your kids love space? Look up at the night sky for some inspiration for this craft. Give your pumpkin a matte background using either navy or black chalk paint. Then, lightly splatter the surface with white or yellow to add a subtle starfield effect. Add a few adhesive glow-in-the-dark stars to create constellation shapes before joining the stars with thin lines of white paint.

Rainbow Pumpkin

Sponging on stripes of different paint colors can create a beautiful rainbow ombre effect. You could stick with the classic palette of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple, or choose more seasonal colors. Start at the top and dab on your first color using a natural sponge. Once you’re happy with the coverage, switch colors and begin dabbing the next stripe. Make sure your new layer overlaps the first slightly to give a blended effect. Repeat the process with each new color until your pumpkin is completely covered.

Metallic Pumpkin

This decoration will shine on the table or the front step. Select pumpkins of different shapes and sizes and paint them with metallic colors like gold, silver, copper, and bronze. If you can’t decide on things to paint on a pumpkin, go for a minimalistic look and paint your gourd in a solid color. You can also consider geometric color-blocking or use classic patterns like stripes and polka dots. 

Halloween Greeting Pumpkin

Get the message out that you and your kids love Halloween by using chalkboard paint to create a pumpkin message board for Halloween greetings that you can customize throughout the season. You’ll need a large gourd for this craft. Paint one side of the pumpkin with chalkboard paint, and add spooky details like spider webs, ghosts, and cauldrons along the border of the writing surface. Once the paint is dry, use chalk on the writing surface to draw a “countdown to Halloween” or leave a message for trick-or-treaters. To change the message, simply wipe off the chalk with a wet paper towel.

Glow-in-the-Dark Pumpkin

This one is great for kids who are not interested in fine details. Place their mini pumpkins on a cooling rack over a tray or cookie sheet lined with wax or parchment paper. Then, let your kids pour glow-in-the-dark paint over the pumpkin to look like dripping slime. To get even more creative, use multiple colors of glowing paint poured over the gourds to create a swirling effect. Your young ones will love checking out the pumpkins in the dark once they’re dry. Be sure to have wipes handy. 

More Spooky Fun

Now that you’ve decorated your home for the spooky season, why not keep the fun going with more Halloween crafts? Your kids can create their own colorful T-shirts to celebrate a visit to the pumpkin patch. They can also attempt to animate a ghost friend using static electricity. After all that activity, they’re likely to be hungry. Prepare a snack of delicious, chilled watermelon brains and watch them squirm with delight.

If your kids love Halloween traditions like decorating pumpkins, introduce them to fun and intriguing customs from around the globe with our World Edition subscription box. Each month they’ll discover new places and traditions through hands-on activities, stories, and games that foster connections with people worldwide.

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