How to Paint a Halloween Pumpkin (and Do It Right)

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Don’t want to mess with gooey pumpkin guts? Want to learn how to paint a Halloween pumpkin? You may think it’s simple — just head to the pumpkin patch, grab a pumpkin, take it home, paint it, and stick it on your front porch, right? 

Well, sort of. Painting a Halloween pumpkin is easy, but you’ll get much better (and longer-lasting results) if you do it right. Here are a few Halloween pumpkin painting tips that will have your front porch looking festively ghoulish in no time.

How to Paint a Halloween Pumpkin  

Choose a Proper Pumpkin

When you go pumpkin-hunting, not just any old pumpkin will do! Think about the type of Halloween pumpkin art you’re planning to create and choose a size that will work well. A smooth pumpkin with few bumps and blemishes will be easier to paint (unless those imperfections will work well with your project idea; if so, go for the bumpy pumpkin!).

Also, try to pick one that’s as fresh as possible. To test a pumpkin’s freshness, give it a couple of good taps. It should sound hollow. Press on it to make sure it feels firm and doesn’t squish in. It’s also a good idea to choose a pumpkin with a stem, as the depression where the stem used to be can collect water and cause your pumpkin to rot.

Give It a Scrub-a-Dub

When you get your pumpkin home, give it a good cleaning to remove any dirt or debris. Use warm water, a mild detergent, and a tablespoon of bleach. The bleach will help remove any bacteria that may cure your pumpkin to start breaking down prematurely.

Once your pumpkin is clean, towel it dry, then let it completely air dry.

Choose a Spooky (or Silly) Design

You can find stencils at your local store if you need a bit of help, or you may plan to paint it freehand. Choosing your design ahead of time will ensure that you have the right equipment and colors you need to paint the ultimate Halloween pumpkin design!

Prepare Your Work Area (and Your Pumpkin)

Spread newspapers or painter’s plastic over your work area and it’s time to prep your pumpkin. What, you thought that a wash was all the preparation it was going to get? You were wrong! First, you’ll need to seal your pumpkin to help the paint stay put. Apply clear craft sealant to the top half, give it time to dry, then flip the pumpkin over to apply it to the bottom half. Once it’s dry, you’re finally ready to paint!

Paint Away!

Depending on the design you’ve chosen, it may help to sketch things out on the pumpkin before starting to apply your paint. Acrylic paint works well. If your design requires painting the entire pumpkin, work at it the same way you did the sealant: work on one half first, let it dry, then you can shift the pumpkin to work on the other side without messing up the paint.

Apply a Final Coat of Sealant

The first coat of sealant was to help the paint stick, while the second coat will help it stay put while your pumpkin sits outside in the elements. Follow the same routine you did the first time around by applying the sealant one half at a time.

Accept Compliments Graciously

Once the final coat of sealant is applied, you may want to bling your pumpkin out a bit more by gluing on pipe cleaners, googly eyes, fake hair (maybe in a distinctive blonde combover?), or sequins. Once you get it all decked out, it’s ready to be put on display.

Now all you have to do is be able to fake modesty when people tell you yours is the best pumpkin in the neighborhood. Happy Halloween!


Learn how to paint a Halloween pumpkin — and so much more — in our blog!

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