Our absolute best, totally essential pumpkin painting tips

When you paint a lot of pumpkins,* you get pretty good at it. Not just the design part: all the details, from where to find inspiration to ways to apply paint to how to show them off. So we asked our artists to share their top pumpkin painting tips from start to finish. And here they are—but even better, here’s this year’s harvest of fabulous painted pumpkin inspo. (For a list of supplies and even more painted pumpkin tips and ideas, check out last year’s post.)

A big pile of pretty painted pumpkins

Woman in black skirt and pink metallic boots surrounded by painted pumpkins

Tips for a pretty pile of painted pumpkins

Fake it when you make it

For our fanciest pumpkins, we used artificial craft pumpkins. They’re available in different sizes, shapes, and colors and, obviously, they last forever.

Pumpkins decorated with painted patterns, rainbows, and color blocks

Get in the mood

Want to make sure you end up with a crop of decorated pumpkins that look great together? Start off with a mood board and color palette. Hallmark is lucky enough to have a whole team dedicated to trend-spotting, so every year we kick our project off with them.

Pumpkins decorated with graphic designs in black, white, pink, and purple

But you can do your own version—one that matches your style, your interests, or even your front porch. Search any of these words or phrases in front of “trends 2019” to get page after page of inspo:

  • Graphic design
  • Hand lettering
  • Type
  • Illustration
  • Color
  • Color palette
  • Fashion
  • Tattoo design
  • Album cover art

We handed off our mood board to a group of designers, illustrators, and lettering artists and let them go wild. You can do the same with a group of friends or your roommate. Or, if you’re decorating with family, choose your paints from your color palette and turn the kids loose.

Six Hallmark artists share a table to paint pumpkins

Painting an owl design on a black craft pumpkin

Add some variety

Whether you’re setting up in a studio or on your front steps, more is definitely better. Because we love to display our pumpkins en masse, we headed to a real live pumpkin patch and loaded up the wheelbarrow. We left some of the real pumpkins as-is and added simple designs to the rest.

Try these simple pumpkin painting tips:

  • Paint the stem—or, if it’s long, just the tip.
  • Cover tiny pumpkins in one color.
  • Make simple marks, dots, or stripes in one color all over.
  • Mask the top half with tape and paint the bottom.
  • Follow the ridges to make vertical stripes.

White pumpkin with orange lettering: 100% that witch

Pumpkin painting tips and ideas from Hallmark artists

AMBER G.: Creating a “witchy vibes” mood board and a color palette ensured that we all created pumpkins that hung together as a group. But it was cool to see how we each took it to a different place from that starting point. Some went abstract, some gravitated toward characters or animals, and some found words that inspired them. I created pumpkins that incorporated orange so that they would look great mixed with regular unpainted pumpkins on my porch.

A white pumpkin with a marbled design and a black pumpkin with a blue, lavender, and orange mini-rainbow
Decorated and natural pumpkins

Come up with a concept

FELICIA K.: Since I was doing two designs I wanted to try different difficulty levels: one that was simple enough for anyone to try and another that was more advanced. For my rainbow, I basically wanted to “Halloween-ize” a normal rainbow (two pics above) but maintain the happiness you feel when you see one.

ALYSSA G.: I went for a larger pumpkin that could have a more detailed feminine design (below), then complemented it with a smaller pumpkin to paint with star and moon elements from the larger design (scroll down to see the little pink pumpkin in the big group photo). That way they could work together or be independent decorations.

Pumpkin design featuring a witch with a hoop earring, along with a natural white pumpkin and orange pumpkin with lavender bottom

Artist displaying Hexy Lady and Winky Face pumpkins

CHLOE J.: I wanted to do a pumpkin that was witchy and magical, so I decided to paint a gem with some bold chunky lettering on top of a dark black pumpkin for a very spooky magic vibe. I added stars to make it extra magical. And I wanted to give my “Winky Face” pumpkin a personality so when it’s displayed outside on the porch it can wink at people passing by during the day—and when you turn it around at night it can be sleeping. (Photos above and below)

Painting "Hexy Lady" on a black pumpkin

Hexy Lady and Winky Face pumpkins (with a tiny blue pumpkin) against a graphic background

Start with a sketch or stencil

AMBER: Sketch your design right onto your pumpkin before you begin painting so you can make sure the scale is right. Initially, I sketched my design on and then realized it was way too small. So I erased and started over and am much happier with how it looks.

SAMANTHA L.: I stenciled my design on a primed no-carve pumpkin. Then I masked and spraypainted the big color-blocked areas and filled in smaller parts of my design with a brush and acrylic paint.

Pumpkin painting tips: Start with a primed pumpkin, and fill in small areas with a paint marker. Painting "Boo" on a hot pink pumpkin

Artist holding neon pink "Boo" pumpkin

ALYSSA: I did pencil sketches on regular computer paper, then took those into Photoshop to decide my colors. I transferred my sketches to the pumpkins using the good old eyeballing method, then painted in layers starting with elements in the back, working my way to the front.

CHLOE: I designed the pumpkin on my iPad and then hooked it up to a projector so I would get the lettering just right, and traced it on with a white colored pencil. I started painting my gem first, then the lettering and then added the magical stars.

Painting a purple hand on a white pumpkin

Let the ideas flow

MARCOS R.: My approach was more intuitive (below): I wanted to mix abstract painting with some kind of loose mark-making pattern. It all happened organically and I improvised a lot. I brought some of my favorite inexpensive brushes—the bristles are really rough but give me lots of unexpected texture when I paint. I also mixed in some chalkboard spraypaint drips.

(Take a peek into a mark-making workshop Marcos taught for Hallmark.)

Painting marks in pink, orange, lavender, black, and royal blue on a white pumpkin

KRISTIN S.: I roughly sketched a few designs I was thinking about on paper to help me visualize what they might look like. For the striped portion of my design (below), I taped off the white areas and spraypainted it with black. For the rest of the design, I mostly used a flat brush and just freehanded it.

FELICIA K.: Marbling is a big part of my personal work so I set everything up the same way I would make any other piece—but with the challenge of 3D. I ended up redoing my pumpkin three times until I was happy with the print because no surprise: Marbling a pumpkin is hard.

(Here’s how marbling works on paper.)

Free-hand painting shapes on a pumpkin

Pro pumpkin painting tips

AMBER: Have a variety of brush sizes on hand. Many of our favorite pumpkin designs combine large shapes with smaller contrasting details. Having different sizes of brushes available helps you create more interesting images. Even sharpies or white paint pens work for linework.

Pumpkins painted with abstract brush marks in different colors

Artist holding black pumpkin with white owl illustration

KRISTIN: Some craft paints are not very pigmented and require multiple coats. Using heavier body acrylics or adding a little heavy body white acrylic paint helps this a little. (“Heavy body” or “high viscosity” paints have a thicker consistency.) Since mine was a “fake” craft pumpkin, taping it off and spraypainting turned out to be a little bit challenging—the spraypaint kept bubbling on the surface. I learned that priming these types of pumpkins beforehand helps the paint to adhere much better.

MARCOS: If you’re using plastic pumpkins I would suggest priming with clear gesso or white spraypaint. Priming the pumpkins helps your colors look brighter and fewer coats of paints are needed in the end.

SAMANTHA: I highly recommend spraying a coat of flat/matte primer on it first to give the acrylic paint something to stick to.

Painted pumpkins displayed with sketches and supplies

SARAH C.: Spray large areas with spraypaint. It looks cleaner and there are no brush stroke marks.

ALYSSA: Premix or pre-pour your paint beforehand so you’re not deciding on colors while you’re painting. And always mix more of a unique color than you think you will need—you don’t want to run out halfway through your pumpkin.

CHLOE: Also, don’t be scared to do a double coat—it might need it.

Artist in black and white striped dress and metallic pink boots displaying painted mini-rainbow pumpkin

Artist subs in white pumpkin with witch design for her own head

Of course, we have to make as many pumpkin puns as possible. This Halloween, do your thing. No apologies.

Hands holding 100% that witch pumpkin

We’d love to see your painted pumpkins! Tag us on Instagram @think.make.share.

*Check out last year’s pumpkins—including the ones that inspired Reese Witherspoon to paint her own! (Yeah, we fangirled hard about that.) Plus more painted pumpkinselegant pumpkinsblack and white pumpkinsSignature-style pumpkinssilly pumpkinspumpkins decorated with markerspumpkins inspired by movies, and pumpkins decorated by Hallmark Keepsake artists.

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  1. 10.1.19 | Reply
    Nate Lewis wrote:

    Love these! Great way to kick off October.