How to paint pumpkins for Halloween – 5 steps for success

Our step-by-step on how to paint pumpkins will change up your Halloween decor for the better this year. Quick, easy and creative.

Painted rose gold pumpkins on a white mantel
(Image credit: Rust-Oleum)

More of us want to know how to paint pumpkins to take our Halloween displays to the next level – without necessarily getting out the carving knife. Sure a classic jack o'lantern will always look the part on this favorite holiday of ours but, if you're eager to branch out and try something new, paint could be your answer.

Easy and not overly messy, recreating different painted pumpkin ideas and looks is a simple craft that the whole family can get involved with. Gourds have naturally quirky shapes so even if you were to paint yours in one block color, you'd still end up with a killer result. However you want to paint your pumpkins this year, there are just a few steps to follow to ensure you get pro results. 

How to paint pumpkins

Whether you're creating a minimal or super spooky display this year, painting pumpkins will add more personality to your Halloween decorations. They could even complement your home's interior design...

You will need:

  • Pumpkins
  • A cloth
  • Warm water
  • Newspaper
  • Paint of choice (spray or not)
  • Paintbrushes
  • Decorative additions of choice: glitter, foliage etc.

Lauren Hoyal-Mitchell, the Brand & Creative Lead at Hobbycraft notes how 'Pumpkin-carving is a classic when it comes to Halloween traditions, however for those eager crafters looking to add a spooky touch to their decoration, you can always get creative with paint.'

1. Prepare your pumpkin for painting

This will not be as messy as when carving a pumpkin however, you should lay some newspaper down anyhow to clear up mess easily – especially if the kids are helping out!

First you want to clean up your pumpkin properly to remove any dust, debris and grit as this could stop the paint sticking to the skin, resulting in less than pro-looking results. For this, simply grab some warm water with a little dish soap and use your cloth to gently rub off any grime. Do not over-soak the pumpkin and next, you'll want to let your pumpkin fully dry. 

Washing a pumpkin with warm water

(Image credit: Rust-Oleum)

2. Start painting

'Once clean, you can begin letting your imagination flow!' Says Hoyal-Mitchell. 

We've used Rust-Oleum's Chalky Finish Furniture Paint for this DIY in the color Duck Egg. Start by simply painting your pumpkin for the effect you're after, there's no need to prime the surface.

Painting a pumpkin in duck egg blue

(Image credit: Rust-Oleum)

3. Leave your pumpkin to dry

If you're building on a design, whether you use spray paints or not, acrylic or water-based paint, be sure to let your first layer dry before you go in with another color or any finer detail. You should check the drying time on the paint you've bought. 

4. Get creative

For the next step, you might want to spray paint another gourd or a dried one for an ombre effect. When using spray paint, ensure you do this in a well ventilated spot. Spray lightly, misting the areas you'd like to work on, building up the coverage.

For this DIY, you want to use Rust-Oleum Chalky Finish Spray Paint in China Rose and you'll only want to paint the bottom half of your gourd.

But you can go freehand with a finer paint brush or even cut out sponges to add simple patterns and textures.

Let your creations dry once again.

Spray painting a pumpkin in chalk paint white

(Image credit: Rust-Oleum)

5. Add more decorative detail

Next, we've used glitter paint to add a little more pizzazz to our pumpkins but this is your chance to go to town with different pumpkin decorating ideas. Stripes and polka dots are easy enough to add freehand or with a stencil, while if you want a more designer-esque finish, pick up a thin paintbrush and see where your inner artist takes you.

Painting a pumpkin using glitter paint

(Image credit: Rust-Oleum)

How do you prepare a pumpkin for painting?

Hoyal-Mitchell highlights 'Preparation is key in ensuring you complete your painting project and achieve the perfect presentation. First things first, you must wash your pumpkin before you start on your crafts. Use a cloth and soap and water to help you remove any dirt and give you a cleaner surface for your creative designs.'

What kind of paint do you use on a pumpkin?

Hoyal-Mitchell says 'For a fantastic finish to your creepy creation, it is best to use acrylic paint instead of oil-based alternatives. Acrylic is a quick-drying option which can be easily wiped off if you have any misjudged strokes or design disasters.' For the above DIY we used Rust-Oleum's water-based paint which is virtually odorless and sticks to almost any surface.

Can you paint straight onto a pumpkin?

Once clean, yes you can. For best results Hoyal-Mitchell says 'You’ll need to apply several coats of paint to ensure all areas are covered, and we’d recommend picking a color with a high opacity to help achieve this. The design possibilities on a pumpkin are endless – whether you want to paint on a face, spooky design, abstract pattern or a ‘trick or treat’ vinyl slogan.'

Those trick-or-treaters are in for a cute surprise.

*With special thanks to Rust-Oleum for their DIY.

Camille Dubuis-Welch
Former Deputy Editor

I'm Cam, the former deputy editor of Real Homes who worked on the site from 2020 to 2023. As a renter myself, sharing a home with two friends (and my cat) in London, I know all too well the challenges that this can pose when it comes to creating your perfect setup. As someone who has always loved everything interior design-related, I cannot rest until a home feels right and I am really passionate about helping others get there too, no matter what their living situation, style, or budget may be. It’s not always the easiest to figure out, but the journey is fun and the results are so worth it.

After interior design, travel, art, and photography are my next big passions. When I’m not writing or editing homes content, I’m usually tapping into other creative outlets, exploring galleries in London or further afield, taking photos, scribbling, or drawing!