Decorating a pumpkin is the most time-honored of Halloween customs, but the tradition has evolved far beyond jack-o’-lanterns. Inspired designs will soon fill your Instagram feed, and it’s always fun to share your own creations.
Deciding how to decorate pumpkins depends on your style. You can go the spooky route – think spiderwebs and bats – or get trendy with bold colors or patterns. The choices are endless.
Your first decision is whether to use real or fake pumpkins. Fresh pumpkins are obviously single-season decorations. If you’re planning a design to keep for seasons to come, you’ll need artificial pumpkins. Fake pumpkins should hold paint better; chalk paint and matte spray paint work especially well.
Take a look below for some different types of designs. Here are some helpful pumpkin carving tools to help you carve your pumpkin.
It’s fun to get kids started early on this tradition. Here are some pumpkin decorating ideas that don’t require any carving.
- Googly Eyes: The easiest decoration is a simple application of googly eyes. They glue on quickly and give any pumpkin a cute personality.
- Pumpkin People: Another no-carve idea is to dress up pumpkins with felt bows, glasses, hats and moustaches. There are also store-bought kits available to create fictional characters.
- Map Tacks: Paint a pumpkin in a solid color and let it dry. Then let kids poke colored map tacks all over the pumpkin to make a unique design.
- Temporary Tattoos: Applying temporary tattoos is a quick way to make a pumpkin look hand-painted.
- Chalkboard Pumpkins: Cover pumpkins thoroughly with black chalkboard paint. Kids can decorate with a chalkboard marker however they like. With a wet wipe, you can easily clean a design off and make a new one.
- Pom-pom Pumpkins: Want an over-the-top rainbow look? Paint pumpkins with white paint. Then grab a variety of small- and medium-sized pompoms in bright colors and let kids glue them on however they want.
You’ll want at least one jack-o’-lantern to brighten the dark nights. Here are some fun variations.
- Toothy Terror: When carving a face, don’t leave any “teeth” in the mouth. Then insert lots of toothpicks to make a scary, sharp-toothed creature.
- Polka Dots: Forget the face and carve lots of dots instead. With a candle inside, it’s a fashionable, fun look.
- Painted Ghost: Lay your pumpkin on its side with the bottom facing you, then carve a large, pie-shaped wedge out of the right side so that it resembles a Pac-man ghost. Add eyes, then paint it white.
- Homebody Pumpkin: Carve a face on a small pumpkin, then carve out a square door in the front of a larger pumpkin. Place the smaller one just inside the “house.” Then add some windows to the larger pumpkin.
- Our Designs: Get inspired with our fun printable templates; they’re great for carving pumpkins or painting them.
Front Porch Pumpkins
Pumpkins can go anywhere, but some seem especially designed to give the perfect welcome at your door.
- House Number: Paint the whole pumpkin (or at least one side) white, then place a decal of numerals on your pumpkin to cover up the white while you paint the whole pumpkin a darker color. When you remove the decals, your house numbers will pop. An easier version: Just write the numerals on your pumpkin with a permanent marker.
- Scarecrow Pumpkin: Carve a jack-o’-lantern, then place on top of a scarecrow made with old clothes (try using fallen leaves for the “body” stuffing).
- Flowered Pumpkin: Paint flowers freehand on a pumpkin. When placed next to a pot of mums, it’ll provide a gorgeous autumn accent.
- Boo Pumpkin: Buy varsity letter-type patches that spell out “BOO” and glue them onto the pumpkin. To really make the letter patches pop, paint your pumpkin in a neutral shade beforehand.
- Rainbow Walkway: Create a multicolored display by painting several pumpkins, each in a solid color – the more colors, the better.
Boo-tiful Pumpkin Designs
Ready to go big? Get crafty with these over-the-top creations.
- Crayon Drips: Find some used crayons and remove the paper wrappers, then break them into small bits. One at a time, place crayons near the pumpkin stem and melt them down with a hair dryer on low heat. As they begin to melt, move the pumpkin around to control the drips. Repeat around the whole pumpkin to create an artful statement.
- Spiderwebs: Use long strips of tape to create a web pattern on a pumpkin. Then coat with spray paint; add additional coats if needed. Once the paint is dry, carefully peel off the tape and glue on a fake spider.
- 3D Painted Pumpkins: Draw a design or image in pencil on your pumpkin, then go over it with puff paint and let it dry. Then cover the stem with masking tape and coat the pumpkin with matte paint, adding another coat if needed. Your design will really stand out.
- Stencil Pumpkins: Apply a base coat of paint to a pumpkin, then use stencils to paint patterns on it. If you want, go over the stencil with paint pens to make the design stand out more.
- String Lights: Use a marker to write out “BOO” on a pumpkin. Outline letters with straight pins, leaving about ½" of each pin sticking out. Wrap LED copper string lights around the pins; repeat 2-3 times.
- Bejeweled Pumpkin: Paint a pumpkin a solid color, then decorate with gems to resemble flowers or other shapes.
- Succulent Planters: Use faux pumpkins that have removable tops. Plant some succulents inside to create a centerpiece for your table.