tutorial paper mache pumpkins

Holidays & Special Occasions Halloween tutorial paper mache pumpkins

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      One of my favorite things about fall is the pumpkin flavored everything that appears on the shelves.  Pumpkins are great to eat, but are also great to decorate with.  But like everything edible, they only last so long.  Below is a tutorial on how to make your own pumpkins that will last the entire season.  Be sure to read the entire tutorial before starting; this is a multi-day project!

      What you’ll need:

      Masking tape
      Plastic shopping bag
      2 or 3 newspapers
      Wire (optional for stem)
      Foam brush
      Medium grit sandpaper
      Gesso (optional)
      Acrylic paint

      Paper Mache Paste
      1 cup of water
      1/4 cup of flour
      1 teaspoon of salt

      1 roll of toilet paper
      3/4 cup of white glue (Elmer’s glue-All)
      1 cup of joint compound
      1/2 cup white flour
      2 tablespoons linseed oil

      Step 1
      Fill a plastic shopping bag or small garbage bag with crumpled newspaper.  Fill until the bag is firm.  Don’t fill it too much, though; you don’t want to rip it!

      Step 2
      Tape the top of the bag closed with masking tape.  This will be the pumpkin’s stem, so pay attention to the shape.  If you’d like a super twisty stem, add some wire before taping it to help keep its shape.

      Step 3
      Take masking tape and pull it from the top of pumpkin all the way around the form and back to the top.  Repeat this around the pumpkin, pushing and pulling on the bag + contents between the tape to form sections.  Now you have the basic form of the pumpkin.

      Step 4
      Prepare some paper mache paste using the mini-tutorial at the end of this post.

      Rip or cut newspapers into approximately 1” x 6” strips.  Drag each strip through your paper mache paste mixture.  The strips should be saturated, but not so much that they are dripping and goopy.

      Step 5
      Apply 1-2 layers to the surface of the pumpkin (Don’t forget to cover the stem!), crisscrossing strips to build strength, and set it aside to dry.  It’ll take a day or two.

      Step 6
      When the newspaper strips are dry, it’s time to make and apply the homemade clay mixture.  This stuff is very sticky, so I find it helpful to have a bowl of water handy to dip my fingers in.  It also helps to get your pumpkins nice and smooth.  Apply clay to pumpkin, smoothing it out as much and as evenly as possible.  I use a damp 2” foam brush to help me push the clay down without leaving all sorts of unwanted bumps and grooves.  The smoother the job is here, the less sanding you’ll need to do when it’s dry.

      Step 7
      Apply the clay to the stem.

      Remember that pumpkin stems have grooves. You can use clay-shaping tools, a butter knife, a popsicle stick, or any other sort of similar object to shape it.

      Step 8
      You’ll only be able to cover ½ of the pumpkin at one time, so cover the top ½ and let it dry enough (about 2 days) to flip it over and cover the bottom.  Once your pumpkin is completely covered, let it sit for 3-4 days until it’s completely dry.

      Take advantage of the sun and open air, if it hasn’t gotten too cold yet where you live. They make the drying process much faster.

      Step 9
      When the clay is dry, use a medium grit sandpaper to sand out all the bumps on the pumpkin and stem.  Natural pumpkins are seldom perfect, so a little texture is OK.

      Step 10
      Next, coat the pumpkin with gesso.  The gesso is a primer for your acrylic finish and it also fills in any small pits left in the clay surface. Do this 3 times to build up a thick coat.  When it’s dry, use a medium or fine grit sandpaper to smooth out any brush strokes.

      Step 11
      Now you’re ready to paint your pumpkin! I found it helpful to paint the basecoat a slightly darker color shade and going back in and using a lighter color on the lobes to give my pumpkins more depth and dimension.

      The colors you use don’t have to stop at orange. Pumpkins come in all sorts of shapes and colors.

      Step 12
      After your pumpkins are painted, you’re all done!  If you’d like them to have a different finish (ex: super glossy) use your favorite sealer, such as Mod Podge, to finish your pumpkins.  Remember to use an outdoor sealer if you plan to leave your pumpkins outside!

      How to Make Paper Mache Paste
      Boil 1 cup of hot water in a small sauce pan. Mix 1/4 cup of flour with enough hot water for it to come to the consistency of pancake batter.  Transfer the mixture into the saucepan. Continue to stir it while boiling it on the stove until it is thick and pasty.

      How to Make Paper Clay
      I used Jonni Good’s wonderful paper mache clay tutorial.  You can find it here:


      Have fun and enjoy your pumpkins!


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Holidays & Special Occasions Halloween tutorial paper mache pumpkins