Forget pumpkin picking: Making these paper mache pumpkins can be your new go-to Halloween activity.

By Real Simple Editors
Updated September 09, 2020
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Pumpkins are the symbol of the season, showing up on every porch and front stoop on the block and lending a little charm to dining tables and entryways alike. But to make these pumpkins truly magical, you’ll want to make them everlasting: Pumpkin carving stencils may be cute, but the harsh reality is that how long carved pumpkins last is never as long as you want it to be.

When crafted out of paper mache—the classic process of dipping newsprint into a glue-like mixture of flour and water—homemade pumpkins can be summoned from storage and used as decorations year after year. To set these handmade masterpieces apart from the boring pumpkin-patch variety, we decoupaged ours with paper napkins in iconic patterns. (You can also use no-carve pumpkin ideas on your paper mache pumpkins.)

Paper mache pumpkins - how to make paper mache pumpkins DIY guide
Credit: PHILIP FRIEDMAN; STYLING: BLAKE RAMSEY

Topped off with a twisted craft paper stem and a couple gilded crepe paper leaves, paper mache pumpkins really start to come alive. Twist the stems together into a vine arrangement along a mantel or line them up on a dining table to create a DIY centerpiece for a Halloween dinner party. Go ahead, leave these pumpkins out until Thanksgiving—these enchanted gourds will never rot. And if you decide to learn how to carve a pumpkin next year, your paper mache pumpkins will look great arranged with your jack-o’-lanterns and spooky designs.

Paper Mache Pumpkins - DIY, how to make guide
Credit: Philip Friedman; Styling: Blake Ramsey

How to make paper mache pumpkins

What you’ll need:

  • 12-inch balloon
  • 3 rubber bands
  • Flour
  • Blank newsprint (found at office supply stores)
  • Patterned paper napkins (we found ours at Marimekko)
  • Clear craft glue
  • Brown craft paper
  • Gold crepe paper

How-to:

  1. Inflate a balloon about three-quarters of the way full.
  2. Place a rubber band around the balloon, then add a second so that the two bands form an X at the top and bottom of the pumpkin. Add a third rubber band so that all of the bands are evenly spaced and divide the balloon into segments.
  3. Mix equal parts flour and warm water to create the paper mache paste. Tear the newsprint into approximately 1-by-4-inch strips. Dip the strips into the flour mixture and smooth them onto the balloon. Repeat until the entire surface is covered, leaving a small hole on the opposite side of the balloon knot (this will be the bottom of the pumpkin).
  4. Add a second layer of paper mache. Let dry overnight, then pop the balloon.
  5. Cut sections from the patterned paper napkins. Decoupage the pieces onto the pumpkin surface by coating one side with glue, smoothing it onto the pumpkin, and then brushing more glue on top. Continue decorating the pumpkin as desired.
  6. Twist a length of craft paper to form a stem and adhere it to the top of the pumpkin. Cut leaf shapes from the crepe paper and glue them onto the stem.