And much less messy.

By Real Simple Editors
Updated July 31, 2019

As Halloween draws near, long afternoons are spent carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns, monsters, and spooky scenes. But if you want to avoid the messy pumpkin guts or don’t want your children handling sharp knives, painting pumpkins is both easier and less messy than carving. Don’t let the idea of pumpkin painting frighten you—you don’t need to be an artist to master these designs. Rather than freehand each style, let geometric makeup sponges stand in for block prints, or let leaves collected from the backyard serve as stencils. Little ones will enjoy ditching form entirely and flinging paint to create a Jackson Pollock-inspired painted pumpkin.

Most of these pumpkin painting ideas can be done using the acrylic paint stored in your craft closet, while a couple call for paint pens that can be found at any crafts supply store. When you’re done stamping and splattering, display your works of art indoors, or spray them with a clear sealant before setting them out on the stoop. For a masterpiece that can be used for years, skip the trip to the pumpkin patch and paint faux pumpkins, such as Fun-Kins, instead.

Supplies: For all of our easy pumpkin painting ideas, we decorated Fun-Kins in the styles Brookester, Maggie, Tiger Cub, Prince, Timmer, and Harvest Moon; from $12 each.

Philip Friedman; Styling: Blake Ramsey

Geometric Print Pumpkins

1. Choose a variety of makeup sponges in geometric shapes, or use a pair of scissors to trim sponges into different shapes.

2. Dip the sponge into a shallow dish of acrylic paint, then blot on a scrap piece of paper until the sponge is evenly coated with a thin layer of paint.

3. Stamp the sponge onto the pumpkin surface, starting near the stem and working down to the bottom of the pumpkin. Reapply paint to the sponge as needed, and wash the sponge thoroughly or switch to a fresh sponge when changing colors.

Philip Friedman; Styling: Blake Ramsey

Falling Leaves Pumpkins

1. Paint the pumpkin a solid color and allow it to dry completely, or about one hour.

2. Collect fallen leaves from the backyard and trace the outline of the leaves onto the pumpkin surface using a ballpoint pen.

3. Fill in the outlines with acrylic paint and let dry. If desired, outline the leaves with a paint pen and draw on veins.

Philip Friedman; Styling: Blake Ramsey


1. Sketch a punny phrase onto the surface of the pumpkin using a highlighter. Use a damp paper towel to erase any mistakes.

2. Using a paint pen, trace over the guidelines and fill in the letters. Outline each letter with a paint pen in a contrasting color.

Philip Friedman; Styling: Blake Ramsey

Splatter Paint Pumpkins

1. Paint the pumpkin a solid color and let dry completely.

2. Choose paint in a contrasting color, and slowly mix in a small amount of water. Using a flicking motion, splatter the pumpkin with paint using a paintbrush. If the paint isn’t thin enough to splatter, slowly stir in more water.

3. To add sponge prints to the pumpkin, dab a natural sea sponge (found at crafts supply stores) into the paint. Blot the sponge on a scrap piece of paper before pressing it onto the pumpkin.

Philip Friedman; Styling: Blake Ramsey

Floral Stenciled Pumpkins

1. Hold a floral stencil securely against the pumpkin surface, then dab on a thin layer of acrylic paint using a foam dabber or small sponge. Work on one small section at a time, while holding the stencil securely in each area. To avoid smudging, let each section of the design dry for a few minutes before moving on to the next one.

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