By Betsy Thomas

It is that time of the year when the leaves are donning brilliant hues, the air turns cool and crisp and witches, ghouls and goblins are everywhere! The farm stands and stores are sporting pumpkins of every color – orange, white, green and multi. As Halloween nears we all think of carving pumpkins and displaying them on our front stoop.  That is certainly fun. But there is also a downside to this. The squirrels and birds have a go at them and if the weather gets warm they all start rotting. However, if you paint a pumpkin and “treat” it well, it can last till Thanksgiving!

Step 1: When you find a pumpkin you want to paint (any size), wash the pumpkin with soap and water. Scrub gently to remove all marks and dirt but do not break the skin.

Step 2: Dry the pumpkin completely.

Step 3: When dry, sketch a pattern (cats, witches, flowers, leaves, the list is limitless) with a white pencil. Do not press so hard as to break the skin. If you are at loss for patterns, look through coloring books or the internet.

Step 4: If you are painting a face, paint the cheeks first, then the eyes. Use black (or other eye color) with white highlights. The highlight dots go in the same place on both eyes, otherwise they will look cross-eyed or wall eye!!

Step 5: The cheeks are pink or red and go below the eye. The nose should be outlined small in either black or light brown. You can add a moustache below the nose or not depending on whether the image is a man or woman.

Step 6: If you are painting with children, let them do their thing. It is their pumpkin after all.

Step 7: Let the pumpkins dry completely and spray OUTSIDE with Krylon 1311- matte or clear.




  • For painting, use acrylic paint which can be found in your favorite craft store. Use DecoArt Americana, Plaid FolkArt or Martha Stewart brands 2 oz bottles.
  • Use inexpensive craft brushes and wash them well when done.
  • You may also use thick Sharpie brand markers.
  • To preserve the painted pumpkin spray the outside with Krylon 1311- matte or clear.


It is great fun to paint a pumpkin – with children as well as adult friends. You can make it as complex or as simple as you wish. If you are painting with small children dress them in old clothes. If they get paint on their clothes, it will stay on the clothes! The same principle applies to adults too! Don't worry about the mess. You are getting a new T-shirt in the bargain! Having fun is the primary goal. Your pumpkin, your art - after all beauty is in the eye of the beholder.



There are a zillion ways to paint pumpkins. Check the internet for creative ideas. Spray paint your pumpkins with metallics, neons or even chalkboard paint and write on it!! Just don't eat the painted pumpkins and keep them away  from flames. Use Washi Tape or decorative ribbons for a no mess pumpkin decorating. The list is endless. Enjoy being creative and innovative. 


Betsy Thomas is the Past President of the Society of Decorative Painters and past President of Friends of Brookside Gardens.  Her artwork is in collections at the White House, Blair House, the Smithsonian as well as the National Museum of Decorative Painting in Atlanta, Georgia. Decorative painting is a diverse art form utilizing a variety of techniques and media to decorate functional and non-functional surfaces. Because of the systematic methods employed, contemporary decorative painting is a highly teachable art form. Tole painting is the folk art of decorative painting on tin and wooden utensils, objects and furniture. Typical metal objects include utensils, coffee pots, and similar household items. Wooden objects include tables, chairs, and chests, including hope chests, toyboxes and jewelry boxes.