It’s that time of year when people set free their creative sides – in the form of elaborately carved jack-o-lanterns. Whether you’re artistically inclined, or not, there are lots of ways to decorate your pumpkin so that it will be the spookiest, or cutest or funniest on the block.

How to decorate your pumpkins

Pumpkin Embellishment

“Embellishment” is a pumpkin decorating technique that is essentially dressing up your pumpkin. This is a simple process, and therefore could be a good option if you’re working with children or other people who can’t or shouldn’t handle knives. The supplies are simple: Glue and decorative materials like glitter, beads, plastic gems, doilies, ribbons, bits of fabric, or whatever you like!

Here’s an idea for embellishing a pumpkin with sequins, or you could try embellishing with ribbons, doilies, or even decoupage.

You would want a sturdy glue or hot glue gun for best results, but you can glue your notions to your pumpkin any way that suits your fancy. This is a great way to dress pumpkins, especially for those who aren’t into the scary and spooky aspects to Halloween, but who want to join the festivities with their own flair. Depending on the climate in which you live, animals that might visit and other factors, an embellished pumpkin should be able to survive for about a month.

Pumpkin Painting

Like embellishment, painting a pumpkin is a good alternative to carving for those who might not be quite up to the task. With some paint and brushes, you can make a fabulous decoration. Acrylic paints will last the longest, but children’s poster paint will work, too.

If you’re about to paint a pumpkin, you want to choose one that is on the smoother side because it will be easier to paint if it has fewer lumps, holes or other imperfections. You should wash the pumpkin ahead of time in order to remove dirt or dust. If it’s too big for the sink, you could use a wet-wipe or damp cloth for a good wipe-down. Be sure to let the pumpkin air dry before you begin to paint.

Depending on the level of detail you intend, you might have to paint your pumpkin in stages. If you’re going to keep it the original orange color and paint a design, you could do it in one sitting. But, if you want to paint a base color, you must wait until that layer is thoroughly dry before you paint additional detail overlay. As well, if you want to paint a base color or underlying design, you could use a permanent marker to create fine detail that might be trickier with a paintbrush.

Remember, you’re never limited to the standard jack-o-lantern “face”. You could create a honeycomb or chevron design, a lovely ombre pumpkin, or even a glittery striped pumpkin.

Serious pumpkin painters might add a layer of sealant or varnish (which is something that you should do outside, because the fumes could be harmful to inhale), which would make the pumpkin and its design last longer.

Pumpkin Carving

Pumpkin carving involves more time, work, skill and effort than painting or decorating the exterior of a pumpkin. However, it’s lots of fun and there are lots of options for creative designs. First, you will want to carve a circular opening that is a few inches around the circumference of the stem. Once you’ve opened that area, you will need to scoop out all of the seeds and “meat” of the pumpkin. It could be a great opportunity to make a pumpkin pie or roasted pumpkin seeds! For this task, a scoop or large spoon would be your best bet, but be sure to roll up your sleeves! Things could get messy. Place the unwanted seeds in a bowl or in the trash.

Once that’s complete, let the fun begin. There are knives created specifically for pumpkin carving, but a sharp, serrated kitchen knife should do the trick. This requires a little more skill and dexterity – and if you’re carving with children, they must be closely supervised.

Here’s a pro tip for you: Sketch the design on your pumpkin with a pencil or light pen before you begin cutting. That way, you’re sure of how close together the eyes are (and that your pumpkin doesn’t appear to have three eyes and no nose), how much space you need for teeth, and any other design elements you want.

For some step-by-step instruction for how to carve a pumpkin, there are lots of resources. You could carve using a stencil or start with a basic jack-o-lantern design, or try something beyond the traditional face and carve with an apple corer for a polka dot design.

Then, go to it! Be creative!

Pumpkin Drilling

This project is not for the faint at heart. Pumpkin drilling is a way to create beautifully spooky creations that are designed to cast illumination when a candle or light is placed inside. Depending on how skilled you are with a drill, you can use different sized drill bits to alter patterns or designs. You likely won’t be able to make a traditional jack-o-lantern face, but your ingenuity will surely make up for it!

Here’s a great for first-time pumpkin drillers, and here are a few other ideas for using Christmas lights in a drilled pumpkin.

Pumpkin Sculpture

The world is your oyster – no, pumpkin – with the variety of designs you could make with a pumpkin sculpture! If simple pumpkin carving isn’t enough of a challenge for you, or if you want to have THE house that everyone wants to visit on Halloween, you could make it extra enticing by creating a custom pumpkin sculpture.

Once your pumpkins are carved and decorated, you can use wooden dowels and glue to stack them, which means that you can make almost anything at all! You could make a jack-o-lantern man, with a face and body, a stack of faces, an animal, or anything else your heart desires. Be sure to tether them with the dowels, and don’t rely on stacking with glue, alone. The last thing you need is for that sculpture that you worked so hard on to topple to the ground!

Here’s a fantastic tutorial for creating a basic pumpkin topiary, and here’s one where the pumpkins are painted. The possibilities are endless.

You could even use the pumpkin as a shell for a sculptural diorama scene.

Have fun!

Halloween is the unofficial kickoff to the holiday season. Look around your world to see what inspires you, and then let your creativity take over. The benefit to pumpkin carving is that anyone can do it – young, old or anywhere in between. Each pumpkin creation is as unique as you want it to be, and it requires only a little skill, a few household supplies and a lot of imagination!

We want to know… how do you decorate a pumpkin? Share your favorite techniques in the comments below. Personal Creations has lots of fun Halloween items to decorate your life, or help you host the spookiest party ever. Boo!