Decorating a pumpkin is an absolutely essential fall activity, and a great way to show off your Halloween spirit. While the spooky season often involves seeing entrails on screen, that doesn’t mean you also have to allow guts into your home. (We’re talking about pumpkin guts, of course.) There are plenty of ways to decorate one without making a mess. The following techniques are tried-and-true methods that still leave plenty of room for creativity—maybe more! You can even mix and match if you’re feeling ambitious.
1. Use a Sharpie
Simple, classic, and a little bit rock ’n’ roll, Sharpies are the artistic tool of choice for people who just like to get things done. For best results, clean your pumpkin gently with soap and water, dry it thoroughly, and then get drawing. Using a felt pen to create your jack-o-lantern is much more precise than hacking at it with a knife, so you can get really creative and add some artistic detail. Sharpies also come in many colours, so you can really give your pumpkin a unique character — or forget about giving your pumpkin a face at all, and instead draw whatever seasonal scene comes to mind.
2. Make a thumbtack pumpkin
You can give your pumpkin a scintillating effect with a simple household item: the humble thumbtack. Get silver or golden tacks for maximum sparkle, and push them into the pumpkin’s skin to create small dots of glitter. You can apply them as sparsely or as densely as you’d like. For a pumpkin entirely gilded in shining metal, you’ll need quite a lot of tacks, but the final effect is worth it. Try different types of tacks to get creative with colours and textures!
2. Turn your gourd into a chalkboard
Chalkboard paint may be the greatest household invention of all time. Okay, slight exaggeration, but if you were the type of child who was always eagerly awaiting your opportunity to write on the board at school, then the magic of creating a chalkboard anywhere you desire will not be lost on you. So how about creating a chalkboard pumpkin? Paint its surface, and then you can draw and erase to your heart’s desire. Or leave chalk next to the pumpkin on your front walk, and create a platform for free expression!
4. Tape it up
To create straight lines on your awkwardly-shaped squash, another common household item is your best bet: tape. With scotch or coloured tape, you can create all sorts of patterns. One simple but effective method is to create a plaid-clad pumpkin by choosing a few matching colours and striping them vertically and horizontally. Alternately, there are lots of patterned duct tapes out there if you want your pumpkin dressed entirely in, say, leopard print. Take advantage of the wide variety colours and styles, and create the most unique pumpkin on your block in minutes.
5. Paint it
We’ve already gone over the Sharpie method, but if you’d like your pumpkin to be a bit more “high art,” then use it as a canvas for a painting. There’s a huge variety of colours, textures, and types of paint, so you can experiment until you find something that works for you. Solid colours look great, and you can block out sections of the pumpkin’s surface with tape, which you can remove afterward for a stencil-like effect.
6. Use crayons in new and creative ways
Most of us learned our colours from drawing with crayons, so in order to create a strikingly colourful pumpkin, why not go back to the source? For this craft, you’ll need a hairdryer as well as a selection of crayons. Use the dryer to melt the crayons over your pumpkin, creating a waterfall of bright hues. To make the colours pop even more, first paint your pumpkin white, creating a blank canvas. Detailed instructions for creating this explosion of colour can be found here.
7. Decoupage it
This method takes a little more work, but the results are worth it. With decorative paper, creative scissor work, and some ModPodge, you can create not just a decorated pumpkin, but a work of art. Scan magazines and newspapers for patterns and images that appeal to you, or if you’d like to create a more uniform effect, try a square of wallpaper. Full instructions on creating decoupaged pumpkins can be found here.
8. Yarn-bomb it
Yarn-bombing is a new form of street art that involves knitting coverings for all kinds of objects, from trees to tanks. This versatile art form can easily accommodate a simple object like a pumpkin. If you know how to knit, you can create a custom covering using your favourite stitches and colours, and if you can’t, you can make one out of a sweater or other knit fabric. Either way, you’ll feel better for leaving your pumpkin out during cold fall nights.
9. Decorate it with fall leaves
Sometimes, the most beautiful decorations are already around us. In the fall, colourful and fiery leaves are obviously the stars of the season. Unfortunately, these natural ornaments are only temporary—but so are pumpkins, so why not put the two together? Go for a walk, find some particularly striking fall leaves, and use some ModPodge to découpage your pumpkin with pressed leaves for a full fall overdose.
10. Stencil it
Speaking of stencils, why not make like a graffiti artist and create a custom stencil? Get a piece of paper and cut out the shapes that you want to transfer onto your pumpkin. Then tape the stencil onto it, apply spray-paint, and remove the paper to reveal your work of art underneath. You can create your own stencils, or you can download one of the hundreds of patterns available online. Because slicing shapes out of paper is so much easier than cutting them out of the pumpkin itself, you can make some surprisingly intricate patterns.