45 Pumpkin Decorating Projects
Setting the season
Vibrant dahlias in carved-out mini pumpkins delight at place settings. (We used a candle carver—a small tool that removes candle-size chunks from fruits and veggies.) Insert a votive holder as the "vase" for water and blooms. For the centerpiece, a row of cake stands raises pumpkins decorated with tisue-paper leaf silhouettes. Download our free instructions and templates for the silhouettes below.
Corn husk covers
For clever pumpkin art, attach slightly damp corn-husk strips at the stem and base of pumpkins with clear-drying gel glue. Buy packs of dried corn husks (used to make tamales) in the international foods section of a grocery store or at Walmart for this fall decorating idea.
Woodland scene pumpkins
Put woodland-theme pumpkins together with seasonal accents, such as gourds, mums and a colorful blanket, to create a scene like the one on the cover of our September/October 2013 issue. Click below for instructions and free downloadable templates to make a variety of painted, carved and etched woodland pumpkins.
To create these pumpkins as pictured on one of our October covers: Choose three flat-bottomed pumpkins in graduated sizes and different colors. (No need to hollow them out.) Using a ¾-inch hole-saw bit, drill circles in desired pattern. Switch drilled plugs between pumpkins of different colors. We pushed the plugs slightly below the skin for a 3-D effect. Using a wood-carving gouge or tip of a vegetable peeler, cut random swirls.
Trendy animal-print ribbon and duct tape dress pumpkins in fashion-forward style. For this easy fall craft, we applied stripes of black electrical tape and zebra duct tape on a white gourd. Tiger- and leopard-print ribbon segments fit between grooves to form a checkerboard (applied with fabric glue) on our larger pumpkin.
A black-and-white color scheme gives any decorating project a bold, sophisticated look that pops against fall's bright oranges. Download our templates and instructions below to create tissue-paper patterns for the pumpkins, then group decorated pumpkins with a vase of winterberry as an accent.
Create black-and-orange etched designs on three or four pumpkins for a bewitching display. Carve out one to hold a vase full of flowers.
To start, spray-paint the pumpkins a matte black finish. (Protect the stems with tape.) When the pumpkins are dry, use a paring knife to scrape away the painted surface in vertical or horizontal lines. Or etch a simple shape or pattern, such as the sun or a zigzag.
Fluttering butterflies alight on pumpkins in this attractive fall centerpiece. For this easy fall craft, we spray-painted faux butterflies from a crafts store all black for a sophisticated look and then trimmed their wires to press into the pumpkins’ skin. A harlequinlike mask adds whimsy.
White pumpkins encircled by bittersweet vine and set along an orange table runner create a striking table arrangement.
We got the notion to do some pumpkin decorating during a trip to the local fabric store. A warty gourd took on black spots when we hot-glued on assorted sized buttons. Other buttons march down a white pumpkin like a fancy shirtfront; white bead-head straight pins secure them and color coordinate the look. Those same pins daintily trail down the sides of a small orange pumpkin; while measuring tapes and rickrack pair for measureless possibilities on another when attached with glue or pins. But we really love our last idea: We pinned on a zipper and removed the “lid” of a large pumpkin to create its unzipped look.
Display your favorite fall foliage colors with simple decoupage (gluing flat objects or pictures to a surface). Real leaves applied to a white pumpkin set a sophisticated scene.
For this easy fall craft, first set leaves between paper towels and flatten them under a book for at least five days. Then brush decoupage glue on a white pumpkin. Arrange the leaves on the pumpkin's surface. Cut small slits along the edges of the leaves as you go, so they'll fit the pumpkin's contours. To finish, coat the decorated surface in decoupage glue.
We can't resist a little skin-crawling fun! Plastic spiders wander over pumpkins draped in ripped cheesecloth. “Hairy” cording feels a bit like a spider’s trail on another. Add a faux crow, and you’ve set the proper spooky mood for Halloween.
Midwest-theme stencil pumpkins
Cast a distinctly regional spell on your Halloween pumpkins with designs that represent some of our favorite Midwest icons!
Our online collection includes the barn, maple leaf and lighthouse pictured, plus stencils of a log cabin, ear of corn, deer, eagle, pinecone, sunflower and wheat -- all designed specifically for Midwest Living. Use a combination of cutouts and etchings for your designs. Click below to browse our designs and download free patterns.
Trick or treat pumpkins
Create a striking pumpkin grouping with traditional orange pumpkins and black paint.
Use masking tape to create desired patterns (cover areas you want to remain the pumpkin color). Spray-paint pumpkins black; remove tape to reveal design. Paint your favorite Halloween sayings between stripes. Create dots in black-painted areas by drilling holes with a cup drill bit.
An assortment of cattails, leaves, seasonal berries and orange tulips creates a memorable fall display for a sideboard or table centerpiece. Posing the cornucopia in pretty white Lumina pumpkins adds a sophisticated surprise.
Remove the tops of the pumpkins and hollow out the insides to make fall vases. Place a watertight container inside each pumpkin to keep flowers fresh and prevent pumpkins from getting soggy.
60-Second Video: No-Carve Pumpkins
Get crafty using these ideas for pumpkin decorating—from creepy to classy—without a mess.
Combine two fall favorites by turning a pumpkin into a bursting-with-mums flower arrangement in this DIY fall craft.
Begin carving as you would with a jack-o-lantern. Carefully cut a lid (keep the stem!) and remove the seeds and pulp. Using a drill or nail, poke small holes around the shell, just wide enough to insert flower stems. Select mums in oranges, reds and golds. Cut the stems about a half inch from the flower head, long enough to poke into the hole. Space holes so adjoining flowers cover the pumpkin flesh. Start at the top, and work your way down until the pumpkin is covered.
The number of mums you need depends on the sizes of the blooms and your pumpkin. Keep the inside of the pumpkin moist; flowers will last two or three days.
Tissue paper pumpkins
Don’t let these pumpkins fool you; the designs may look painted, but the patterns are actually created with tissue paper. Download our free patterns below for instructions and templates.
A painted crow makes an appropriate Halloween appearance in a birdbath lined with twigs or a grapevine wreath in this easy DIY fall decoration.
Send your guests a spooky message with this towering display.
Sketch the outline of the letters freehand, then scrape off the pumpkin skin to highlight each letter. Stack the pumpkins on a dowel near your entryway.
Whimsical dots create a two-tone or multicolor design with season-long appeal.
Use a plunger-type apple corer to punch out circles from an assortment of pumpkins and winter squash. Tapping the plunger with a rubber mallet helps push the corer through tough pumpkin shells. Then re-insert the circles in contrasting-color pumpkins. Mix and match the circles from different pumpkins to create polka-dot patterns, or discard circles to let light glow through your design.
Go all-out for a party with imaginative displays of pumpkin-inspired fall decorations. The next slides show how to craft the projects shown at left and other pumpkin party creations that will impress your guests.
Miniature Baby Boo, Jack-Be-Little and Sweetie Pie pumpkins become perfect candleholders when hollowed out for votives. We used old pitchforks, rake heads and an antique apple picker as simple wall sconces. (Safety note: Never leave burning candles unattended.)
Painted leaf art
To put your painting in the spotlight, add painted designs to unusual squash or pumpkin cultivars, like this striking blue-green Jarrahdale pumpkin.
To paint any pumpkin, start with one that is clean and dry. Lightly sand the surface and apply paint sealer to prevent flaking. Create a design with stencils and acrylic paint, such as the leaf stencil and orange and white paints used here, then finish with a top-coat sealer.
Like working with a three-dimensional quilt, you can mix and match cut shapes from different-colored pumpkins for a custom look. At left, orange squares make a checkerboard pattern in a white Lumina pumpkin.
This DIY decorating idea is an easy fall craft. Simply scoop out the insides, then cut identical shapes out of two pumpkins. Switch the pieces.
It's important that pieces to be exchanged are of the same size. For a precise edge, you can use tools such as metal cookie cutters, biscuit cutters and an apple corer to help with your cutting. For a more handcrafted look, design your own template.
Create a patchwork and paint display
Set a seasonal scene on your porch or patio using our patchwork and paint techniques to create a beautiful grouping of pumpkins. Add flowers, fall leaves, small pumpkins and fresh vegetables to embellish your inspiring display.
Use antique keys (secured with long straight pins) to create seasonal messages, such as fall or eek, on your pumpkins for an easy DIY fall decoration.
Painted bats (or bats cut from black construction paper) look spooky on your doorstep or inside.
An assortment of mini pumpkins and fresh fall leaves creates a pretty fall window swag.
Knot your fall bounty on a length of rustic twine, and swag across your panes to frame a pretty fall view.
Pair all-white or orange-stripe pumpkins with white tableware for a soft, elegant look.
All-white pumpkin varieties include 'Lumina', 'Baby Boo' and 'Moonshine'. Try 'Lil' Pump-Ke-Mon' for a miniature pumpkin with creamy color accented by bright orange stripes.
Give pumpkins a dash of extra color with rickrack or ribbon from your local fabric shop for an easy DIY fall decoration.
A simple but elegant painted stencil decorates this pumpkin.
For this easy fall craft, glue your favorite dried leaves on pumpkins in a variety of patterns.
Pumpkin table runner
Create a fresh-from-the-patch table runner in just a couple of minutes.
Arrange a line of miniature pumpkins or gourds down the center of the table and weave a ribbon around them. Top this fall decoration with a bittersweet stem.
Turn miniature pumpkins into tabletop topiaries accented with raffia bows.
Hot-glue a piece of Styrofoam into a 4-inch terra-cotta pot. Push a sharpened dowel or tree branch into the bottom of a miniature pumpkin, and push the other end into the Styrofoam. Secure with glue if needed. Spread dried beans or peas over the top of the Styrofoam, gluing if necessary. Tie a raffia bow around the dowel just below the pumpkin to complete this DIY fall decoration.
Candy corn pumpkins
Create these cute, almost-good-enough-to-eat pumpkins with spray paint.
Make a fuss-free fall centerpiece by displaying several pumpkins or gourds on the table.
Our arrangement uses a long white platter, but a basket or tray would work well, too. Add a few leaves, berry clusters or flowers for color and texture.
Greet your guests at the door with a pumpkin house-number sign.
Stack small, medium and large Cinderella pumpkins (remove stems, except for the top one). Then use a stencil and crafts knife to trace the outlines of your address numbers. Scrape the pumpkin skin out of the stenciled numbers, revealing the lighter pumpkin flesh underneath.
Pumpkin place cards
Small pumpkins add a fresh touch to a fall table setting. And they're not afraid to work as place cards while they're looking pretty.
Start by inscribing colorful leaves with your guests' names. Then tie the foliage to mini pumpkins with raffia or twine.
A pumpkin "basket" makes an imaginative centerpiece for a fall table.
Hollow out the pumpkin, then place a block of wet floral foam inside. Position a pillar candle in the foam and surround with fall blooms and berries to complete this DIY fall decoration.
Create a welcoming fall scene with personalized pumpkins. Etch your monogram into small, medium and large pumpkins, using different fonts and styles. (You can get a similar look with paint if you'd prefer not to etch.) Show off your pumpkins on an old chair or stool.
Summer still blooms when you translate flower motifs to fall pumpkins.
For this easy fall craft use an apple corer to cut flower centers, and carve petal designs with a triangle clay loop tool, available at some crafts stores or through pottery supply stores online. Swap flower centers among different-color pumpkins for whimsical contrast.
Black and white
Glittery white pumpkins and shiny black pedestals make a sophisticated autumn display. Spray-paint foam pumpkins white, adding textural touches such as glitter or sparkly white ribbon. Arrange on and around an assortment of black-painted pedestals; we used candleholders and a cake stand.
For carving: The quintessential pumpkin has a rich orange hue, medium to large size and strong handle. Look for varieties such as Howden Field (15-30 pounds), Magic Lantern (15-25 pounds) and Autumn Gold (8-15 pounds).
For painting: Pumpkins with smooth skins are best for painting or decoupage. Try varieties such as Lumina (10-15 pounds, white) or Baby Pam (4-5 pounds, orange).
For color contrast: Pumpkins look artsy in exotic and two-tone colors; no additional ornamentation needed. Look for Cinderella (25-30 pounds, dark orange/red color with deep ridges, Jarrahdale (9 pounds, with blue/green or slate gray skin), Hooligan (miniature with orange and white mottled colors), Fairytale (15 pounds, with rich mahogany brown color) and Batwing (1/4 pound, with orange and green coloring).
More fall decorating ideas
Click below for more great fall and Halloween decorating ideas!