How to Make Paper Mache Pumpkins & More!

JACK SKELETON PAPER MACHE PUMPKIN

Let’s get down to business… so you want to learn how to make a paper mache pumpkin?  You’ve come to the right place, so let’s get started.

PAPER MACHE PUMPKIN GRIN2

Here’s what you will need to create a paper mache pumpkin:

  • Newspaper & lots of it for the stuffing
  • Newspaper ripped into nice even strips
  • Plastic Bag (any size will do)
  • String
  • Metal Coat Hanger
  • Large Bowl
  • Flour
  • Water
  • Whisk
  • Xacto Knife or Jigsaw

That’s all you need to create anything in paper mache!  And you thought it was going to be hard to do.  I’ll be honest with you, it is not hard at all, but it does take time…. drying time, that is.

If you are sitting here reading this post and have even slightly considered trying to make some (or one) paper mache pumpkins for yourself for Halloween or even for your Fall decor, now is the time to do something about it!  Creating paper mache objects is fun and easy to do with your family and kids, but I am sure that they will get bored easily when it comes to the “drying time” in between all the layers you need to put on. I hope that I can inspire you to create your own pumpkins for Halloween, and if you do, please share with me what you have made!

Creating paper mache pumpkins is a lot of fun, especially when you start to see your pumpkin coming to life, and well, actually looking like a pumpkin.  I admit it, I start one pumpkin, and right after the first layer dries, I want so badly to paint it already, but know that I am not even close to being done yet, as it has many more layers of paper mache to go before it is completed.

So you have the list of things that you need (above) to start creating your first pumpkin, so let’s begin….

THE PLASTIC BAG

TIE STRING AROUND BAG TO FORM PUMPKIN

Start with any sized plastic bag you wish.  I have used those white tall kitchen bags, and even the large 33 gallon ones too, so it all depends on the what size of pumpkin you want to create.

Now, grab a stack of newspaper and crumble up the pages (but not too tight) and stuff them in the bag.  Stuff the bag as much, or as little as you want, but your “pumpkin form” should be somewhat firm or your pumpkin shape will flatten when you start applying the paper mache.  (you’ll understand this concept more clearer when it happens on one of your pumpkins!)

Once you have the bag filled with enough crumbled newspaper, you need to tie off the top of the bag.  You can use the handles on the bag or just twist it at the top, or you could use twine or masking tape too.

Now that your bag is filled and the top is tied, you need to create the stem for your pumpkin.  I have used a few methods for a stem, but you can be creative in this step. Take a metal clothes hanger and snip off the top part.  You will now be wrapping the metal clothes hanger around the top of your pumpkin to start your stem.  (you can even poke the clothes hanger into the section where you tied the bag)  Form the clothes hanger now into any “stem shape” you want.  I have done some nice curvy stems with a clothes hanger.  Just so you know the reason you are using a clothes hanger in this step, is because it will hold its shape when you start applying the paper mache to it.  (believe me, on my first pumpkin I did not use a clothes hanger in the stem and just rolled up some newspaper, dipped it in the paper mache, and thought it would keep its shape.  It did not)  Any questions on this part, just ask me.

Now, you have created your basic pumpkin form & the stem!

THE STRING

I bet you are wondering what the string was for, right?  Well, the string plays an important part in your pumpkin, as it creates the natural-looking pumpkin creases. You know what I’m talking about…those nice lines that run down the side of the pumpkin!

Start by tying your end of the string to your stem.  Pull the string down the side of your plastic bag (and pull kinda tight) and you will see a crease starting.  Now, wrap the string up and around the other side, come up to the top (wrap it around the stem, again) and go down another side and up again, until you have created all the creases you wish on your pumpkin.  Make as many as you want or just a few.

Now you have created your pumpkin creases!  Congratulations!  Are you excited yet?

GET READY TO PAPER MACHE

PAPER MACHE MIX

Now, it is time to start the paper maching process!  Grab that large bowl, your whisk, and your bag of flour and head on over to your sink.  Place your bowl in the sink, dump some flour into the bowl (you don’t have to measure the amount of flour you use) and add some water.  Start whisking immediately!  You want to add enough water (but slowly) to make a pancake-like thick (but not too thick) batter.  Believe me, you will get better at mixing your batter with all the layers you will be adding, so don’t worry at this point, just make sure that your batter is not too thick or too watery.

Grab that huge pile of ripped up strips of newspaper because you are ready to start paper maching your pumpkin.  Make sure your pumpkin is on a plastic tarp or something to cover your floor, as this part can be a bit messy.

FIRST LAYER OF PAPER MACHE

Take one newspaper strip and lay it flat into the paper mache batter and either run the strip between your two fingers to remove the excess paper mache, or you can do what I do and run the newspaper strip up the side of the bowl and rub off the excess batter this way.

Now, just place your first batter-dipped piece of newspaper on top of your pumpkin. You need to always start at the top of your pumpkin and work your way down.  Once you get one layer on the top half of your pumpkin, you need to let it dry or place it in front of a small heater like I do, to hurry along the drying process.  Then, you flip your pumpkin over and paper mache the bottom half, and let the bottom half dry.  Once the entire pumpkin has one layer on it, and it has dried thoroughly, you will need to add more layers.

IMPORTANT TIPS:  When adding your first layer of paper mache, make sure you use your finger tips to poke your newspaper strips nicely into the creases you made with the string.  This part is important as it adds character to your pumpkin.

Also, make sure you run your hand flat over each strips when applying them to squeeze out any excess paper mache batter.  Always keep running a flat hand over your strips as you work your way around the pumpkin.  Another good tip is to position your layers in different directions on your pumpkin, as this will add strength when it hardens.

I have had a lot of people ask me the question “How do I know if I have enough layers of paper mache on my pumpkin?”  Well, that is a good question and can be easily answered.  After each layer of paper mache has dried, gently push down on your pumpkin all around and if there is any “give” on the pumpkin….. it needs more layers. Your completed pumpkin should be very hard when you tap or knock on it.

CUTTING THE FACE

CUTTING PAPER MACHE PUMPKIN WITH A JIGSAW

When you have completed your paper mache pumpkin and feel that it is hard enough with no “give” on any part of it, it is time to cut out your face.

ADDED TEETH TO PUMPKIN

Look at your pumpkin.  Twist it around to see what side looks best to cut out a face on it.  Once you find the side you like, simply draw a face on the side of your pumpkin with a pencil.  Start off with a pencil so you can make changes if you don’t like what you drew, then go over your pencil marks with a Sharpie Marker when you are satisfied.

ADDING DEPTH TO EYES

I used to cut the faces out of my pumpkin with an Xacto Knife, but ever since I have increased the layers on my pumpkins to make them thicker, I found that an Xacto Knife was too hard to use.  So, I resorted to my trusty Jigsaw.  On my pumpkins, I just drill a hole large enough for my Jigsaw blade to fit in.  You could also use a Dremmil too if you have one to cut out the face.

Once your face is cut out, you will now need to REMOVE all of the newspaper stuffing & plastic bag from inside your pumpkin!  The reason you do not remove the stuffing before is because the stuffing is holding the shape of your pumpkin.  You will need to get your Xacto Knife or Jigsaw and cut a circle on the bottom of your pumpkin.  This is where you will pull all of the stuffing out from.  Remove all the newspaper (and keep the stuffing too, so you can use it on your next pumpkin) and carefully pull the plastic bag out too that is now stuck to the inside of your pumpkin.  The string is probably stuck to the inside sides as well, and you can remove that too, but be careful when pulling this out, as you do not want to damage your pumpkin.  Make sure that everything is cleaned out from the inside of your pumpkin at this point.

You will need to add more paper mache strips around the cutout face edges to finish off the edges nicely.  The hole at the bottom of your pumpkin will be used to place your battery operated light inside your pumpkin after you paint it.  I was going to use these small battery operated LED lights that I have, but realized that I wanted more light to make my pumpkins glow.  I found a round Camping Light at the Dollar Store for $5 which has different light settings and is brighter than the other LED’s, so this is what I will be using in my pumpkins.

CAMPING LIGHT

PAINTING THE PUMPKIN

Yeah, it’s finally time to paint your pumpkin!  Congratulations!  You have accomplished a lot, but have created a one-of-a-kind pumpkin that you will cherish forever!

Take your pumpkin outside for some good ventilation, and pick out the colors you want to spray paint it.  TIP:  I have learned from some experienced pumpkin creators, that you should spray paint the inside of your pumpkin yellow.  They use yellow inside their pumpkins so when lit, it makes them glow better, but you can use orange or whatever color you choose, as this is YOUR pumpkin.  I would spray paint the inside of the pumpkin first, let it dry.  Then place some newspaper inside the pumpkin to cover up the face holes when spray painting the outside, as you do not want any over spray to get inside.

Once the spray paint has completed dried, spray a clear coat over the entire pumpkin, both inside and out.

You are now officially ready for Halloween!

These are the pumpkins that I am currently working on, in various stages (and I am starting on a new one today too).

MY PAPER MACHE FIREPLACE

Just starting to paint the fireplace.

BeFunky_FIREPLACE GETTING PAINTED

This is a photograph that I found on how the finished fireplace will look.  I will spray paint the entire fireplace black, then I will hand stencil the white diamonds all over the front and sides/back of the fireplace.  (by painting it these colors, I can also use this fireplace for Christmas time too!)

BeFunky_THE FINISHED LOOK

MY PAPER MACHE PUMPKINS

PAPER MACHE PUMPKINS

As you can see from above, my huge Jack Skeleton pumpkin has the camping light inside of it.  Isn’t it bright?

Stay tuned, as I work on finishing all of my pumpkins, the fireplace, and the paper mache witch that I am currently working on.  You will be amazed at the end results!

 

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29 thoughts on “How to Make Paper Mache Pumpkins & More!

  1. Hey there! I have been looking for a fun, kid friendly, but also inexpensive way to decorate for Halloween and, thanks to you I have found one. I was wondering have you ever tried using a glow stick inside the pumpkins rather than a tea light? Sorry if you have already addressed this matter and I missed it. Thank you In advance! Wishing you a beautiful day!!

    • Hi! No, I’ve never used a glow stick inside my pumpkins before, but that is a good idea, except that the glow stick might not be bright enough. On my larger paper mache pumpkins, I just ball up a string of lights and place them on the bottom of the pumpkin. That makes them light up real nice and bright! (also, here’s a little hint….paint the inside of the pumpkins a bright yellow instead of orange because it shows off the light better!)

  2. I’ve started my first pumpkin this afternoon. Only on the strings and hope to Gosh it works. Tomorrow I will start with the flour. I really want this to work. I want to make a few for my friends and look very smart. I use to make mosaic chairs and tables. And I love to paint. I think this is going to be harder. Wish me luck. SANDY

    • Hi Sandy! Good luck! My best advice to you is….lay many many layers of paper mache. Even when you think you might have enough, do more. The thicker, the better. If your pumpkin is “thin” in layers, when you go to paint it, it will cave in as the paint will be absorbed into the strips of paper mache. I had that happen to a few of my first pumpkins until I figured out that I was NOT laying enough layers of paper mache on the items. Let me know if you need any further help! 🙂

    • Hey Misaki! I am so glad you liked all of my pumpkins! I am actually working on pumpkin no. 5 now! I lit up one in our front window last night and went outside to see how it looked – – truly awesome is all I had to say! I am still shocked on how good they turned out. I am surprised that more people don’t try to make their own paper mache pumpkins, as it is easy to do.

  3. You are a Halloween Magician and holy smack…….what a lot of work you put into it. The fireplace alone is going to be unreal but look at those pumpkins. I’ll have to look for those camping lights at a Dollar Store, totally bright for all kinds of projects. Great Post Val.

    • Hi Boomie! I just love it when you can get an “ah-ha” moment. I was thinking & thinking what light I could use in them to be bright enough, then I thought of the camping light! It surely has enough light & brightness to light up the pumpkins. (if you can’t find them at your dollar store, then just do a google search for camping lights and you can find them)

      Yeppers, I have put in an enormous amount of time on all of these. I just want our Halloween to be special!

    • I can’t remember ever making paper mache in school, but heck, that was a long time ago. It is such a fun craft to tinker around with! Would love to make a paper mache dog of both Nikita and Bella one day, now that would be cool!

  4. I love following you on Pinterest – some of those Halloween pins are truly just gross and disgusting. What a hoot! I can’t hardly wait to see what you find new each time I take a look! I don’t know where you find them but they are really incredibly bad!! If someone needs Halloween ideas, they really need to browse your board. Every now and then I find one to send you and I know full well they are way too tame.

    Okay, okay, you can stop laughing now.

    Nancy

    • Hi Nancy! Are you kidding me? I love it when you send me “Pins”! I makes me feel all warm & fuzzy that someone is thinking of me! My Pinterest Boards are truly filling up with tons of great ideas! I do hope that everyone finds my holiday boards of interest! Halloween is all about “creepy” and strange things, so the weirder, the better, right?

      • Believe me, if I truly disliked it, I could unsubscribe the board. I love teasing you about it because you really find some gruesome stuff to post out there and I can’t wait to see how you actually decorate the house (and how the dogs react or don’t react to it).

        I walked the beagle before work in dim light today. Our neighbor was out and had on a neon orange shirt – he went off like a fog horn at her. You knew where I was for sure. The dogs are so funny – I’d have never guessed that would upset him.

      • Anything that “changes” for Nikita and Bella, make them bark. I moved something in the house, and they got all twitter-pated, so I had to move it back.

        We are getting excited too about decorating for Halloween. Can’t wait! Glad you like my board!

  5. Absolutely fantastic ideas for Halloween and I would agree the fireplace could be used for Christmas, too! Why for me? Cos the new place we moved don’t have a fireplace. It would be nice to create something like it in a corner or at the garden balcony. Ah so much ideas flowing every second I stay on your blog! Thank you!!! *hugs*

    • Aw Nessy, that was so sweet of you! I love hearing that I can inspire others to create things from my blog posts! Did you like my idea of adding white triangles on the fireplace? I saw a pic on Pinterest and knew that was exactly how I wanted to finish it! The Halloween display that I am creating for inside our home is going to be awesome when it’s completed. I can’t wait to share the finished scene with everyone! {{Huggies back to you}}

    • Hi Genevieve & Cupcake! I have been working hard to get these done before Halloween! I am glad you like them! As long as we don’t have hurricane storm winds like we did last year, our yard is always decked out for Halloween! The kids & the parents love it! Handmade tombstones that I cut from wood, a few fog machines, and tons of other fun stuff too!

  6. These are great Valerie! They do seem a bit tough to make the first time you would try though. The fireplace looks great too. Check you out with that jigsaw. 🙂

    • Yep, I finally “got it” and realized that the thickness of the pumpkins were hard to cut with an Xacto knife, so I switched to my jigsaw. Worked like I was cutting through butter! Yes, my designs might be a bit hard for a first timer, but you could also just draw and cut the triangles for the eyes and nose to make things simple. I just wanted to share the steps to make one, and it is easy to do, and as well show everyone how cool the ones I made turned out.

  7. Oh wow that looks GREAT!!! I hope we can start with our Halloween decoration soon. Sadly we have to finish our DIY-Disaster first :o) We use wallpaper adhesive for the paper mache, it dries very quick ( we are not good in waiting LOL).

    • Hey Easy! I am glad that you liked what I have been working on over here! Almost every day, I work a little bit more on them and when I get them all covered, and faces cut, I can spray paint them all at the same time. I never knew that you could use wallpaper paste to paper mache, but it would probably work just as good! Thanks for the tip!

      • Thanks for your tips too :o) I always used a balloon for the pumpkins and they were “just” round thingies without the typical pumpkin shape – now I saw yours, that’s much better :o)

      • Oh man, I could never use a balloon for mine, because the balloons would be too small. I made mine larger so everyone could see them from the sidewalk and street when we place them on our front porch for Halloween. The bag idea works like a charm, you just need to stuff it really well to hold the form of the pumpkin while you paper mache.

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