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How to Pick the Best Paint for Pumpkins This Fall

Painting the perfect pumpkin depends on the paint you use. Learn what supplies you’ll need to have the prettiest pumpkin on the block!
A young girl painting a medium-size pumpkin black with a watercolor brush.


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Pumpkins are an essential part of fall traditions and decor. If carving pumpkins is too messy a business for you, painted pumpkin designs are a wonderful DIY alternative. Painting pumpkins is a simple project, but choosing the right paints and supplies is the key to making your pumpkin the best on the block.

Choosing the best paint for pumpkins depends on the design you want to paint and the kind of pumpkin you use. From acrylic to latex to house paint, the options available to buy can seem endless, so follow this guide to pick the right paint for the job and learn how to paint a pumpkin the proper way.

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Choosing the Best Paint for Pumpkins

To keep this autumn project safe and easy, pumpkin painting—an all-ages craft that even little ones can participate in—is best done with types of paint that are painless to work with while still making your pumpkins look their best.

A common challenge encountered when painting pumpkins comes down to the texture of the pumpkin rind. These gourds’ smooth skin provides little grip or texture, so certain paints like oil-based paint may be difficult to work with. Oil-based paints also have longer drying times, are harder to achieve crisp lines with, make cleaning up minor mistakes difficult, and, according to Poison Control, can pose health risks like skin irritation, upset stomach, and breathing complications.

The following water-based paints are much better suited to the vast majority of pumpkin painting ideas.

Acrylic Paint

A tube of light-green acrylic paint being squeezed out onto a palette by a woman wearing a sweater.

When browsing craft store aisles for pumpkin painting supplies, make sure to pick up a few bottles of acrylic paint for your project. In almost every way, using acrylic when painting pumpkins is much easier than it is with oil-based paints. One coat of acrylic paint takes about 15 minutes to dry on pumpkin rinds so you don’t need to wait hours to set out your decorated pumpkins. When painting a traditional orange pumpkin, though, expect to paint multiple coats of each acrylic paint color used so the pumpkin’s natural hue doesn’t sneak through.

Acrylic paint like this highly rated option available at Amazon—the top pick in our buyer’s guide—is also the best paint for pumpkins because it’s simple to clean up. If you make a mistake or choose to redesign your pumpkin, you can simply wipe it off with a damp rag and start over. Acrylic paint comes in many different colors, finishes, and saturations so the design ideas are endless. It also works well with stencils and detail brushes for more creative designs!

Latex Paint

A loaded paint brush resting on an open can of white latex paint on a plastic drop cloth.

Chances are you have a bucket of latex wall paint sitting in storage that can be repurposed for hassle-free pumpkin painting. Latex paint is much like acrylic paint; it’s affordable, dries quickly, and comes in a wide array of colors.

Latex paint is exceptionally well-suited to painting an entire pumpkin or a large background section. However, detail work and small designs might be difficult to achieve with latex paint because of its watery consistency, so using it in addition to acrylic paint is probably the perfect pairing. Be sure to mix the paint well and let it dry completely before adding other layers of paint.

Chalk Paint

An 8-ounce jar of white FolkArt Home Decor chalk paint on a staged craft table.

Chalk paint can transform your run-of-the-mill pumpkin into a trendy work of art with its matte finish. Chalk paint is easy to use because it can withstand the smooth texture of a pumpkin and doesn’t drip as much as other paints. DIY devotees can even make their own chalk paint out of baking soda, some latex paint, and a few other common ingredients. Of course, pre-made chalk paint is also available at most hardware and craft stores.

Spray Paint

A group of four uncapped spray paint can nozzles in front of a yellow background.

The convenience and speed of spray painting can’t be beat, especially when painting larger pumpkins. If you wish to quickly apply a background color to your pumpkin or cover a larger section of the gourd, water-based spray paint will get the job done evenly. Spray paint comes in many different colors and is easier on hands and wrists than spreading paint on a pumpkin with a brush. Spray-painting pumpkins with stencils is a creative way to add dimension to the craft while saving even more time and hassle.

For the same reason as paints you apply with a brush, avoid oil-based or solvent-based spray paints when painting pumpkins, especially in enclosed areas or around children.

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Top Tips for Pumpkin Painting

Young children painting small pumpkins an assortment of colors on an outdoor deck.

Painted pumpkins are not only fun to DIY, but they double as fun, seasonal home decor during the fall and Halloween season. To get the best results, use these tips and tricks:

  • Choose pumpkins with smooth rinds that have few bumps, grooves, or uneven sections. Before painting, wipe off any dirt or grime with a rag.
  • Gather your paint brushes, paints, and a damp rag at a suitable workstation prepped with old newspapers, a disposable tablecloth, or a drop cloth for easy cleanup.
  • Use water-based paints and let each coat dry completely before painting subsequent coats to ensure the colors and designs come out solid and legible.
  • After letting the last coat of paint dry, apply a top sealant coat like Modge-Podge to protect your masterpiece from fading and rotting!