Fall is definitely my favorite season, and I’m crazy about autumn décor that includes pumpkins—especially those miniature pumpkins. But after they’ve sat out for a couple of weeks looking cute, the poor things usually get tossed in the trash. This year, give them one more shot at glory by doing some pumpkin printing. That’s right—turn your pumpkins into mixed-media art tools.
You can set this technique up in five minutes, and printing will make you feel like you’ve accomplished something awesome over the weekend. Grab some acrylic paint (fluid or heavy body, doesn’t matter), a few cosmetic wedges or foam brushes, paper, a palette or palette paper, a sheet of craft foam or felt, and a package of wipes.
When I first tested pumpkin printing out on scrap paper I noticed that the pumpkins didn’t print that well, and realized they needed a softer surface in order to transfer more paint. I tried printing on top of a sheet of craft foam, which worked perfectly. You can substitute felt, too, or an old mouse pad—anything with a little give.
I cut one pumpkin in half, hollowed it out, and let it sit for a couple of hours, cut side down, on paper towels to dry out a bit. But if you don’t care that there’s some moisture, scrape out the seeds and go for it. For a test run I started with blue heavy body acrylic paint, sponging it onto the cut pumpkin and pressing down firmly on the paper. Love at first sight. Look at those marks.
I then tried fluid acrylic in olive green on the top of a teeny-tiny pumpkin, and got these marks. They almost look like seeds, and I love that not all of the ridges printed. You can always add more paint and place the pumpkin in a different position to get a fuller print.
For pumpkin printing test #3, I used the bottom of a pumpkin and neon pink paint, which gave me a completely different set of marks.
And for test #4, I applied paint to the top of another pumpkin, which produced more unique patterns.
But wait–there’s more! I applied paint around the middle of a pumpkin and rolled it across the paper. Try this with stamping ink and see what types of effects you get.
Now that I felt like I knew my way around pumpkin printing, I cut a long piece of watercolor paper and dry-brushed some grey-brown paint in various spots. My plan was to keep the pumpkin printing abstract and use a somewhat neutral palette, adding pops of color on top.
I started with the cut pumpkin first, using a deep red-brown color, and printing it in various spots on the paper, letting some circles overlap.
I painted olive green-brown on the top of a pumpkin and printed that, some in the middle of the first circles, and others in random spots. With pumpkin printing, as with most types of nature printing, you never know what you’re going to get, and it’s those surprises that make it look organic and make the process so exciting.
For the next layer I went dark, combining phthalo green with burnt umber and a little black to create a deep shade of green. That also went inside some of the largest circles, and in arbitrary areas along the paper. Whenever I print this way I always make sure I print off the edge of the paper, so it doesn’t look like the images were crammed into the space.
Now for a pop of color. I went back to the neon pink and stenciled some scribble writing in several areas.
To add details, I outlined some of the prints with a black permanent pigment ink pen, and created circles of dots with a white paint pen.
To finish the piece, I applied parchment paint around the middle of a pumpkin and rolled it across the paper a few times. Then I folded the paper into an accordion and attached it inside one of my art journals.
I encourage you to keep printing as much as time allows. Do pumpkin printing on tags, cards, art journal pages, scraps of watercolor paper, and fabric. Try different color and pattern combinations. Carve a pumpkin and see how that prints. This printed stash will serve you well for a long time.
For even more techniques on printing and mark making with things you probably have around your house, like rug mats, beans, and rope, check out this blog post.
Printing is so enjoyable, and these resources are filled with and tons of techniques and inspiration from creative artists who would love to show you their ideas.