I painted up these tiny paper mache Jack O’Lanterns to make a spooky fall focus for our mantel! I finished these little cuties the other day and got them displayed this evening. Aren’t they adorable??
They sit just right on top of some battery-powered LED tealights (which you can find just about anywhere nowadays), giving them a flickering, realistic glow.
Ready for the how-to? Here we go!!
You will need:
- Hollow paper mache Jack O’Lanterns (I bought these at JoAnn a year or two ago, but if you’re ambitious enough, you can make your own!)
- DecoArt Americana Gloss Enamels
Bright Orange (base color)
Bright Yellow (face cutouts)
Primary Yellow OR Saffron Yellow OR Antique Gold (highlights)
Dark Chocolate (shadows and stem)
Milk Chocolate (stem)
- Paint brushes (whatever you have that’s closest to the sizes below is fine; mine were from a big set of general craft brushes)
- Very small, fine-tipped 10/0 round brush
- Small 1/8″ flat brush
- Broad 5/8″ flat brush
- Foam makeup wedge
- Waxed paper
- X-Acto knife
- Battery-powered LED tealights
First things first, I used my X-Acto knife to clean up the eyes, noses, and mouths of all of my little punkins. I wanted to make sure there would be as few malformations as possible getting in the way of the (fake) candlelight that would be shining through them.
I then cut a ~1/2″ hole in the bottom of each gourd, veeery carefully (paper mache isn’t known for its fortitude). It needs to be wide enough to insert your fake candle flame. Don’t forget to test it!
Time to start painting! Begin with the eyes, nose, and mouth. Throw on a couple of thick coats of Bright Yellow using your 10/0 brush. This will help you get paint right into the tiny corners and along the inner surfaces. (You’ll probably notice that the enamel paints dry really quickly, which you’ll need to keep in mind for later on.)
Next, give your pumpkins two or three coats of the Bright Orange enamel with your 5/8 brush. It will give them a nice waxy shine as well as a hard “shell” to protect them. At least two coats will be needed to make sure the coverage is uniform and opaque. Because this paint dries so quickly, you’ll breeze through those few coats before you know it.
This is where we really have some fun.
Squeeze a little bit of your highlight color onto your waxed paper. Using the foam makeup wedge, dip a corner from the wide end of the wedge into your enamel. Pounce the wedge onto your waxed paper to daub off any excess paint — what we want here are multiple thin layers, not one or two thick ones. If you accidentally get a thicker blob of paint, use a clean corner of the wide end of the wedge to pat the blob and spread it out.
Using quick pats, gently apply the highlight color to the raised portions of the pumpkins. Because we’re using so little paint here, you can easily build up color on the highest parts of the ridges to give it a very natural look. I like to make my painted areas narrower with each coat.
Using the thin end of the wedge (har har), use the same technique with the Dark Chocolate enamel, except this time, apply the paint only in the low valleys between the ridges you just highlighted. Again, build up thin layers to get the look you want. Sometimes the wedge will cause bubbles in the paint as you pat it on, but that’s OK — it just adds to the mottled, natural appearance we’re going for.
Once that’s dry (shouldn’t be long!), pick up a tiny bit of Milk Chocolate enamel with your 1/8 brush. Dab any excess off on your waxed paper or a paper towel, then lightly dry-brush the stem. You should see the lighter brown only being picked up by the high points of the stem, leaving the dark brown in the crevices.
Touch-up time! Check back over your pumpkins and retouch any bits of overpainting that might have occurred, particularly at the base of the stem and around the eyes, nose, and mouth.
You’re done! I did an extra step and made little wrappers for my tealights with my Silhouette Portrait so the white plastic wouldn’t be so stark on my candle stand or next to my pumpkins.
What do you think?