Looking for realistic pumpkins? It is totally possible to make fake pumpkins look real (ish)!
After moving South Texas many years ago I was terribly disappointed to learn that nobody puts pumpkins out on the front porch. Simply put, it was far too hot and they would quickly rot making them not worth the effort.
Autumn is probably my favorite season. Things cool off from an annoyingly hot summer and suddenly you can wear flannel and sweaters. How I love a good flannel and comfy sweaters! The oranges, reds, and browns of nature and decor just seem so warm and inviting, even with the said cooling of temperatures.
Initially, I was excited thinking that in Houston I might be able to get back to my porch full of pumpkins, but realizing how darn hot it still is outside I’m thinking it might not work out as well as I had hoped. I didn’t want to wait until the very last minute and was able to buy a whole mess of craft pumpkins from Walmart as they were setting them out. Can you believe my luck? Orange, black and white pumpkins only $7 and $9 apiece. What a steal!
Now I know that fake pumpkins look fake, but when I got them home and started to really look at them they looked a little too fake. And so I went about painting my pumpkins with a series of brown and orange in varying strengths to make fake pumpkins look real.
Perhaps they aren’t perfectly real looking, but from a few feet away anyone who sees your DIY fakes will definitely not realize that they aren’t real. Side by side comparison, y’all. Isn’t that just nuts how much better a few coats of paint make these babies look?
What do you need to make fake pumpkins look real?
- Orange Foam Craft Pumpkin
- Burnt Umber Acrylic Paint
- Marmalade (orange) Acrylic Paint
- Paintbrushes and a small bowl
- Paper Towels
- Satin Polyurethane
These foam pumpkins can be found all around these days. Mine actually came from Walmart and the seams where 2 pieces join to make one pumpkin is more prominent than I would like and slightly takes away from the realistic thing I am going for. That being said, if you see these guys at Walmart they’re a great deal ($10 for the biggest and $7 for the smaller) and will work just fine.
For results similar to mine I think it’s best if you use the same paints that I did. My brown is “burnt umber” from the brand Apple Barrel. It’s one of the less expensive brands and it isn’t as thick of some of the higher-end acrylic paints. This works very well for this project because we don’t want the paint to be opaque in any area. The marmalade color is a thicker paint, by Martha Stewart and it’s got a hit of green to it. It’s the perfect shade for a realistic pumpkin look.
How to make realistic fake pumpkins.
Making a fake pumpkin look real is just a series of layers of paint and super easy to do…
First, paint thin lines down every seam of the pumpkin of varying thickness and shapes. It’s easiest to get a small, flat paintbrush and turn it sideways so that you paint downward using the bristles in a vertical way. Apply more pressure to the bristles in areas you want a thicker line and then less in areas where you want it to be thin or even just a trace of paint.
There is no exact science to this step and if you don’t like what you’ve done, most of the paint will wash away for you to start over. We’re going to go over these lines with a lot more paint so don’t stress too much about your lines!
Paint over the current stem with burnt umber paint taking care to push it into all of the nooks and crannies. Allow the paint on the stem and in the seams time to completely dry.
Painting washes and adding dimension to the pumpkin.
Now we begin our series of applying paint to the full pumpkin. I’m going to share with you how I achieved the results I like best, but feel free to create your own series of applying paint and washes to achieve the look you’re going for. If you decide to stray from my steps, I’d strongly suggest jotting down the strength and order of the paint as you apply it so you can recreate other pumpkins that will look similar to your first.
When first starting to apply washes to your pumpkin it might kind of bead up on you. This is just because of the coating on the foam and isn’t a big deal.
Our first step in our layers of paint is to create a wash of the burnt umber paint with water. You’ll want approximately 60% paint to 40% water in a small bowl.
Brush the paint on a few sections at a time. Allow a minute, or two, for the paint to begin drying and then wipe a paper towel downward to remove the excess. Always wipe the paint down or up, never side to side or in a circular motion. This up and down distribution of the paint helps these be realistic fake pumpkins instead of just fake pumpkins :)
First coat down, time to go around and around.
Repeat this paint wash until the nooks, crannies, and imperfections in the foam’s surface are visible with the burnt umber paint embedded inside. There’s no need to allow anything to dry. You can continue painting around and around without stopping.
Switch your paint to straight orange (marmalade) paint. Go around the entire pumpkin with gentle brushstrokes up and downward. Don’t push the paint into the nooks and crannies, allow your brush to skim the surface of the pumpkin. Backtrack every few painted segments and smooth out any areas where the brushstrokes are visible.
Continue to work, often the more layers the more realistic the final finish.
Create a final wash of water to burnt umber paint with a ratio of approximately 50/50. You can use the same bowl you did for your marmalade paint and if you have a little bit combined in your brown wash, it doesn’t hurt anything. Yay for not having to wash things constantly, right?
Pay special attention to cover the bottom of the pumpkin in brown (where it would get muddy sitting on the ground). Continue with your burnt umber wash until you’re satisfied with the look. I personally went over my pumpkins 3 times with the faint burnt umber wash. This might be different for you depending on the ratio of your paint to water in the wash.
Using a dry brush, load the bristles with a trace of black paint. Next, make a quick stroke of the brush onto a piece of scrap to remove any excess. Dry brush the black paint onto the stem, taking care to push it into any nooks and crannies. Wipe away any areas that cover too well with a dry paper towel to remove the excess as you work.
Seal your pumpkins so they last.
Apply a thick coat of brush of satin polyurethane on the orange part of the pumpkin only (you don’t want a shiny stem) and allow to dry completely. I left mine outside for several hours because headaches from fumes stink!
My pumpkins won’t be in the elements so I didn’t bother, but if you want to seal your stem, too, be sure that whatever you use is matte and not shiny. Real pumpkin stems are never shiny!
Enjoy your realistic fake pumpkins!
Doesn’t that look absolutely fabulous? Realistic fake pumpkin DIY for the win!