Papier-mâché Pumpkins and How To Make Them. They are much easier than you might think! Follow these steps for your own one of a kind pumpkin or Jack O’ lantern!
Mulling over where to find pre-made Jack O’ Lanterns for the pumpkin wreath I was imagining, I realized the vision in my mind was just not available in the local craft, sewing, or hobby stores. Abandoning the idea of the ready-made Jack O’ Lanterns, I considered the faux foam pumpkins and carving them but those aren’t available in the variety of shapes and sizes needed for this project and they are too uniform. Papier-mâché came to mind.
Ahhh, Pinterest comes to the rescue. Scott, who has the website Stolloween.com, has several pins featuring his scary homemade Papier-mâché pumpkins. As soon as I saw his work and videos, I knew this was exactly what was needed for this year’s Halloween wreath!
Another Halloween enthusiast has great how to videos, too. His name is Jay at UnhingedProps.com and his Halloween Papier-mâché Pumpkin How-To Videos on Youtube are great. After watching the two, utilizing methods from both of these guys, a plan for making these pumpkins began.
- Plastic grocery bags or Trash bags
- Masking tape
- 5 lb. bag of flour
- 1 cup white glue
- *1 cup liquid starch
- Mr. Clean with Febreeze (optional)
- 1 gallon water
- 5 gallon bucket
- Drill with large paint paddle
- Cellulose fiber insulation – (Lowe’s and Home Depot have bales of this for under $10.00. Check if any bags have been ripped. Lowe’s sells them at a discount.)
- Drywall joint compound
* Don’t have liquid starch? You can easily make your own. You’ll need water and dry laundry starch or regular cornstarch.
Boil 1 cup of water in a saucepan.
Mix 1 Tblsp. of laundry starch or cornstarch in 1 Tblsp. of cold water. Stir cornstarch mixture into the boiling water. Continue boiling and stirring for about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and allow to cool before using to make the papier-mâché paste.
Make papier-mâché paste:
Pour the 5-pound bag of flour into a 5-gallon bucket. Add 1 cup of white glue, 1 cup of liquid starch, 1 cap of Mr. Clean, 1 gallon of water, and mix well. (The Mr. Clean keeps the mixture smelling a little fresher for a few days.) Using a drill fitted with a long mixing paddle makes mixing this an easy job. (We are an affiliate of Amazon and a will receive a percentage of any purchases made from this link. Thanks for supporting this website.)
Tip about the mixing paddle – We found this one at Harbor Freight. In a couple of the reviews on it and on the one at Amazon, the paddles wrapped around the stem of the paddle when they were used to mix thicker ingredients. The fix was a hole drilled through the weld and a machine screw and bolt. We decided to do that before testing. When I say ‘we’, I mean Dave. I decided and he did it. Why tempt fate?
- Pour 2/3 of the paste mixture into another bucket or container with a lid to make the clay later or go ahead and make it at the same time.
- Reserved 2/3 of the Papier-mâché paste mixture
- 1 Spatula of joint compound
- Cellulose fiber insulation
In a 5-gallon bucket, mix the joint compound into the reserved papier-mâché paste mixture. Gradually add the cellulose fiber insulation, a little at a time, using the drill and the paint paddle to combine well. Continue adding cellulose until the mixture is about the consistency of Play-doh. To keep this from drying out, be sure to put a lid on it when not in use.
Papier-mâché Pumpkin Directions
First, fill a plastic bag with crumpled newspapers. Tie the handles at the top together in a knot.
Shape into a pumpkin likeness. You’ve seen these made from balloons but that creates too much of a perfect shape. These bags weren’t over-stuffed either. These little fellows are going to be less ‘perfect’ and a little more twisted.
Wrap twine around the bag to create ridges resembling a pumpkin. (On the second one, I didn’t use the twine. I just used the masking tape. We’ll see how that works.)
Apply masking tape over the twine to define the ridges more.
Cut plenty of strips of newspaper for applying to the pumpkin shape. Using this Fiskars paper cutter, it made short work of this. This one is old. There are much better ones today. (We are an Amazon affiliate and will receive a small percentage of any sales through this link. Thanks for supporting our website!) With a paint brush, or your hands, apply paste, and glue at least 3 or more layers of newspaper strips over the entire pumpkin. The firmer the base is, the more substantial the final product will be.
If you don’t want to have messy hands, the paint brush works well to pick up the strips of paper and apply to the pumpkin shape. If messy hands don’t bother you, go for it and use both hands, although it does seem the paint brush helps cut down on mess and you will waste less of the glue. (Don’t you always think of this as a ‘messy’ project? I used the paint brush. and it really was not!)
This bag is a regular bag from the grocery. Before adding the clay, it measured about 8-inches tall and 13″ x 10″ wide. You can make yours as big or as little as you please. I have two of these going at one time. The second one, the white bag, is a bit bigger than the first. You can see the criss-cross pattern and how they are overlapping each other in this picture. To create a stem, twist a piece of newspaper to resemble a stem. Leave one end untwisted. Bend the twisted end back on itself and twist together to form the stem. Cut the untwisted end into strips to glue to the top of the pumpkin shape.
I added some Tacky glue to the open twists in the stem and held it for a few minutes to hold the shape. (We are an Amazon affiliate and will receive a small percentage of any sales from this link at no cost to you.)
Cut Out The Face
Draw the face you want for your Jack O’ lantern.
Cut out the eyes, nose, and mouth with a sharp X-Acto knife. (We are an Amazon affiliate and will receive a small percentage of any sales from this link at no cost to you. Thanks for supporting this website.) Cut a hole in the bottom of the pumpkin shape for easy removal of the newspaper and plastic bag and also for access to paint the inside later. The bag and newspaper help support the paper frame while adding the clay.
(Instead of continually changing out blades, I sharpened the blade with a knife sharpener a few times.)
After the completely covered pumpkin shape is dry, use the reserved papier-mâché paste to make the clay recipe above, if you haven’t already. (This recipe is half of what Scott makes up, which is one of each, the paste and clay. I just mixed up one recipe and made the clay with about 2/3 of the paste recipe.)
Apply The Papier-mâché Clay
Starting at the top of the pumpkin above the face, use the papier-mâché clay to emphasize ridges between the indentations formed by the twine and tape. Cover the stem and make ridges and indentations to look more like a stem. Smooth the clay out with your hands as you go. I used my fingers more than my hands.
Begin emphasizing the facial features with clay. This is where the fun and creativity begin, where the Jack O’ lantern’s personality starts to take shape. Completely cover the pumpkin with the clay, a section at a time, creating ridges and indentations to look like a pumpkin.
Then, using the papier-mâché paste and your brush, smooth out the clay to look more like pumpkin skin.
I believe that the clay we made was a little wetter than needed. It held together really well and was easy to work with but I might try adding more of the cellulose to the remainder. It was a little wetter than was needed. This is the nicest clay I have ever used and it is not hard on your hands either!
You might need to let the top dry before applying the clay to the bottom. If any cracks show up after drying, this medium is very forgiving. Just add more clay and blend into the surrounding area.
When the surface is completely covered and you have finished all the details, allow the clay to completely dry for a few days. (I still have a little work to do on this guy.) Set the pumpkin on a grid or something so air can get to the bottom, too.
Want to keep up with progress on the pumpkins? Check out and Follow my Facebook page here ◄
Part 2 of this, “Papier-mâché Pumpkins and How To Make Them” post will be about painting the little fellows! Give me a few days for drying before that!
Update – Part 3 – Papier-mâché Pumpkins and How To Paint Them