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Third time’s the charm: how to make watercolor letter pumpkins

In the last post, I showed you my fall mantel with watercolor pumpkins:
Fall mantle decorated with watercolor pumpkins and fall leaves
I was a little conflicted about the watercolor pumpkins I made.
How to make watercolor letter pumpkins for fall decorations


I think I like them? Sometimes, in the right light? But I KNOW I like them better than my first draft, which I neglected to show you because they were kinda weird and possibly reminiscent of a creepy blood-splatter handprint.
Creative DIY pumpkin ideas: watercolor letters
…which I guess is appropriate for Halloween… but not really what I was aiming for! (Maybe I should’ve spelled out “FAIL” instead of “fall.” So I redid them with a larger, chunkier font and more colors, and decided I like this version better.
How to make watercolor letter pumpkins for fall decorations
But you know what? THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM!

Not that I actually DID this craft a third time, but I think I learned enough from the first two times that YOU can go do a fantastic job now and make your pumpkin letters like a hundred times better than mine, then send me photos and I will be both in awe and slightly ashamed. It’ll be beautiful.

Materials You’ll Need

  • Real or craft pumpkins (Shazam! You didn’t even see that coming.) I got these at Michaels, 50% off stacked with a 20% off coupon.
  • Acrylic paint in a couple different colors. (NOT watercolor. Trust.) I used maroon, gold, blue.
  • Angled paint brushes
  • Spray paint primer

1. Spray your pumpkins with primer

Spray paint primer onto craft pumpkins
YOU MUST DO THIS EVEN IF YOU BUY WHITE PUMPKINS.

The pumpkins are kinda plastic-y, so the paint will just pool up on them and not soak in. The point of the primer is to create a surface that will accept paint, so don’t skip this step.

Yes, even you. I see you sitting there, thinking the rules don’t apply to you. Listen to the girl who ALSO thought this rule didn’t apply to her, and had to go do a whole extra spray paint session after she learned the hard way.

2. Write the letters on the pumpkin with pencil

I just found a cute font (this one is called “FFF Tusj” and you can download it free here) and printed out the word “fall” with a word processor.

I traced around the letters with a pencil so they kind of indented onto the pumpkin, then I removed the paper and retraced the indention with a pencil mark. Or you can just freehand the letter onto the pumpkin, if you have superhero letter-writing skillz.

(All these photos are from when I did my “first draft,” so the font is different. I forgot to take more pics when I made my second draft!)
Creative DIY pumpkin craft ideas: make watercolor letter pumpkins

3. Use a watercolor paint treatment on the pumpkins

Squeeze out a nice little blob of each acrylic paint color you’re planning to use onto a fancy artist’s palette (if you’re going to get serious about this) or a paper plate (if you’re like me), and set up a little station with a water cup and paper towels.

(I tried this with watercolor paints the first time, and listen: don’t try it! It does not work. The pumpkin rejected the watercolor paint faster than a cheerleader rejecting the fat kid at the middle school dance. It got awkward.)

Here’s the cool, mind-blowing part of this process: dip your angled brush into the clean water and brush the water around the outside edge of the letter. This will train the paint to go toward the water and away from the letter. It’s what makes this project look a lot harder than it is.
How to paint watercolor pumpkins
Monumentally important point: This is literally the first time in the history of View Along the Way that I have actually done a tutorial with a proper manicure (and probably the last)… because this is the first time since my wedding that I have HAD a proper manicure. Clearly I’m not one of those classy ladies who can get a manicure and NOT point it out to anyone who can hear. “HEY EVERYBODY! COME SEE MAH NAILS!”

Once the outside of the letter is wet, dip the edge of your angled brush into the acrylic paint and begin carefully brushing down the outline of the letter. The water will pick up the paint and spread it out a bit away from the letter. It’s actually kinda magical and enjoyable to watch.
Painting watercolor pumpkin letters
Keep adding more water to the paint and brushing around the outside. If you’re using three colors like I did, outline about a third of it in one color, then switch to the next color and outline a third, then finish it off with the last color. Then, keeping your brush very wet, blend the colors together. It actually worked really well for me and didn’t end up turning into a giant brown sludge like I thought might happen.
How to paint watercolor pumpkin letters
I also had a real grown-up pedicure in the photo above, but look how classy I’m being by not pointing it out!

The trick to getting the paint to look mottled and watercolored is to just keep adding water around the edges and blending the colors. In the photo above, it really needed more water on the bottom.

A few things I learned along the way that you can use to make your much-better-than-mine versions:

  • It might seem like the hardest part of this project is keeping the paint outside of the letter, but it’s really not hard at all. As long as you keep the outside of the letter very wet, the paint will try to go that direction.
  • The hardest part is getting the outside edges of the color to look faded, but just keep it really, really wet and use your paper towel to blot around the sides and you’ll be set.
  • It looks better if you use multiple colors.
  • Try to keep the paint darkest right around the outline of the letter. I think the end result is much cooler that way.
  • It’s worth investing in the shellac paint when you get your manicure. What, wait? #StillTalkingAboutNails

DIY watercolor pumpkins! Such a simple, beautiful idea!

It’s fall, guys. My mantel hath declared it, though my green, summery yard shall deny it for another month. And you know what that means: we should all go get pedicures! (Don’t overthink this rule I just made up.) Has anyone else tried this shellac thing? Are you getting all mantel-ed up for autumn?

Linking up to: Lettered Cottage



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Comments

  1. A proper manicure is one of my favorite lady-date things to do! Sometimes you just get sick of Starbucks or ChickFilA. Just kidding, I could eat ChickFilA until the cows come home. (AHAHAHHAHAH.)

    I didn’t know you could stack Michael’s coupons!? Does it depend on the store/employee?

  2. That is so clever! I love how they turned out. They are so pretty!

  3. I’m so glad I’m not the only one who has to do crafts 3 times to get it right. I LOVE the way it turned out. Ya did good!

  4. You must have the same problem with crafting that I do. I should be able to make a perfect craft with zero practice. I guess we’r mortals after all. 😉

  5. I love how this turned out…what a cool trick! I would have never guessed that’s how you did the letters. Thanks for sharing! Now I need to go watercolor something. 😉

  6. I really love these Kelly! So original, and perfect if you’re not into carving out those suckers. I mean…Ain’t nobody got time for that!

  7. I usually draw on my pumpkins with a plain old Sharpie, this is much more interesting!! So cool….thanks for sharing 🙂

  8. these look SCHMANCY! and yes to pedis!

  9. I saw these on pinterest (from here) the other day and thought they were so cute! Nice job!!

  10. thanks for the great tutorial on blood splattered pumpkins- just what i wanted! 😉 seriously they are awesome!

  11. Shellac manicures have changed my life! I am wearing nailpolish again after years of going without after having kiddos. I seriously love how long it lasts.

  12. Julia @Cuckoo4Design says:

    I ready like them A LOT!

  13. I was just sitting here debating real vs. fake pumpkins for a project idea … and whether or not I should spray paint them … so your whole primer tip is very timely! I love the non-bloody version of your pumpkins! Oh, and I love your manicure too!

    🙂 Linda

  14. I love the bigger font! And the more colors … although your right about the bloody look being appropriate … for someone else. 🙂 And nice nails fancy pants!

  15. You totally made my day with this post! Thanks for being the funniest lady in the blog world!!! Also, I do love this watercolor craft! I was in awe of Emily’s monograms she put together and love how you gave it a fall spin!!!

    Blessings,
    Kayla

  16. SO cute Kelly!! This might just be my favorite pumpkin idea yet. Naaaailed it! 🙂

  17. I did the shellac thing before my wedding in 2011. Was great for growing my nails out! But last year I tried again a few times and every durn time the stuff peeled off after a week !#$%@. The tech was great and did it just like the other girl, she said something must’ve changed in my “chemistry” which in early 20s speak = “you’re getting old”. So I bought the Sally Hansen kit. Works like a charm, when I take the time to do it…which has been twice in 3 months. And I’ve only done it on my toes, it’s really hard to get off and I’ll pick at it if it’s on my fingers…

  18. I really like your pumpkins Kelly and thanks for the tutorial too! 🙂
    wish you a great weekend!

  19. Great project, Kelly! I’ve been enjoying playing with paints lately, too — kinda therapeutic!
    xo Heidi
    PS – your nails look mah-velous. 🙂

  20. I liked your watercolour Fall pumpkins, and they look great on your mantle!

  21. I stumbled on you, via Pinterest… Girl, your kicks!!! You’ve got me gigglin’ silly over here! Love your Pumpkins! Your nails are simply mah’velous, darling! What kind of primer does one use? I’ve got 7 pumpkins just dying to be fabulous!

  22. They turned out great! I’m long overdue for a big girl pedicure 🙂

  23. These are cute, cute!!! Your pumpkins are adorable, I love the idea you chose. Great tutorial. I’m inspired!! Thanks so much your are truly creative you have added customized element to these punkins that reflect your taste.

  24. I need these in my life.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Since I couldn’t find any real pumpkins, I grabbed some craft pumpkins from Michaels and painted them. (I’ll show you how to do that in the next post… maybe? I don’t know… do you guys want to see that? I’ll be honest – I’m conflicted about how I feel about them.) Update: see how to make your own watercolor pumpkins here. […]

  2. […] Third time’s the charm: how to make watercolor letter pumpkins […]

  3. […] can’t wait to try and recreate these gorgeously decorated Watercolor Letter Pumpkins from View Along The […]

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