STOLLOWEEN How To: Pumpkins v2.0

How To: Pumpkins v2.0


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Another approach to making papier mache pumpkins using recycled cardboard to create a simple armature that can be papier mached.

This technique is great for making smaller pumpkins perfect for tabletop or mantle displays. The armature technique is simple and very dependable allowing you to create your very pumpkin patch with relative ease.


To build the armature you will need some recycled corrugated cardboard, recycled cereal boxes, recycled newspaper, masking tape and hot glue.

You will need to cut two circles from corrugated cardboard, 16 one inch wide strips from cereal boxes and make one center support by rolling newspaper into a tube and securing with masking tape. The sizes of each of these pieces will determine the final shape of your pumpkin.

For the purpose of this instructional lets start by making a short squatty pumpkin, the sizes of the pieces used to make the armature for the pumpkin shown are as follows:

Corrugated cardboard circles are 6 inches in diameter, you will need two.
Cereal box strips are one inch wide and 10 ½ inches long, you will need 16.
Rolled newspaper tube is six inches long.

Using hot glue attach the newspaper tube to the center of each corrugated cardboard circle creating something that looks like a dumbbell.

A felt tip pen was used divide the circle into eight equal sections.

The hot glue gun is used to attach  eight of the cereal box strips to the bottom circle, the marks on the cardboard are used to position the strips evenly around the edge of the circle.

Next attach the strips to the top circle using the same method. You now have the basic size and shape of your pumpkin.

Attach the remaining eight strips in between the eight strips already glued in place.

These last eight strips form the indentation or ridges in the pumpkin and should be recessed about one inch when compared to the first eight strips attached.

The top view photo shows placement of the cereal box strips.

Varying the size of circles, strip and center support can yield many differently shaped pumpkins…experiment with creating different shapes.

The final step involved before the papier mache can be applied is to weave about one inch strips of newspaper in and out between the cereal box strips.

One strip was weaved around the center of the pumpkin, a second on the top half and a third on the bottom half.

The weaved newspaper creates a solid surface for the papier mache strips as well as strengthens the armature.

Using newspaper strips soaked in papier mache paste (flour+white glue+liquid starch+ water) the entire pumpkin armature is covered with two or three layers of newspaper then allowed to dry.

Once the pumpkin shell completely dried a face was drawn on using a felt tip marker.

The eyes, nose and mouth were cut out using a sharp knife then small strips of newspaper were papier mached over the cut edges.

The additional papier mache strips strengthens the facial area of the pumpkin and gives a clean finished look to the jack o’ lantern face.

The piece was then allowed to dry.

Next the lid is cut from the top of the pumpkin using a sharp blade.

A stem is added to the lid by  hot gluing a short piece of rolled up newspaper in the center.

Homemade papier mache clay was used (paste + cellulose fiber insulation) add form and texture to the lid and stem.

Twisted stems were created by wrapping newspaper around a piece of wire, bending to desired shape and hot gluing to the lid.
The lid is set aside to dry separately.

While the lid is drying additional detailing was performed on the face.

The same techniques are used as in my trash bag method including adding dimension to the eyes, nose and mouth using small pieces of recycled cardboard.

Homemade papier clay was then applied over the strip mache to add dimension, texture and strength. Both the lid and pumpkin were allowed to dry.

Once both the pumpkin and the lid have completely dried the next step is make the lid fit securely onto the top of the pumpkin.

This is accomplished by adding about ½ inch of papier mache clay around the perimeter of where the lid was removed.

The additional clay was smooth and blended into the pumpkin surface then a piece of clear plastic was placed over the opening.

The lid is then put back on to of the pumpkin (sitting on the clear plastic) and a small amount of pressure was used to push it into the clay.

The small amount of pressure sinks the lid into the plastic covered clay creating a precise fit for the lid.
Let dry for about 12 hours before removing the lid and the plastic, then allow to dry completely.

The final step prior to painting is to remove the rolled newspaper support tube from the center of the pumpkin.

A small hole was cut into the bottom of the pumpkin to allow access for lights.

The pumpkins were painted with a base coat of flat black exterior latex paint then dry brushed with orange latex paint.

Addition shades of brown, green and yellow acrylic paint for highlight and shadow.

The pumpkins were then sealed with spar urethane.