Make a Paper Mache Halloween Pumpkin Lantern

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In this guest post, Kim teaches us how to make a paper mache pumpkin lantern for Halloween. (I’m going to make several of these myself – the plastic forms are on sale now at the local Wal-Mart for $1!)

I’m trying a new format for this post, with a gallery of photos first, and the instructions below. Click on the photos to see them in a larger size. Now, here’s Kim, the author of this post

I’m Kim Van Munching from Connecticut. I’m a paper mache artist and Halloween enthusiast…we start decorating our house on October 1st! I haven’t come up with my own website yet…mothering an 11 year old boy and teaching crafts at a local pre-school and at my town’s Senior Center has kept me super busy.

Step 1: Cover plastic lantern with wet newspaper without any glue…this prevents my first layer from sticking; I don’t use a release agent but by all means do if you usually use one.  I leave a small seam around the pumpkin; this is where I separate the two halves once the paper mache is dry.

Step 2:  Cover newspaper layer with about an 1/8″ thick layer of paper mache clay.  My recipe is courtesy of Scott Stoll and is made up of 3 cups of flour, 1/2 cup liquid starch, 1/2 cup Elmers glue and enough warm water to make a liquid the consistency of heavy cream.  Then I add 1 cup of powdered joint compound and newspaper pulp.  I pat that around the form, being careful to mind where I’ve left the seams bare.

Step 3:  Once the paper mache is dry, I pop the halves off the form.  Sometimes I have to wiggle a pallet knife under the seam edges to loosen things up a bit.  Then I use masking tape to re-tape the halves back together.  This is also when I build up the facial features with more newspaper and tape and sketch out where I’d like the eyes and mouth.

Step 6:  I cut the eyes and mouth out with my Dremel and add another layer of paper mache clay to form the features.  Since this is a two-faced lantern I work both sides.

Step 7:  Once everything has dried, I cover my lantern with gesso, let it dry, and smooth is a bit with sand paper.  I leave the surface fairly rough as I like the way it grabs the paint later.

Step 8: Dark brown acrylic underpainting.

Step  9:  I start to dry brush with orange paint.

Step 10:  Once I’ve finished painting, I add a layer of paste finishing wax, which I buff to a nice glow.

Step 11:  I design the eyes and mouth inserts on my computer.  I believe Martha Stewart has some on her website, too.  I glue the eyes and mouth inserts in with Aleene’s Tacky Glue. This is a two sided lantern – see photos 11a and 11b below, to see both sides.

Step 12:  The lantern with an electric tea light inside.

Thanks, Kim! This looks like a really fun project. If anyone makes one, please post a photo in your comments below, so we can all see how your pumpkin lantern came out. And remember, everyone – no candles! We want you all to stay safe this Halloween. 😉

By the way, Kim says she should have her own website up and running by the end of October. As soon as it’s live, I’ll post a link to her new site.

15 thoughts on “Make a Paper Mache Halloween Pumpkin Lantern”

    • Christy, this is a guest post, and I don’t know if the author is still watching for comments. Salt will slow down mold, but the best way to prevent mold with paper mache is to make sure it dries as fast as possible. Mold can’t grow without water. If you put your paper mache in front of a fan or in front of a heating vent, that helps speed up the drying time.
      Have fun!

  1. Hey Kim
    This a really cool idea…I have dabbled in some of Scott Stollows ideas as well…especially his paste..I was just wondering if anyone had used the cheap pumpkins to use as a mold or something… Thanks for showing how it could be done. This really makes me want to start my projects earlier…:)

  2. This sure beats the balloon and wire method lol. I can’t wait to try it! Now, I have to wait patiently for the stores in my area to get their Halloween merchandise in. P.S. I would love to see you sculpt an owl sculpture 😉

  3. Hi Kim,

    I am just starting into paper mache and can’t wait to try making one of your your pumpkin lanterns. What an inventive idea! What kind of paste wax do you use? Is it car wax?

    • Minwax comes in a yellow tin; they sell it at Home Depot. It’s for furniture and the like. I smear it on with a rag, let it dry, and then buff the piece with a shoe-shine brush. Post a picture when you’re done; I’d love to see your project!

  4. Hi Maggie – I’m in love with the paste wax. It gives all of my sculptures a rich, warm glow – softer than varnish, I think.

  5. I find my plastic jack-o-lanterns all over – Walmart, big grocery chains like Stop & Shop (in the northeast) etc. They’re usually not more than a dollar or so. Lisa-that’s a great idea for increasing the brightness! I’m going to try a string of lights in my next lantern.

  6. Awesome!! I bet if you put a string of battery-operated LED lights inside, it would glow even brighter!!

    Lisa 🙂

  7. Wonderful Jack-o-Lantern, Kim! I like the finish that the paste wax gives it. Thank you, Jonni, for showing this. I just might have to give it a try before Halloween gets here.


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