Introduction: DIY Paper Maché Jack-O'Lantern

About: ★ It's what I do. I craft and I know things ★ Autistic/ADHD Self-Taught Artist & Maker ★

In this Instructable, I will guide you through how I made a Jack-O'Lantern out of paper maché, foam poster board, and wire! This is designed to be an indoor-only decoration, but if you seal it well enough it could be put outside if you're brave lol


Most of the materials I used I already had, which helps make this project really cheap. Especially since I got my glue and tools from Dollar Tree!

  • plastic grocery bag
  • newspaper pages (crumpled)
  • tape (I used electrical tape)
  • phone book, newspaper, or whatever paper you may have torn into rectangles and squares
  • white glue and water mixture
  • foam poster board (I got mine from Dollar Tree)
  • box cutter, craft knife, and/or sharp blade
  • blue painter's tape
  • tissue paper torn into small rectangles and squares
  • brown paper bag torn into rectangles and squares
  • wire (I used 22 gauge coated floral wire)
  • aluminum foil
  • glue gun and hot glue sticks (I use a small low-temp hot glue gun)
  • tacky glue
  • light spackle (Dollar Tree)
  • paint & paint brushes

Step 1: Paper Maché Basic Pumpkin Shape

I started with a plastic grocery bag and filled it with crumpled newspaper. Using electrical tape, I divided it into sections. You don't need to use electrical tape, really. It was just the best sticky tape I had at the time.

Using strips of phone book, I did a few layers of paper maché directly on top of the bag full of newspaper. Wait until dry before starting the next layer. Any type of paper can be used for this step, but I recommend tearing it over cutting with scissors because the torn edges merge into each other better.

Step 2: Foam Poster Board Strips

I wanted to smooth out the weird lumps that can happen when paper machéing while also making the pumpkin thicker, so I added a layer of foam. This was done with a foam poster board from Dollar Tree cut into strips and gently massaged to be able to bend around curves without breaking. I had no idea if this would work when I tried it, I was just feeling too lazy to make paper clay lol

To make the foam nice and smooth, I painted on a couple coats of white PVA glue mixed with some Dollar Tree spackle. Once dry, it sands pretty nicely!

Step 3: Designing the Face & Cutting It Out

I designed the face with blue painters' tape and sharpie marker.

Once satisfied with the face design, I cut it out with a sharp craft knife. Removing the newspaper and plastic grocery bag is easy with such a big mouth lol

(I didn't care for the pupils, so I put them back in)

Step 4: Seal Edges With Tissue Paper

Using black and white tissue paper, I paper machéd around the cut edges. I used the colored tissue paper to make it easier for me to see where I've worked and what areas still need to be worked on 🙂

This is also the step where I added some foam poster board to make upper eyelids.

Step 5: Stem Wire

This is the beginning of the stem construction. I marked each crease line with red pencil and poked small holes along the pencil mark, one each crease, to feed the wire through. I had the wire go inside the pumpkin to the bottom so it will add to the stability and strength of the stem.

The wire goes through the tiny hole near the top and goes along the inner wall to the bottom. I secured the wire with electrical tape.

All eight creases now have wire. I left it long coming out the top, so I wound it a little to make it easier to work on the pumpkin without getting stabbed in the eye with wire haha

The wire inside the pumpkin secured with electrical tape.

Step 6: Paper Maché Inside, Over Wire

I used a brown paper bag from McDonald's to maché a layer inside the pumpkin, making sure to go over the electrical tape and wire. This is to add more stability and to make sure that the wire isn't going anywhere.

The water bottle is to help keep the pumpkin from smooshing while I work on it.

Once the inside was done, I then started on the stem. I used a cut part of the tube that aluminum foil is wrapped around for the stem base and machéd paper bag around it.

Step 7: Aluminum Foil Wire & Stem Shape

I wrapped aluminum foil over each piece of wire sticking up. I used a cheapo low-temp hot glue gun to secure the foil. Be careful when using a glue gun as it can heat the foil up enough to cause burns.

Now it's starting to look like a stem! Making sure to keep the spacing even, I bent the aluminum-wrapped wire and secured it to the cardboard tube thing with hot glue,

Having the stem composed of wire makes it easy to bend the whole thing into any shape you desire. Just remember to be careful when using a hot glue gun with aluminum foil, as it heats up the foil really quickly.

I paper machéd white tissue paper over the aluminum foil. Once dry, I colored the sections with alternating colors to help me distinguish where the sections are as they go up the stem.

Step 8: Foam the Stem

I thought the stem was too skinny at this point, so I thought I'd use foam posterboard on it like I did the pumpkin itself. Just a disclaimer: using poster board like this takes a long time to do, so I don't recommend it if you're impatient when crafting lol

Foam poster board can be shaped easily with craft knives and pressure. I helped to meld seams with that white PVA glue and spackle mixture.

Step 9: Prime & Paint

Prime with white paint and watered-down white PVA glue, inside and out.

Trying for semi-realism, I wanted the edges to be more yellow than the outside skin of the pumpkin, so I did a base coat of yellow acrylic paint on these areas.

Next, I painted a couple base coats of orange, trying not to paint over the yellow edges. It's okay if you do, you can always paint over and fix it.

Because I'm planning on making a diorama inside this pumpkin, I painted the inside black instead of yellow. I was hesitant at first, but I think it looks badass.

The base coat of the stem is green. Once dry, I did some drybrushing of tan over the green.

Using a brown wash, I accentuated the creases in both the pumpkin and the stem. I felt like I overdid it a little bit, but that's an easy fix with watered-down orange paint on top of the dried wash.

Using a lighter version of the orange, I drybrushed in between the creases to accentuate the higher areas. I did the same thing with the stem, using a lighter green and some tan.

Step 10: Seal & Display!

The final step is to seal the jack-o'lantern to protect the paint. I did not use a sealer to make this weatherproof, so mine is an indoor-only decoration. Depending on your face design, this would make a great candy bowl too!

If you want to make yours for outdoor display, make sure to read the instructions on the sealer you use. Making this jack-o'lantern with foam makes it really light, so weights will be needed to prevent it from being blown away.

There are so many things you can do with paper maché jack o'lanterns! Please share photos if you made one, and feel free to ask me any questions!

Halloween Contest

Second Prize in the
Halloween Contest