Introduction: Sculpting and Painting a Polymer Clay Jack-O'-Lantern
Hello! Thank you for checking out my Instructible!
For this tutorial I am going to show you how to sculpt and paint a mini jack-o’-lantern. I love Halloween and it will be here before you know it so let’s get started!
For this project I am using:
Sculpey- a polymer clay that doesn’t dry out and will need to be cured in an oven.
Various sculpting tools- for smoothing and shaping. Though you can improvise with just about anything around the house like a toothpick, a bamboo skewer popsicle stick, pencils, the handle of a paintbrush or just your hands, get creative!
X-acto knife- used to trim excess clay and cut out facial features
Clay roller- not entirely necessary, but will give you a nice smooth surface to work with.
Aluminum foil- this will serve as our armature.
Acrylic paints- painting is optional if you are using colored clays, or are just partial to grey pumpkins. For this project I used raw sienna, cadmium orange, raw umber, titan buff, titanium white, sap green (not pictured), payne's grey & yellow light hansa. These are what I had on hand, but you do not need these particular colors or brands of paint; FolkArt or Apple Barrel brand acrylic paints are inexpensive and are perfect for this type of project.
Paint brushes- a small flat shaped brush and a small round brush for painting or for the aforementioned sculpting/shaping tool.
Cup of water- to rinse your brush
Candy corn- for snacks and inspiration! I recommend them with peanut butter...mmmm.
Design idea- It's best to start any project with at least a picture in mind. Having a reference photo or sketching the pumpkin and design/facial features you want is very helpful later on.
Step 1: Create the Armature
Take a fair amount of aluminum foil and ball it up very tight, forming it as you go, into the approximate pumpkin shape you're going for. Add more as needed until it is roughly the size you want. Try to get the foil as tight as you can and as smooth as possible.
Step 2: Rolling the Clay & Covering Your Armature
If you are using Sculpey it will feel a bit stiff right out of the package, but with some kneading it quickly becomes soft and pliable. Once you've kneaded your clay use your roller to flatten out a nice, even sheet, not too thick though, as we are going to add clay in the next step to fatten up the ridges (I find it easier to add clay than to have to remove it).
Beginning at one edge of your sheet of clay wrap the foil and work it around the securely so that all of the foil is completely covered. Using your X-acto knife trim off any excess. If your clay came up short, no worries, just pinch off some more clay and squish it on there.
Next, smooth the clay edges. You can use your fingers or a smooth sided tool like the one pictured (or a pencil or paint brush handle). If you find air pockets, make a tiny incision with your knife to let the air out then smooth it over.
Step 3: Adding the Stem
Now our pumpkin needs a stem. Roll out a long, tapered snake of clay so it is bigger on one end for the stem base. Add grooves along the length of the clay, nothing fancy, just random lines.
Put the stem in place and blend into the pumpkin. I added a smaller snake of clay to help adhere it. Continue smoothing the stem into the pumpkin adding tiny bits of clay to help accentuate the stem grooves.
Bend your stem into a curl, as curly and long as you like then break or cut off the excess. If you like a shorter stem just cut it at the length that pleases you. Add extra tendrils if you like.
Step 4: Creating the Ridges
To create the ridges we will first define where they will go. Using the side of your sculping tool make indentations down the side of the pumpkin. This will also give the ridges depth.
Form bits of clay into an oblong shape and place them on the raised areas going all the way around the pumpkin, building up the clay until it is as plump as you like.
Smooth the edges down. Pumpkins are rarely perfectly symmetrical so any imperfections will make it look more realistic. Personally, I love the odd shapes.
Step 5: Making a Face
At this point, the pumpkin itself is finished. If you decide you would rather paint a face (or no face) onto your pumpkin, you can skip to the next step.
OK, let's get to carving our pumpkin. Very lightly sketch your design into the clay with your sculpting tool. Don't sketch too deep until you get everything exactly as you want it to be. Just smooth over any mistakes.
Once you get the design just so, etch deeper to really define it. Using your sculpting tool, remove the inner parts of the eyes, nose and mouth. Try not to go all the way down to the foil, if you do, just cover it back up with small bits of clay. You just want the foil covered. This is the point I wished I had given it fewer teeth!
Step 6: Baking the Pumpkin
If you are using Sculpey the basic instructions are to bake the clay figure on an oven-proof glass or metal surface at 275°F (130°C) for 15 minutes per 1/4 inch (6mm) of clay thickness.
Do not microwave. Do not overbake. Baking should be done by an adult.
Never bake air-dry clay if that is what you are using.
Step 7: Painting
Once your pumpkin is baked and completely cooled down it's time to paint!
Sculpey takes paint very well, but I like to add a base coat over the parts that I want to be brighter than the darker grey of the clay so that I can apply fewer coats of paint. This is optional.
When the base coat is dry, brush on a coat of raw sienna.
Once that has dried, dry brush orange over the raw sienna - this is done using a flat shaped brush. Load a small amount of orange paint onto the bristles and wipe off the excess paint. Lightly brush on, highlighting the raised surfaces, allowing some of the raw sienna to show, especially in the crevices.
Next we paint the stem with a coat of raw umber. I then used a smaller round brush with payne's grey to paint the deeper grooves in the stem. Darker colors = depth. Next, I mixed a very tiny bit of titan buff with sap green and dry-brushed over the stem, just highlighting the raised areas.
Now the facial features. I wanted a glowing pumpkin look so around the inside edges I painted orange, then yellow, then in the very center, white.
I help the facial features to stand out more I outlined the outside edges with payne's grey. I thought it looked a little too much like eyeliner so I painted orange over parts of the outline to break it up a bit. I then added little scratch marks here and there to give it more interest.
And that's it! Congratulations, you are now the proud owner of your very own clay pumpkin figure. I hope it brings you much Halloween joy.
Second Prize in the
Sculpt & Carve Challenge