Why Gild the Lily When You Can Gild Your Pumpkin!

Gilded pumpkins can add a creative twist to your holidays. Whether you call it gold leafing or gilding it’s still brings “bling” to any object it touches. We use gold leaf on ceilings, crown moldings, wall and cabinet designs but you don’t have to tackle a huge project to have fun with gold leaf. How about a gold pumpkin for your harvest table? Halloween doesn’t have to just be about ghost and goblins. It’s really is easy and a lot of fun.

Easier than you think...

You can use a real pumpkin or a fake one. Any size will do. You will need to head to the craft or art supply store to pick up a few items unless you are one of those crafters who keeps gilding size in the pantry. By the way, we will be using composition gold leaf. It is a conglomeration of metals, pressed into thin small sheets, that looks like gold, but doesn’t cost like gold!

Okay, so you will need the following:

  • Pumpkin
  • Gilding size (the special glue that holds the gold leaf in place)
  • Composition Gold Leaf (or any leafing product, i.e., silver leaf, variegated leaf, etc.)
  • Spray Varnish
  • 2 Small Clean Inexpensive Brushes
  • Modello or Stencil is Optional

"Prepare to be gilded!"

Your pumpkin needs to be clean and dry. Using a small brush, apply a coat of gilding size. You want it covered but not drippy. Now let it dry. It goes on milky but once its goes clear it is dry. If you try to apply the gold leaf before the size is dry it doesn’t work. Don’t worry, it only takes about 20 to 30 minutes to dry. If you are doing a few pumpkins at one time, by the time you finish the last one, the first one should be ready. You can wear gloves if you like because the size is pretty sticky.

Applying the gilding size.Gilding size applied, but not yet dry.Applying variegated gold leaf to pumpkin.Removing the overlapping gold leaf with dry brush.

NOTE: You don’t want to handle the gold leaf too much. The oil from your hands can discolor the gold. On professional jobs, we only touch the leaf with cotton gloves. I’m assuming that this will not be inspected by clients, so we can break a few rules.

Applying the gold leaf

Leaf is lighter than air and very fragile. It flies all over the place. It rips and tears. It’s okay. You can use the whole small sheets or pieces of sheets. It all works. Lay the foil on the pumpkin. Using a clean brush, brush the leaf down into the grooves and apply gentle pressure to press the leaf on all over the pumpkin. If one piece of leaf overlaps another piece, use the brush to knock off the excess. Once the pumpkin is completely covered in gold, you topcoat with spray varnish to seal it in (to keep it from oxidizing) and giving it a fabulous shine! YEAH! It’s complete!

Change it up – Stencil

Once you figured out the basics, you can make different variations. We used a custom-made Modello crown on our fake pumpkin and only leafed the crown, which we really liked. We used variegated leaf in reds and blues on some.

Modello used on pumpkin.Modello applied to pumpkin and applying gilding size.Gold leaf applied to modello before removal of modello.Finished Pumpkin

Paint it black

On another, we spray-painted the pumpkin black. When the black paint was dry, we covered the pumpkin with stickers so they created a design. You can do this with Modellos, stickers, or just masking tape. When your design is in place just size, let dry, and apply leaf. Pull off the stickers, tape or Modello, and then spray it with varnish. Voila! Beautiful!

Stickers applied to spray painted pumpkin to create design.Applying gilding size to black pumpkin.Gold leaf applied to black pumpkin over sticker design.Removing the stickers from the black pumpkin to reveal design.
Varnishing black pumpkinBlack pumpkin finished.

There is something about playing with gold that is so much fun! We were happy with our results. If you give this a try, send me some pictures. I'd love to see them!

Happy Halloween!

Sincerely, Janie's Signature

Janie Ellis, RID, ASID-IP, CF, Master Artisan janie@anythingbutplain.com