How to paint a loose watercolour pumpkin in 10 easy steps

How to paint a loose watercolour pumpkin in 10 easy steps

This step-by-step pumpkin painting guide is going to be a simple sketchbook tutorial, which is just perfect for a beginner. It will help you practice a variety of simple watercolour techniques, which will include, colour layering, preserving highlights, and how to use complementary colours. We will also look at how to create watermarks and what the wet on wet technique actually is.

I’ll show how to capture the textures and contrasts of the shape and skin of the pumpkin. I worked from real life, which you can do too. Alternatively, you might want to find a pumpkin photo to use as a reference, or you can paint along just by looking at the photos I’ve provided.

One of the things I love about this pumpkin is it came from my very own allotment! It was just so bold and vibrant it really caught my eye, and I just couldn’t wait to get it back home to capture it in watercolour.

We’re going to use washes and colour layering to create a loose watercolour look. This is a quick sketchbook painting, so relax and have fun!

What you’ll need:

If you don’t have the equipment and paints I recommend, get creative and try with what you have handy.

  • A pumpkin or photo as your reference.
  • Mop paintbrushes – Rosemary & Co Size 2/0
  • Daisy palette (for mixing watery paints)
  • Water bowl
  • Paper towel
  • Watercolour paper (I recommend Arches cold pressed paper)
  • Paints (see colour list below). I use Winsor and Newton paints.

Paint colours needed:

  • A yellow colour of your choice (I used Windsor lemon)
  • A green colour (I used Olive Green)
  • A deep pink (I used Permanent Rose)
  • A reddish-brown colour (I used Burnt Umber and Burnt Sienna)
  • A contrasting blue (I used Cobalt Blue)

Place your pumpkin (or reference image) as near as you can to your paper. This will help you to get as close up as possible to observe the shapes of colour and tonal variations as you paint.

Step 1: Mix a very watery mix of your yellow colour and start by outlining the shape of the pumpkin. It needs to be really watery so that you can work quickly to create the shape. Make sure to study the form of the pumpkin and drag the watery paint mix to create the shape and remember to always paint in the direction of the form. Whilst layering down the vibrant yellow hue, leave areas of white which will work as highlights on the pumpkin.

Lots of watermarks may start to appear, leave them, as they will add texture to your pumpkin.

*TOP TIP* – If you go too watery you can just dab it off with your kitchen towel. 

Step 2: I am now going to put an indication of where the stalk will sit. So, mix up a very light mix of your burnt sienna colour, making sure you look at the pumpkin for reference and place the stalk shape on the paper. You can see that a lovely textured edge has occurred on the yellow base colour.

Step 3: Next, I have mixed some of my burnt sienna with some permanent rose and Windsor lemon, to make an orange mix (use the colours you have available to create your orange colour) This is a thicker consistency that we are going to drop into the pigment on the paper to create some of the markings of the pumpkin, this is the wet in wet technique. I am forming some of the shadows on the pumpkin where its plump ribs sit. In some places, I am just adding a touch of water so the paint spreads. I am allowing some of the yellow hues underneath to come through. Any watermarks that I like I will try to keep, and whilst the mix is still really wet, I am going to drop in some pure Windsor lemon as an extra enhancement to my pumpkin.

Step 4: While your pumpkin is drying, we are going to be really bold and mix up a really watery wash of the blue colour. This is our complementary colour and it will really enhance our pumpkin. Place the blue wash around the pumpkin to show positioning and enhance the hues contained in the pumpkin. Use the side of the brush to move the pigment around by adding more water. Here you can also drop in some thicker consistency blue to create more shadow. We may touch the edges of the pumpkin, but it doesn’t matter as it will blend into the background.

Step 5: Next, I am going to drop in some of my pure permanent rose where the orange is still drying, this will merge with the other orange colours and create a deeper shade to create more depth to the pumpkin. I am now going to leave the base colours to dry and settle before I move on to the next stage.

*Top Tip* It is really important to let the layers dry completely so that when you are putting down your new layer you can lift off any mistakes without disturbing the layers underneath

Step 6: I am now going to look at defining the stalk. To do this I am going to use my burnt umber mix. I am going to start by lightly defining the shape and any textures that have formed on the previous layer, which I will try to keep. Remember to keep referring to your pumpkin and don’t worry, it’s not about being accurate, it’s about capturing and defining the shapes of what you see. I am now going to mix up my olive green and I am going to drop that into the lower part of the stalk and then drag it out. (wet on wet technique)

Step7: Now it’s time to go back to working on the pumpkin shape. I am using my rusty brown and lovely vibrant orange mix to capture the shadows that are falling on the pumpkin. Dropping the pigment onto the lower part and moving it around to define the deepening colour and define the shapes of the ribs and the shadows. In some areas, I am dropping the pigment on before I soften it down to the bottom of the pumpkin where the shadows are at their heaviest. Using the thicker mix and a dryer brush I am adding texture with the paint.

*TOP TIP* – You can always make adjustments where you feel like you have gone over some of your colours, I decided to add in some yellow to add a bit more vibrancy

Step 8: Now I am going to deepen the blue background. Some of the colours of the pumpkin have merged into the blue. I love how it looks so I am going to keep those patterns, but I’m going to add a bit more blue to deepen the shade to create more shadow.

Step 9: Now moving on to the finishing touches. I am going to add some more detail to the stalk. I am dropping in some brown and some more green to create more roundness and add more character.

Step 10: Reassessing your painting. Now it’s time to look at where you may want to lighten colours or drop in some more pigment to deepen some of the shadows. I have decided to add some more brown to the right edge, using bold strokes. I am using a big brush so it does fill the area quickly.

And we are done 🙂  As this is a sketchbook tutorial, you can add notes to your painting to highlight where you would like to make any changes to help with your main study, for example, how to create the texture or where to preserve the highlights.

This has been a quick and simple process to show you some of the main watercolour techniques that I use. I would love to hear your comments, on this sketchbook style.

Pumpkins store really well as long as they are not damaged, so if you are painting from real life, make sure you choose a pumpkin that has no splits or soft spots and you will have plenty of time to paint it. You can also change the composition and even paint two pumpkins if you want some more of a challenge.

I really hope this step-by-step guide has helped inspire you to paint your own pumpkin this autumn.

If you paint your own pumpkin, I’d love to see your results, so tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #jenniferrosegallery so I can see how you got on. You can also find me on Facebook

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Happy Painting!


Love Jennifer Rose xx

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