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I'm trying to paint a white pumpkin, and I'm having some issues with applying the paint.

I'm using acrylic paint, craft-grade not art-grade, and applying it with brushes. I clean the surface off, first, but nothing else.

The main issue is that the paint applies too thinly, because it would rather stick to the brush than the pumpkin. When applying additional layers, if they aren't sufficiently wet/heavy then the initial layer occasionally rubs off.

So, for my principal work area I laid down a couple coats of white. This had the unfortunate side-effect of covering up my sketch/under drawing, and it still doesn't resolve the rubbing away issue.

  • I was going to mention that you could apply an epoxy primer on your pumpkin as epoxy primers are water resistant. But you are still going to run into the problem that overtime your pumpkin will dry out and shrink. Any paint on the surface of the pumpkin will crack and flake off. Why not make a mold of your pumpkin and make a casting of it? Paint the cast instead. – John Vukelic Nov 2 '16 at 3:01
  • @JohnVukelic In need only last a few weeks, at most, it's not meant to be permanent. – user24 Nov 2 '16 at 3:07
  • It's an actual pumpkin, not an artificial one, right? – Erica Nov 2 '16 at 10:58
  • I'd experiment with a range of water-based varnishes, spray paints (applied thinly enough to still see your sketch) and anything else you can think of on different bits of the same pumpkin. It might also be worth giving it a good scrub with a brush and then wiping over with methylated spirit (denatured alcohol) in case there's anything greasy stopping the paint from sticking. – Chris H Nov 2 '16 at 11:25
  • @Erica Yep, it's real – user24 Nov 2 '16 at 13:56
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In addition to John's answer, there are some options in the art supply world. In particular, Qor makes a watercolor ground that is good for watercolor, inks, and acrylics. The idea is similar to gesso and provides a base for painting on surfaces not otherwise usable for water-based media.

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  • This seems like the right direction to pursue. Epoxys will be toxic and have long dry time before you can use the surface. Acrylic grounds or gessos would be the way to go. Here is some info from Golden which I use and like. – rebusB Nov 21 '16 at 17:51
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Basically the problem you are facing is that the pumpkin surface is glossy and non-porous. There is nothing for your paint to adhere to.

You could try lightly sanding the areas you are going to paint with a fairly fine sandpaper. That will add 'tooth' to the surface, like the roughness of paper, that will hold the paint. Then you may be able to skip having to apply any ground at all.

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Acrylic paint is soluble in water and pumpkins have a lot of water in them.

You need a paint primer that is water resistant.

Paint primer is an intermediary paint that coats a surface and once dry it allows another paint to be painted overtop of it.

In your case I would try an epoxy primer to coat the surface of the pumpkin.

Epoxy primers are water resistant.

But before applying your acrylic paint you need to first coat the dried expoxy primer with a sealant.

Once the epoxy primer is sealed you can then apply your acrylic paint.

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  • I do not think the water in the pumpkins are the problem. It is the glossiness of their surfaces (see my answer) which epoxy primer may overcome in that they are more likely to adhere to glossy surfaces. However they take a long time to dry, are often very toxic, and may result in an equally glossy surface that will reject the acrylic paint the same as the original surface. – rebusB Nov 21 '16 at 18:20

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