Making a Painted Gourd for Thanksgiving

Painting Gourd

A painted gourd makes a unique decoration piece for the Thanksgiving season.  Gourds are made from the dried fruit from cucurbitacae plants. The plants produce hard rinds fruit, making gourds the perfect surface for painting decoration and displaying for various purposes. Gourds had many functional uses in history, serving as masks for festivals, holding food and water and musical purposes.


When you pick a gourd for a functional purpose such as painting or for decoration, you have to clean and prepare the surface for use. After the gourd is hollowed and dried to a hardened state, smooth and clean the surface to make the gourd more presentable. You can use a mild bleach solution to get rid of any mildew or dirt remaining on the gourd. For a mild bleach solution, mix in a tablespoon of bleach for every gallon on water you use in the solution. Once you use the bleach solution, allow the gourd to dry complete before doing anything else to it.


To smooth out any imperfect spots on the surface, use 100 grit sandpaper. This will smooth out rough spots and will take away minor discolorations. Do not oversand the gourd—you want to shell to be as hard as possible. Oversanding spots will result in thinner areas on the shell that can easily be broken.

Internal or External

If you are using the gourd for outdoor purposes, you should consider using a preserving agent like copper sulfate to seal and protect the gourd for external weather conditions. Gourds will rot over time, but using sealant will preserve it and its decorations a lot longer.

For indoor use, the gourd does not need a sealant because the indoor elements are not as harsh to the gourd's structure.

The Painting Process

Start by using an oil-based primer to coat the gourd. The primer will allow the paint color to appear bolder and not fade as fast. Let the primer dry before applying your first paint color. Acrylic latex paint works well for painting gourds and will not bead up like other painting solutions. Use a nylon brush to paint the surface to avoid the bristles from scratching the surface.

Thanksgiving Ideas

If you are hosting Thanksgiving, use gourds to spice up the table as a centerpiece. If you have several gourds, you can write a guest's names on each one and use them for seat assignments or party gifts. If you want to use the surface as a canvas, you can paint Thanksgiving themed items (like turkeys or fall leaves) on each gourd and use them to decorate your home.

For external decoration, consider making a birdhouse or painting a Thanksgiving theme on the front. You can also display the gourd on a porch or even make a wreath for the door.