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Painting Pumpkins Step by Step Guide by CGCookie Painting Pumpkins Step by Step Guide by CGCookie

Check out and Download the Step by Step and Original Practice Sheet .PSD HERE.    

Artist: Tim Von Rueden (vonn)

The pumpkin material and texture is my favorite berry to create (yes it’s a berry). There are so many texture liberties you can take with the surface that it pays off to have subtle imperfections on the surface. So while this is first and foremost a lighting challenge, it also doubled as a fun material exercise as well!

So when looking at the lighting there is an obvious difference between being lit from the outside versus the inside.

  • Lit from Outside: I took a standard overhead lighting and in the example below you can see that when simplified on a sphere, it looks hollow when you cut out a section. That contrast in value alone gives an impression of depth and dimension. This is because of how little light will be able to reach the inside and bounce around. Depending on the material and how thin the walls are, you may even be able to see the light permeate through the surface a bit.
  • Lit from Inside: Contrast is once again the reason for the look and impression of dimension, only this time it’s reversed. Imagine this sphere being played outside and night with a candle lit on the inside. Now that section we cut out is illuminated with light and will even have some spill out. Be sure to give some attention and detail to the sliver that is still seen by the viewer along the rim to add some further realism illusion!

When looking at our two pumpkin examples that this exercise asks you to create, they both start with the same lineart but end up vastly different. So below is a step by step narrative guide on how I created the two example results with notes on each step and how to get a similar result!

  1. Outline – Begin with the overall look and shape of the pumpkin and minimize any rough sketching that may still be present.
  2. Solid Base – Choose solid base colors from a reference and work more neutral or even closer to a darker value to build upon.
  3. Value and Detail Pass – Before laying down another color, focus on where you want your light source and stay consistent throughout! Also bear in mind whether the light is coming from the outside or inside of the pumpkin. The night one will have a minimal amount of form building compared to the day one.
  4. Remove Outlines and Refine – This will remove the outline and let your material shine! This step can be tedious but very much worth the effort in the end to add that nice touch of texture throughout!
  5. Surface, Highlights, and Bounce Lighting – The placement of highlights will define the overall render quality of your pumpkins. Be very mindful of the way the highlights are rounded out on each surface and where the form curves inward. The subtle surface textures will add a sense of realism as well.
  6. Final Polish Pass – I added in the cast shadow and to give it some more “pop” I added a multiply and overlay layer on top to focused on darkening the edges and adding some saturation to the highlights! You can also experiment with some color balancing to see if you may like a slightly off hue look. I also like to soften the edge just a tad to make it feel more real and less tight and sharp on the edges.

This is a fun exercise to take on if you’re looking to strengthen either your lighting or material knowledge or even both!

When you finish the exercise, remember to submit the result to the “Submissions” tab on You can see other submissions alongside your own!

Add a Comment:
Batshotcrazy Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
they are so cute xx
starlo1o1 Featured By Owner Sep 25, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you guys for the tutorials, I'm practicing digital art and they should help a lot <3
Illudyr Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2018  Professional General Artist
hi! do you have tips on coloring to use without lineart?
whenever I shade and remove the lines everything just falls apart and loses shape and I can't seem to find a solution Sweating a little... 
DarkDragondoesFNAF24 Featured By Owner Sep 10, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
make your lineart transparent owo
Alialun Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Just don't use too thick outlines. When you remove them, it's normal that everything loses its shape a bit, that's what's refining for, you need to repair damage caused by removing outlines. Make borders definite again, fix shape. Then you can continue.
XMagicalSunX Featured By Owner Mar 3, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
maybe have the outline on a lower opacity?
that way you can see where the gaps are in the colours

its just a suggestion so im not that sure it will work
wetblue123 Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2018  Hobbyist Writer
do you take commisions? I need some creatures and shit  drawn.
BeachGem15 Featured By Owner Dec 10, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
WHat program do you use?
sindil-the-saiyan Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
this is very useful, thank you for making this! :)
Jonruizart Featured By Owner Edited Dec 5, 2017
Basically invert the lighting. 
PQ93-9A83-7UX1 Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2017
2 ways for one pumpkin, nicee :D
Makanmi Featured By Owner Feb 23, 2017
Oh wow, I seriously thought those pumpkins were from a photo... o__o amazing skill
ThunderYeti Featured By Owner Jan 25, 2017
wow THis looks just like me)  '
Deadlytwins Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is outstanding!! Great technique! Thank you for those tips ♡
maxkymind Featured By Owner Jan 18, 2017  Student Digital Artist
EdensGarbage Featured By Owner Dec 24, 2016
Oh my god he's so cute 
Pixelationer Featured By Owner Dec 23, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
Just love the vege-...fruit? 
lauraypablo Featured By Owner Oct 29, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
such a beautiful!! I love your tutorials, thank you so much dear :iconsweethugplz:
RedRisten Featured By Owner Oct 27, 2016
Thanks Pumpkin La 
DrawWithNessie Featured By Owner Oct 25, 2016
Amazing tutorial. Also, the pumpkin skin looks so realistic!
solrac26 Featured By Owner Oct 24, 2016
muy buen proceso e ilustración 

JhawkR2010 Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2016  Hobbyist Photographer
Pumpkin / Jack-o-Lantern Art
adamsz01 Featured By Owner Oct 19, 2016  Student General Artist
Thanks you for this :D i love this 
AislinTheKidArtist Featured By Owner Oct 19, 2016  Student General Artist
Wow. I thought it was a photo!
TinaCsAll Featured By Owner Oct 19, 2016  Student Digital Artist
Thanks for this! Can't wait to practice.
Izzy4626 Featured By Owner Oct 19, 2016
This looks awesome :'0
They-Call-Me-Oddy Featured By Owner Oct 17, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
Love this! Thanks so much!
thiago93br Featured By Owner Oct 17, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you!!! It will be very handy for my Halloween drawing ^^
Fhilippe124 Featured By Owner Oct 17, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
thank you
lilrebelart Featured By Owner Oct 17, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
He's so cute! Haha 
n-o-n Featured By Owner Oct 17, 2016  Hobbyist Artist
ty very nice
lupus-lup Featured By Owner Oct 17, 2016   Digital Artist
Oh CGCookie, you always make such useful tutorials Wink/Razz 
Sombraluz-Images Featured By Owner Oct 17, 2016  Professional General Artist
AngelofSmiles Featured By Owner Oct 17, 2016
That is very helpful wow. Wish my teachers had taught this when I went to school :)
HairyProblems Featured By Owner Oct 17, 2016
Thanks :)
erenxrivaille Featured By Owner Oct 17, 2016
it's kind of cute actually.
Thank you for this!
SalmanAboFaisal Featured By Owner Oct 17, 2016  Student Digital Artist
perғecт worĸ Clap Heart 
Tigerslikesnow Featured By Owner Oct 17, 2016  Student Digital Artist
Xerxan Featured By Owner Oct 17, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
i can never remove my line level and manage to fix it up after
whenever i do it just instantly looks horrible no matter how subtle/heavy the lines are
it just looks like a drawing that needs lines but doesnt have any 
Alecze Featured By Owner Oct 17, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
You could just lower the opacity and paint over the line. Coloring your lines makes it easier to let them disappear.
Most of the time I don't remove the lines or only at the very end.
MANDO-AZ Featured By Owner Oct 17, 2016
That is a cute pumpkin.
RedTail41 Featured By Owner Oct 17, 2016
next add some details , get's from manageable to how the hell did you get that to look like this 
Sinthymepy Featured By Owner Edited Oct 16, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Too epic ;_; I don't think I'll ever manage to render that without the lineart. Is it bad to be attached to the black outlines? I feel legless without them *kicks crutches away*
LoLo-is-SeaDoo-ing Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2016   Digital Artist
Very cool and very helpful commentary, thank you! :love:
HairyFood Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2016
Mmkaay Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2016  Student Digital Artist
Real helpful for painting in general thanks.
Renyusa Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
Love the final effect!
historianGirl Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2016   General Artist
So useful. Nice one.
tdktdktdk Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
How coincidental, I literally just uploaded a pumpkin painting xD
Draakor Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2016  Hobbyist Artist
Very nice. I'd like to use this as a guide, if that's alright with you.
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Submitted on
October 16, 2016
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