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Painting Pumpkins Step by Step Guide
By CGCookie   |   Watch
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Published: October 16, 2016
© 2016 - 2019 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!

Image size
2000x2285px 1.32 MB
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Comments (55)
Batshotcrazy's avatar
Batshotcrazy|Hobbyist General Artist
they are so cute xx
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starlo1o1's avatar
starlo1o1|Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you guys for the tutorials, I'm practicing digital art and they should help a lot <3
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Illudyr's avatar
Illudyr|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... 
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DarkDragondoesFNAF24's avatar
DarkDragondoesFNAF24|Hobbyist General Artist
make your lineart transparent owo
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Alialun's avatar
Alialun|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.
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XMagicalSunX's avatar
XMagicalSunX|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
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wetblue123's avatar
wetblue123|Hobbyist Writer
do you take commisions? I need some creatures and shit  drawn.
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BeachGem15's avatar
BeachGem15|Hobbyist Digital Artist
WHat program do you use?
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sindil-the-saiyan's avatar
sindil-the-saiyan|Hobbyist Digital Artist
this is very useful, thank you for making this! :)
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Jonruizart's avatar
Basically invert the lighting. 
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PQ93-9A83-7UX1's avatar
2 ways for one pumpkin, nicee :D
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Makanmi's avatar
Oh wow, I seriously thought those pumpkins were from a photo... o__o amazing skill
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ThunderYeti's avatar
wow THis looks just like me)  '
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Deadlytwins's avatar
Deadlytwins|Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is outstanding!! Great technique! Thank you for those tips ♡
Reply  ·  
maxkymind's avatar
maxkymind|Student Digital Artist
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EdensGarbage's avatar
Oh my god he's so cute 
Reply  ·  
Pixelationer's avatar
Pixelationer|Professional Digital Artist
Just love the vege-...fruit? 
Reply  ·  
lauraypablo's avatar
lauraypablo|Hobbyist Digital Artist
such a beautiful!! I love your tutorials, thank you so much dear :iconsweethugplz:
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DrawWithNessie's avatar
Amazing tutorial. Also, the pumpkin skin looks so realistic!
Reply  ·  
solrac26's avatar
muy buen proceso e ilustración 

Reply  ·  
JhawkR2010's avatar
JhawkR2010|Hobbyist Photographer
Pumpkin / Jack-o-Lantern Art
Reply  ·  
adamsz01's avatar
adamsz01|Student General Artist
Thanks you for this :D i love this 
Reply  ·  
AislinTheKidArtist's avatar
AislinTheKidArtist|Student General Artist
Wow. I thought it was a photo!
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