- Exploration and study
- Shape breakouts and natural variations
- Form dissection and interior forms
- A word about details
In this “How to draw…”
Welcome to another “How to draw…” adventure! Today we’ll explore how to draw a pumpkin! There is a lot of variety, and a pumpkin can be more than you’d think. So in this drawing tutorial, please explore and learn with me, step-by-step, how to draw pumpkins and other squash.
First, we’ll take a brief look into what a pumpkin is, so we know something about what we’re drawing, then we’ll dive into exploration and study sketch activities with reference images.
What is a pumpkin?
My interaction with pumpkins happens during the fall, the time of year when we see many a Halloween pumpkin decorating neighborhoods all over the country. But, interestingly, the word “pumpkin” covers much more than a kiddo’s Halloween pumpkin.
A pumpkin is one of many cultivated species of winter squash. Pumpkins are native to North America and are one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world. We tend to think of the pumpkins that are round, smooth, orange ones with a ribbed pattern on their skin and a thick shell housing seeds and pulp.
These familiar pumpkins are part of the Cucurbita pepo cultivar, just one of the five cultivar categories of squash:
Many squash varieties look wildly different from our traditional Halloween pumpkin and are still called “pumpkins,” which gives us artists so much more to work with. ??The word “pumpkin” is interchangeable with the terms “winter squash” and “squash,” including summer squash. Botanically speaking, all pumpkins (even the Halloween ones ?) are winter squash, and all are fruits because they are seed-bearing structures from flowering plants.
The fifth cultivar category, Cucurbita ficifolia, is biochemically different from other cultivars and more closely resembles a melon. While it looks and grows similarly to pumpkins, it is visually more melon-like, so I didn’t include it in this drawing tutorial. However, the process for drawing melons isn’t much different from pumpkins and other squash, so you can still learn how to draw the more melon-like squash with this tutorial if you’d like.
The uses for pumpkins and squash are quite broad, ranging from cooking and eating every part of the pumpkin to pressing its seeds for pumpkin seed oil, decorative and medicinal uses, competitive growing, and other competitive sports such as Pumpkin chunking.
Pumpkins frequently appear in our stories, such as Native American and Irish folklore, as well as in Autumn, Halloween, and horror-themed stories such as The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, The Runaway Pumpkin, and Christopher Pumpkin.
Pumpkin drawing: Understanding structures
We now have a decent idea of what a pumpkin is and what family, friends, kids, and all kinds of people do with them. With our background research done, it’s time to study the shapes and forms of a pumpkin and other squash.
Exploration and study
Our first step in studying a pumpkin is to gather some references and create a reference board. Some search time on Google is the simplest approach, but feel free to use mine if you’d like. The first image on the right here is of the Cucurbita pepo cultivar group. We can see quite a variety of shapes, proportions, surface textures, tones, and colors. For example, we can see spheres, ovoids, smooth textures, bumpy textures, pear-shaped, deeply ribbed, shallow ribs, ridges, and more.
The next group, Cucurbita maxima, includes the same wide variety of features and the unique Turban squash.
In the Cucurbita moschata group, we see squash varieties having more cylindrical, long goose-necked, and super bumpy surface texture qualities. In contrast, the Cucurbita argyrosperma group includes some very tear-drop shaped varieties.
This last reference I created focuses on the stem portion of a pumpkin. When your subject has multiple “parts,” so to speak, it’s helpful to have references for your study of each.
If you have live pumpkins and squash to practice from life, use those! Drawing from life is an essential skill and one of the Art Fundamentals.
Once you’re all set with references, start drawing what you see to get familiar with the natural variety of shapes. It doesn’t matter which reference you start with, and none of your sketches need to be rendered or “finished” in this step. The exploration and study of how to draw a pumpkin are all about seeing the common natural shapes and forms, their variations, and understanding how all the different forms are put together. The best way to train your eye to see these things is to draw what you see.
It’s beneficial and encouraged to begin with the most simple shape you can see for each sketch. We build forms from shapes and lines, after all. If you’re unfamiliar with forms, my Form in Art article goes in-depth on just that.
Time to put pencil to paper! Speaking of paper, I do most of my sketches by hand with a pencil and a sketchbook to keep things simple and clear.
Here are my exploration and study sketches for how to draw a pumpkin:
Normally, I’m not this neat in my sketchbook ?. I clean things up, so it’s nice and clear for you guys, but I rather enjoy making an unholy mess in my sketchbook ?.
You’ll notice that I drew the flat basic shape first to get an idea of the forms I’d need to construct, and then I went about constructing them–but even during construction, I still start with a 2-D shape and build from there. Then, once I have the basic shape, I begin to understand how the form construction needs to go.
For example, with the “traditional” pumpkin I started with at the top left of the first page of my sketches, it was initially challenging to learn to draw the ribbed forms we all recognize pumpkins for. It took some practice to get a feel for that particular how to draw a pumpkin step. Still, after a few sketches, it became clear that I had to 1) understand the shape and form of the “rib” first, and 2) understand how the “ribs” are positioned relative to the overall shape and proportions of the pumpkin.
The “rib” forms are essentially curving upside-down triangles–kind of like a puffy pizza slice wrapped around a sphere. During construction, that translates into wedge or talon-like forms of varying thickness and length wrapped around a sphere or bowl form. Here’s an example of what I mean:
It helps to line up the top and bottom of the “ribs” using ellipses, which is why you see plenty of ellipses, bowls, and circles in my sketches. The exploration and study process is intended to help you see the “bones” of the subject. When we know the primary shapes and variations, we can begin to design and construct with less reliance on our references.
Shape breakouts and natural variations
As I studied how to draw a pumpkin, I found common shapes for drawing any pumpkin or squash are:
- a circle
- an oval
- a rectangle with rounded corners
- a rounded crescent
- a teardrop
We can start constructing and combining forms now that we have a shape profile to work from. I like to create a quick reference guide to the primary profiles and variations that I hope you find helpful as you learn to draw a pumpkin.
It’s straightforward when you compare it to the reference images. By studying my ref boards, I’ve paid close attention to what the distinct shapes and shape variations are and then draw each one. Next, it’s time to understand the common forms and construct them.
Form construction is about beginning to put the pieces of what we studied together. The slideshows below will walk you through a few how to draw a pumpkin construction demos.
This example features more of an elongated shape, but that’s okay. We can use whichever shapes we want ???. I always try to begin with a gesture line to add a sense of movement and character. Next, drawing from my reference guide, I add the basic shapes on top of the gesture.
The next step (second slide) is to connect them and then add contour lines (third slide) to add a sense of depth and volume. Lastly, I erase my construction lines and darken my drawing.
The process for the next demo is the same, and only the shapes are different. Once you understand your subject and the process, you can begin playing with the profile, silhouette, lines, angles, sizes, and proportions until you land on something you’re happy with.
I took this last form construction demo a little further to help segue into form dissection and interior forms in the next section. Like the other slideshow tutorials, the steps are the same, but I have added a couple.
You’ll find that as you add more complexity to your forms, the steps are repeated, and the only thing that changes is the size and nature of the information you’re adding.
We begin with the largest shapes to build the primary and largest forms first, and from there, we repeat the process with the next largest (or medium-sized) ones on top.
This final how-to draw a pumpkin construction demo gives you a brief look into how the process repeats. After step 3, a simple form has been built, and it’s ready to be added onto.
In steps 4 and 5, I repeat the same steps, adding simple lines and shapes on top of my initial form to add another layer of complexity and interest that gives a better visual description of the pumpkin’s form.
In step 6, I add the contour lines that give me divisions in the form that I can then cut away for step 7, drawing a rough indication of the interior.
Form dissection and interior forms
At this point, we know how to draw a pumpkin! But do we know how to draw a pumpkin on the inside? ?
Not to worry! We still have our trusty ref boards with images that give us an idea about what’s going on with a pumpkin’s interior. I didn’t do a super in-depth rundown of the interior, but the process is still the same as above using the seed interior body information we find in the references.
Here are my examples of form dissection and a little bit of fun with the interiors.
A word about details
All the most fun and interesting things to draw have plenty of details that give them their character and make them look really cool. But, for all that they add, details only make up about twenty percent of your drawing–and they take up about eighty percent of your time.
That’s one of the reasons they should be left for the end.
Plus, no matter whether you’re learning how to draw a pumpkin, a mushroom, or anything else, all details (smaller forms & patterns) sit on top of larger forms that must be worked out first.
I don’t count light and shadow or color as details, and they are each their own thing and deserve dedicated articles to explain and demonstrate what they entail.
For clarification, I’ve included some sketches as an illustration of the difference between primary forms and detail forms.
Pumpkin drawing tutorial: How to draw a pumpkin step-by-step
Step 1: Thumbnails & Gesture lines.
Start with some small thumbnails, and then, just as before, add a gesture line and shapes.
Thumbnails of the simple shape combinations you want to use offer a helpful roadmap for your form construction. After that, a gesture line (also called a “line of action”) will help add a sense of movement and life.
Remember, you’ve studied pumpkins and squash, so play around and enjoy!
Feel free to follow along and copy my sketches to get started, but I encourage you to take these examples and apply them to any design you want! You’ve got this!
Step 2: Another Gesture line!
It felt necessary to add a second gesture line for the top area.
There are times it feels more dynamic to have an additional gesture armature to build on.
Step 3: Add the basic shapes.
These will be the basis for our largest form, the pumpkin’s body.
Compare what we have now to our little thumbnail in the upper lefthand corner, and you’ll see we’re quite close to the idea there.
Step 4: Shape adjustments.
Here I added another circle and ellipse to adjust the overall contour in the front and back of the form.
The green ellipse will add a “rib” bump in the rear that we can see from the front, and the orange circle in front will add more depth.
Step 5: More shape adjustments.
I jumped the gun a little bit here and started filling out the stem form? , but we can roll with it!
The orange ellipses show where I added the top and bottom planes, and the green lines in the middle show how I connected them to create the stem.
Step 6: Contour tweaking.
No matter how you start, you can always tweak and adjust things to suit what you want them to look like.
I decided my overall form looked a little too round and soft for my taste, so I decided to use a few divots and curves to create more interesting plane shifts.
Step 7: Clean up & darken.
At this point, my sketch felt finished, so I cleaned it up a bit and darkened the lines I wanted to keep in the design.
I didn’t erase all of the construction lines this time. Sometimes, when you’re not adding light and shadow, contour lines, or a lot of detail, leaving light indications of the construction lines can increase the sense of depth.
I decided to make this how to draw a pumpkin article a little more robust since there are so many varieties out there. More variety means more practice! So here is another how to draw a pumpkin step-by-step tutorial!
Step 1: Gesture line!
Don’t worry; I practice what I preach! The thumbnail sketch for this how to draw a pumpkin example is at the top right in the 1st one above. Take a peek; you’ll see ?.
Step 2: You know the drill! Add those shapes!
This is still how to draw a pumpkin, and the process goes on like a good beat.
I added the ellipses for the top and bottom planes of the stem and a narrow trapezoid shape to act as an envelope for the shape I’m after.
Step 3: Motto, motto!
Next, I put in circles to continue building the form.
Step 4: Building out other forms.
We know there’s a stem, so let’s get it in there!
Step 5: Connect!
Step 6: Build more on top.
I added the “ribs” for more form complexity and interest and to bring home the “pumpkin” feel.
Step 7: Contour tweaking.
I wanted to change the overall contour, so I did that here.
Step 8: Clean up and darken.
At the risk of OD’ing you on step-by-steps, I created a few that go through the same process with the stem forms.
Don’t worry; I know you’ve got this how to draw a pumpkin stuff down by now. I’ll put the rest in as simple visuals so you can peruse them at your leisure ?.
Another how to draw a pumpkin stem demo–this one is more fun!
One more, and then I promise I’ll be done with the how to draw a pumpkin stem stuff.
How to draw a pumpkin from Imagination
Guess what? Except for the exploration and study sketches, most of the pumpkins from my demos have been drawn from imagination!
I used my references for inspiration, but the rest came from my brain ?. It’s an awesome feeling, and I bet you’re experiencing it, too! You’ve seen the process many times by now, so keep drawing and experimenting!
How to draw a pumpkin in Perspective
I know I’ve drilled this process into you ad nauseam at this point, so I won’t pile on with the more technical practice of Perspective. Instead, I’ve included a visual walkthrough.
Here are some 1-point perspective examples:
Here are some 2-point perspective examples:
How to draw a pumpkin from imagination: Sketching in Perspective.
I drew all these perspective sketches from my imagination. Now, for my 3-point perspective example, I decided to push things a little more fun.
Light and shadow: How to light your pumpkin
Light & shadow, like Perspective, is a whole other conversation on its own. So in my Fundamentals of Light series, I’m covering all the stuff and gubbins of light and shadow (slowly though, cuz it’s huge!)
In the meantime, here’s a lighting demo for the sketch I did above in 3-point perspective.
A word about color
I did say, “A word.” ?
In all seriousness, I prioritize solid drawing skills before painting and using color because those things must live on a solid drawing with solid forms.
Playing with pumpkin drawings: Exploring shape language and style variations.
Drawing is fun! So have fun and draw some funky pumpkins!
Here are a few of mine. I gave some of them a body, a face, a mouth, a nose–oh, my! I made pumpkin characters and even a cartoon pumpkin or two ?. See? Fun!
Now, you try! ????
How to draw a pumpkin teacher, signing off!
Thank you so much for having the patience and intestinal fortitude to stick with me to the end! I appreciate you spending some of your time with me and my how to draw a pumpkin drawing tutorial. I know it was long, and I hope you’ve found it helpful.
If you have any questions or feedback for me, please feel free to leave them in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you guys, and I hope you’ll join me for another “how to draw” adventure!
Take care of yourselves and happy drawing!