Skip Carving Jack-o-Lanterns…Create Glow in the Dark Halloween Pumpkins

By Blog Editor Susan Wells

I’m not a huge fan of carving jack-o-lanterns…the pulp burns my skin, it makes a sticky mess all over and my kids lose interest and ask me to carve their design almost immediately after starting.

Despite despising pumpkin carving, every Halloween I see amazing designs and decide I’ll try it again. My girls also always find the perfect pumpkin at a Pumpkin Patch or grocery store and we drag it home in hopes of creating pumpkin envy in the neighborhood.

This year, it’s going to be different. We are skipping the carving, the mess, the burning and the frustration and decorating the outside of the pumpkin instead. Pinterest is full of all kinds of pumpkin painting and decorating. Some are incredibly elaborate and works of art. The one thing that is missing from most is their ability to glow in the dark on Halloween night. That’s my favorite part of jack-o-lanterns…watching them glow on the crisp fall evening.

Here’s an easy and kid-friendly way to decorate your Halloween pumpkins without knives or seeds or pulp.


  • Real or foam pumpkins
  • Glow Powder – Luminous Zinc Sulfide
  • Contact paper
  • Permanent marker or felt pen
  • Spray adhesive
  • Spray sealant
  • Scissors
  • Drop cloth or large cardboard box
  • Black light
  • Ventilation mask (if the experiment is not done outside)
  • Plastic portion cup
  • Tin foil
  • Thumb tack
  • (Optional)Empty salt shaker

Step by Step Instructions

  1. If you are using real pumpkins, start by wiping them off with a damp cloth to remove any dirt from the pumpkin patch. Once rinsed, dry the pumpkin thoroughly.
  2. Draw the face pieces on the contact paper and cut each piece out. Peel the pieces off the paper backing and arrange them as a face for your pumpkin.
  3. Once your jack-o-lantern face is complete, take your pumpkin outside and place it on the drop cloth. If you need to do the experiment indoors, make sure that you are in a well-ventilated area and place the pumpkin in the cardboard box.
  4. Spray sections of the pumpkin with the spray adhesive, immediately following with the Glow Powder. For best results, hold the adhesive 10-14 cm (4-6 in) away from the pumpkin and spray a heavy coat. When sprinkling the powder, you may also want to tilt your pumpkin to get it evenly covered.
  5. Pour the Glow Powder from its jar into an empty salt shaker. This will make it much easier to sprinkle the powder onto your pumpkin.
    Alternately, you can pour the Glow Powder into an empty portion cup. Cover the top of he portion cup with aluminum foil and hold it in place with a rubber band. Use a thump tack to poke holes in the tin foil… just like a salt shaker!
  6. Continue spraying and powdering each section of the pumpkin until the entire pumpkin is completely covered with powder. Carefully shake off any excess powder as you go.
  7. Collect the excess Glow Powder and pour it back into the shaker.
  8. Repeat steps four and five to ensure that your pumpkin is evenly and completely covered with powder.
  9. After the adhesive is completely dry, spray the entire pumpkin with the sealant to make sure that the Glow Powder stays affixed to the pumpkin.
  10. After the pumpkin is dry, your spooky Halloween decoration is ready! Carefully pull the contact paper off of the pumpkin.
  11. Place the pumpkins next to a black light for an extra bright glow on Halloween.

For more on the science behind this experiment, visit the Glowing Pumpkins Experiment page on

24 replies
  1. John Clay
    John Clay says:

    Which spray adhesive and sealant did you use (vendor and product name)? Zinc sulfide isn’t cheap, so I want to make sure this works the first time.

    Regards, John Clay

    • Susan Wells
      Susan Wells says:

      We didn’t actually use sealant on our pumpkins. If you don’t move them around or touch them a lot, you won’t need to seal it up. You could maybe try clear paint or Modge Podge to seal it if you need something to protect the powder.


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