Free Gourd Craft Tutorials - Learn Carving, Painting Pyrography and Other Gourd Craft Techniques

Do you want to learn basic gourd craft techniques? You have come to the right place with  my free online tutorials.

Welcome to my gourd world and my free online tutorials to help you on your path to learning gourd art & gourd crafting. These tutorials will give you some basics on using some of the great products I sell in my gourd art supplies store front including inks, paints, finishes, pyrography tools, mini saws, Foredom Rotary tools and so much more. 

Please refer to the menu on the left to dive into some of the other Gourd & Pyrography Tutorials as well as my store front and art galleries.

About this page

This page is a basic introduction to gourd crafts and some of the wonderful inks, paints & mediums used by myself & other gourd crafters. You will learn some basic techniques & how to use some of these products. For more information & other mini tutorials please check out my Pyrography Gourd Art Blog.

This page was updated 1/6/15

Dye Inks For Gourds & Other Surfaces

The Memories Dye Inks are the most popular inks among gourd artist. The Adirondack Alcohol Inks are also very popular especially by those who like that tie dyed look. Both can be used to cover the entire surface of your gourd or you can use them for fine detail work. The colors are highly concentrated so just a drop goes a very long way. 

Dye inks are semi-transparent so if you use them right out of the bottle you will have the markings on the gourd show through which creates a beautiful design. If you wish to have color that is less transparent try mixing it with a Clear Gel Glaze. 

The dye inks are mixable with each other with and without varnish. They can also be mixed with other water based products & Pearl Ex Powdered Pigments. Just mix a drop at a time and store in a buddy cup. Start out light, a few pin drops of ink to varnish, look at my book for this. Then you add more drops of ink when you want it darker. To thin them out you should use an extender, not water.

If you have not used the ink in a while I suggest shaking them before using the ink. This is especially important with Chalk Inks.

I recommend working in small areas and then heat setting/drying the chalk and dye inks with a embossing heat tool before moving on to another area to avoid getting ink on your hands and clothes. Using a heat embossing tool is more effective than a hair dryer because it is more concentrated. 

Gourd dye inks do not work well on wood UNLESS you mix them with paint or some other medium such as paint or apply a finish to the wood before using the inks. 

These dye inks are perfect for gourd artists, scrap bookers, crafters as well as rubber stamping enthusiasts. They are not intended to be used directly on wood but can be mixed with paint or other mediums. I suggest you experiment mixing the inks on a scrap piece of wood. I have had great results mixing it with acrylic paints. Mixing with varnish will also give you a nice stained varnish. So play, have fun, experiment!

Please check out our embossing heat tool to help speed the drying process of the Acrylic Pigment & Dye inks. I also carry a complete line of ink applicators, cotton-tipped applicators, brushes, buddy cups, etc. They can all be found on our gourd and craft supplies and accessories page.

Check out all the inks & starter kits by clicking on this link. GourdSupply Products Dye Inks. They are all made in the USA.

Methods of Application

The dye inks are a very concentrated form of color, so you will be using very small amounts. For small areas you can begin by using one or two drops on a Cotton-tipped applicator, Fine Liner Fiber Applicator, Taklon micro detail brush or with the Taklon Tapered Brushes which are also useful for applying color to the very smallest area of your design.

Applicator cubes are convenient for applying color to larger areas. The foam 1 inch applicator cubes are my favorite, because the foam easily conforms to any surface irregularities, resulting in a smoother more complete coverage. Simply apply several drops of dye to the foam surface, and apply to the gourd for smooth streak free color. To blend and even out the color intensity, try going over the dyed surface with the foam pad using a patting motion. When you are through, cover the applicator cube, storing the remaining dye for a future use. By storing the cube upside down the dye will remain at the top of the pad, ready for the next use.

Foam brushes provide another option for applying color to large areas. Just place several drops of dye on the angled edge of the brush and spread across the surface to be colored. Blend by patting with the sponge brush or a tissue. A square of felt is another option for applying dye to larger surfaces.

Once you apply the ink you can wipe off any excess with Nedra's Special Formula Cleaner & Conditioner before using a heat embossing tool to dry. 

All the applicators that can be used with the inks can be found in the brush & applicator section and Maria Dellos' book on gourd dye inks is available in my Book Store.

Drying, Blending & Color Intensity of Inks

Autumn Leaves gourd.Water based inks require longer drying time than alcohol based products such as leather dyes, (depending on the climate and the condition of the gourd itself) so I highly recommend the use of a heat tool to speed up the drying time while heat setting the dye. Although it is not essential to heat set the acrylic pigment, chalk & dye inks, the use of a heat tool allows you to move on to the next step without smearing your work. It also permanently sets the ink into the surface.

Memories inks make color blending a snap. Apply the first color, then the second color, slightly overlapping the first. Use the dry end of a  cotton-tipped applicator to blur the color lines, creating a perfect blend. If working with the colors wet doesn't give you a satisfactory blend, try heat setting the first color with a embossing heat tool, then overlapping with the second color and blending then set with the heat embossing tool.

To achieve a deeper color, dry the first ink application with a heat embossing tool and then reapply. Repeat as needed until you have the desired depth of color, drying in between each application.

To thin the colors you can mix with Nedra's Special Formula Cleaner & Conditioner, protecting wax or use an extender. 

Dried, Porous Gourd Shells

Gourd shells can vary greatly in density and porosity, so results with any product will vary as well. Giving your gourd a light all over sanding with a fine grade of sandpaper (#240 is a good place to start) before applying the ink helps create a more uniform surface that absorbs color more evenly. Sanding also helps soften the natural water proof barrier that is part of the makeup of the outer shell of the gourd, while creating a very attractive, smooth surface. This can be especially helpful with very dense, hard shelled gourds.

On gourds that are dried out blending will be more difficult because they absorb color more quickly. Mixing the inks with Nedra's Special Formula Cleaner & Conditioner, Minwax natural or protecting wax will allow the inks to go on easier and look better. I prefer using the Special Formula which conditions the skin but does not impact on your use of varnish.

You can either apply the wax directly to the skin or mix with the medium of your choice such as Acrylic pigment, Chalk or Dye Inks. Simply take some wax out with a small spatula and  place it on a palette. Add some ink directly to the wax and mix together with the spatula.

 When you have finished you can apply a protecting wax, such as Minwax, over the entire surface (do not do this if you have used other products), allow to dry and buff to shine. Just as a note, Minwax natural/clear is just as good as most "protective or gourd" waxes sold by many gourd supply vendors only cheaper. If you choose to use protecting wax do not apply varnish over the wax.

Blending the Acrylic Pigment & Dye Ink Colors

To achieve the effects of fall foliage for the ornaments pictured here I used gourd dye inks blended with cotton-tipped applicators. IAutumn Leaves Kettle Gourd. did not use any Nedra's Special Formula Cleaner & Conditioner or protecting wax because the surface of the gourd was not dried out and I was working on small areas.

The background was done with pine tree green applied with the flat end of a cotton-tipped applicator. As I got closer to the leaves I used the pointed tip side of the applicator. When I started working on the leaves I applied the gourd dye ink with the pointed end of a cotton-tipped applicator starting with the dark colors and working my way to the lighter colors blending in small circles as I neared the areas I wanted to blend together and then set with a embossing heat tool. I did not wipe any of this with a tissue to remove the excess before drying but if you find that you have a lot of excess ink it's best to wipe it first before heat setting.

The fiery colors of the leaf were done using a combination of Gourd Supply Products Dye inks in a variety of colors. The colors used were a combination of Bordeaux & Burnt Umber (Acrylic Pigment), Sepia, Chestnut, Canary, Ochre and Yellow (Dye Ink). I used different combinations for each leaf so they are not exactly alike, just like in nature. Once the ornament was completed I applied a glossy finish which made the colors pop! You may opt for a satin finish but I like my ornaments to "shine".

For blending colors on larger areas you might try applying Nedra's Special Formula Cleaner & Conditioner or protecting wax over the entire surface and then add the colors with a felt cloth. As you get closer to the area you want to blend together work in small circles to blend. 

Color Variations When Using Translucent or Semi-Transparent Inks or Paints on Gourds

Because of the natural colors of the gourd shell Translucent or Semi-Transparent inks and paint will not appear as they do on a color chart printed on white paper. You might have to do some blending to achieve the results you are looking for.

As an example, if you are using teal, turquoise or aqua and find that it has a greenish cast to it try adding a drop of blue to bring it back to the correct color.

It is always best to test the colors on a scrap piece of gourd (preferably the from the same gourd you are working on or similar color before using it on your project to ensure you are getting the color you want. With experience you will gain more confidence in using these products on colored surface but even with experience it's always a good idea to test the color first so you don't mess up a good project. Better safe than sorry!

Adding Weight and a Base to a Gourd

I'm sure you've all had gourds that don't have a flat bottom or you want to ensure it doesn't fall over.  There's lots of tricks out there and I've heard all kinds of secrets to weighting a gourd so it doesn't fall over.

Here are some of the things I have tried. Some are good for gourds that will not be cut open, others will work on gourds that will be open such as a bowl.

  1. Using wooden coins available at Michaels, use this to stencil a hole in the bottom and cut it out. Stuff newspaper inside the gourd and push it inside so it's very tight. Add some pea gravel. It will not move around if you have stuffed the paper tight. Put the wooden coin in the hole and seal the edges using a glue gun or perhaps some CA Adhesive. Add the gourd piece that you cut out and then seal with epoxy or thick (gel) CA Adhesive.
  2. For a gourd with an opening try using some fishing weights and then pour in some CA Adhesive to secure them then paint the inside.
  3. If the bottom is not flat, wrap some raffia or sea grass around in a small circle several times creating a flat circular base securing each wrap with waxed linen in several places and/or glue. Glue in place with epoxy or thick (gel) CA Adhesive.
  4. Another great idea is to use little wooden plugs as "legs". Just use a rotary tool to carve out the shape of the plug, add a drop of CA Adhesive & attach the wooden plug. If the plug is already stained you can leave it as it is or you can color it with the same medium used for the gourd.
  5. When completely dry you can paint the base to match the bottom of the gourd. This will create a flat surface as a base.

Finishing the Gourd

If you have mixed the inks with protecting wax I recommend you not apply varnish on top because it might flake off. It's best to just apply a layer of protecting wax over the entire surface of the gourd and allow it to dry and then buff to a nice sheen.

If you have not used protecting was you can use a variety of finishes depending on the type of mediums you have used.

The finishes I love are JoSonja's Polyurethane Satin or Pearl Ex Varnish which is a brush-on formula. It provides a beautiful finish without streaks or runs. I use this on the majority of my work because it leaves a nice sheen without the shine. For pieces that I want to look "natural" without any sheen such as my southwestern gourds I use Americana Sealer/Finish Matte Spray finish by DecoArt. For my ornaments I prefer a nice shine so I use the Americana Sealer/Finish Gloss.

Tricks I found helpful when using a spray so that it does not drip or run:

  • Hang small ornaments then slowly spin. While it is spinning apply a thin spray evenly to cover the sides, top & bottom. Don't get too close or it will run or put too heavy a coat on the surface. Allow to dry according to the directions & then repeat. It's always best to apply a light, think coat & repeat.
  • For pieces that are open such as a bowl of vase using a spray varnish. You can either spray the inside first or the outside. To spray the outside turn the gourd upside down & place it on top of something tall enough to keep it off the table top. For vases & small bowls I have used a tall spray can to rest it on. Gently spin the gourd & apply a thin spray to cover the sides & top. Allow to dry & repeat.
  • Most of my work is finished with JoSonja's Polyurethane Satin or Pearl Ex Varnish & I suggest  a foam brush or high density foam wedge to apply. The foam wedges I use & sell are high density so you will get a really nice finish without streaks or smears & they don't soak up the medium. Low Density foam will soak up the medium so you waste a lot of medium. If you opt for a foam brush make sure it is low density.

Where to fine some of the recommended finishes

Pearl Ex Powdered Pigments

These wonderful products are so versatile. You can use them alone or mixed with most of the products I sell.

For more information on some of their uses & what you can mix them with go to the Pearl-Ex Page.

I have also done a mini tutorial on my blog using Peal Ex and in my online tutorial of using Pearl Ex with other mediums.

Embossing Powder

I just love using the embossing powders on gourds because it adds pizzazz and texture. They are easy and fun to use. Here's easy steps to follow:

  1. lay a piece of paper underneath the object you will be embossing.
  2. Apply adhesive such as the Stamp & Stick glue to the area where you want the embossing powder. If you are doing it in a very small area or using the embossing powder I recommend the Ranger Embossing Pens. It will provide small, precise lines just perfect for embossing signatures, etc.
  3. Use a little dipper, spoon or spatula and get a small amount of embossing powder. Sprinkle over the glued area.
  4. Tap off excess embossing powder onto the paper. You can then gently fold the paper to allow the excess powder to accumulate in the folded area and let it run back into the jar so you can save it for future use.
  5. With a heat tool (be sure to use one with a concentrated flow) apply heat to the powder until it looks like enamel.
  6. Allow it to cool and apply varnish to the gourd and cured embossing powder to give it lasting protection.

You can mix and blend embossing powders to create your own custom color combination to add more pizzazz.

Varnishes & How to Use them

When applying a brush on varnish such as Jo Sonja's polyurethane to finished gourds I recommend using a sponge applicator such as foam wedges

Pour some in a small cup and dip the applicator in and dab on the gourd using a "pouncing action" or brush on. It will dry almost immediately. I recommend applying a second coat in the same manner after the first coat has completely dried.

My favorite varnish is Jo Sonja's Polyurethane varnish is a heavy duty varnish with great durability and it's been my favorite for years. It has a urethane resin that gives strong resilience for protecting your projects. It works great on countertops and objects that endure hard use such as gourd art, children's rooms and furniture and so much more. Unlike other brands you only need 2 coats on most projects. It dries clear, will not crack and does not turn yellow. It is best stored and used between 65-80 degrees. Water based and non-toxic, contains low VOC's. Can be used with a sponge, brush or spray gun. I recommend dabbing it on with a foam wedge. Clean up with soap and water.

Protecting Wax and Varnishing

Before applying a varnish over protecting wax it's important to test it on a sample. Some mediums mixed with protecting wax will end up lifting off.

I do not recommend using wax over Lumiere and Neopaque paints, it will lift from the gourd surface so avoid using protecting wax with these products.

Protecting wax can be used over accent powders but be careful when buffing so you do not scratch them off.

It is ok to use a brush-on type varnish such as Jo Sonja polyurethane or Pearl Ex Varnish when using any of the water-based products sold in our store front.

I still always recommend testing everything out to ensure compatibility.

Combining Products

Pearl-Ex Powdered Pigments, Acrylic Pigment and Dye Inks, Lumiere metallic and pearlescent paints and Neopaque acrylic paints allow you to customize your own products and colors. You can combine Pearl-Ex Powdered Pigments, Acrylic Pigment and Dye Inks, Lumiere metallic and pearlescent paints and Neopaque acrylic paints with our other water based products.

You can create beautiful metallic effects and custom colors by adding a drop of ink to any of the  Lumiere metallic and pearlescent paints and Neopaque acrylic paints or varnish and mixing them in a plastic storage cup. Add Acrylic Pigment and Dye Inks to any water based paint or varnish, a drop at a time, until the desired intensity is achieved to create your own tinted varnish.

Fixing a Crack

If the crack is in the middle of the gourd as happens when you drop one or a stress line gives, I usually drill a hole on either end of the crack to stop the crack....apply a CA Adhesive (medium or thick) on the inside and clamp slightly if possible so it doesn't get out of alignment, then I fill from the outside and/or inside with a wood filler. If you can't clamp it use an accelerator to speed drying & it will set within seconds. Accelerator is important when you are using a medium or thick CA which usually takes a bit longer to set than the thin.

Apply Wood Texture filler to the crack, sand lightly with high grit (I use 400 grit) sandpaper until smooth. Or, you can drill holes on either sides of the crack and the ends and use some lacing, sinew, waxed threads, etc. in the holes to incorporate as part of the design.

Pyrography Tutorial on Gourds

This is one of the most important tutorials you will ever read and if you read nothing else, please read this. For more information on burning gourds and safety please go to my Gourd pyrography & safety tutorial

Disclaimer: Some of the information contained on this page is based on public domain information that is believed to be reliable & information used in my classes. The information in these tutorials is furnished free of charge. The information is to be used at an individual's own risk. Nedra Denison and Sawdust Connection makes no warranty as to the completeness or accuracy thereof.

Happy Gourding!

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