Dia de los Muertos | How To Paint A Skull Tutorial DIY And History of Holiday

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There are so many celebrations by many cultures. Do you ever embrace them? If you really dive into all the meanings, history and how they came to be it’s really interesting. I have always enjoyed Halloween. But, have always fascinated with the Mexican art of Dia de los Muertos. I knew a little about this holiday from growing up in the S.F. bay area.

It wasn’t until I got older that I would really come to appreciate it’s meaning. It’s a gathering of family and friends to pray for the loss of family members or friends. It’s to support them on their spiritual journey. My grandma being Christian celebrated All Saints Day. The three are almost rolled into one in some ways.

Dia de Los Muertos

How To Paint A Skull

Dia de los Muertos | Day of the Dead painted pumpkin

To honor those whom have passed special tables are set up, it’s called offerendas. People prepare favorite drinks, foods, sugar skulls and marigolds on a table. Some even bring these items, and the deceased possessions to the grave of those that have passed. It’s said that the celebrations have dated back as far as pre-Colombian cultures 2500-3000 years.

If you have read my about page this site is dedicated to my mom. The first year was the hardest to comes to terms with her loss. When Dia de los Muertos came around I decided to take out some wood and paint a painting to honor her. Each year since I have done some kind of artwork in her memory.

This year, Sammie and I had headed to the pumpkin patch. We like going at night it adds an element of fun. We picked pumpkins, took pictures, and roamed around the various vignettes.

Sammie picked the pumpkin gourd I painted. I had picked a few medium sized round pumpkins. But, she decided she wanted to paint on one of the rounds so I picked the different shaped one.

I didn’t draw anything first but you could with a marker or chalk pen. Next I added various elements step by step. Typically I don’t worry about perfection. If I need to layer over something I will. It adds an underlying color, texture to the painting or in this case pumpkin.

For what ever reasons you decide to paint a painting, or pumpkin. Here’s a few steps to help you. 

Supplies for painting a skull;

  1. Grab a gourd, pumpkin, piece of wood, cloth, paper or even faux pumpkin.
  2. A few paint brushes
  3. Gesso
  4. Acrylic paints
  5. Water container
  6. Paper towels
  7. Q-Tips
  8. News paper or something to protect your table

How to paint a skull for Dia de los Muertos;


  • If necessary outline the image with chalk pen, pencil or other drawing tool
  • Use gesso medium for the skull *you will have to do several layers drying inbetween


  • Layer on elements (around the eyes)
  • Use a dark color around the outside areas (you’ll go back with black to cover most)


  • Create a flower shape on top of the eye area
  • Outline the flower shape
  • Give it eyelash affects if you want or other design
  • Use the back of the paint brush dipping in paint to create dots
  • Add black to define areas
  • Add lots of colors, shapes, hearts…..
  • Look at artwork to get ideas and put your own spin on your design
  • Use your fingers to smudge areas if needed
  • Use Q-Tips to clean up areas for detailing if needed
  • Paint the black before adding the teeth


I added a flower going through the skeleton’s teeth. I shaped it like a rose bud/heart. On the back of my skull pumpkin I made a cat / skeleton.


I bought flowers at the craft store and used a push pin to add them to the top of the pumpkin. I placed the pumpkin on a mini haystack.

Have you ever painted or drawn any Dia de los Muertos artwork?

You can also look up how to paint a skull and how to paint a sugar skull on YouTube for lots of other video tutorials.

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