Gourds are a wondrously versatile canvas for so many things. They can be transformed into so many things with birdhouse being one of the most common. There are countless ways that a gourd birdhouse can be decorated. This list describes some of my favorite methods along with some pictures of my original birdhouse gourds as project ideas.
1. Leave It Natural
Nature does a great job decorating gourds without any help. Gourds dried indoors will have intricate patterns left by the molds that occur during drying, while gourds grown outdoors will have a beautiful creamy brown color.
Natural gourds can be simply cleaned up to make the patterns shine (and kill any live mold). For detailed instructions read my article on how to finish naturally decorated gourds
2. Pyrography (woodburning)
Gourds are a great canvas for pyrography (woodburning). They burn much like wood, leaving intricate art on the surface of the gourd.
Pyrography fades easily in the sun, so it is important to seal woodburned gourds with UV protective sealer if it will be used outdoors.
Paints are a great way to add vibrant color to a gourd. I like to use acrylic paints but any paint that can be used on wood will work. I use both brushes as well as paint pens to get a variety of strokes and lines.
4. Alcohol Inks
Alcohol inks are a great way to get a unique marble look for a gourd. It is super easy and versatile. The inks can be dripped on the gourd and spread, mixed, and manipulated using rubbing alcohol. The possibilities with this technique are only limited by your imagination.
Detailed instructions can be found in my article on alcohol ink gourd art.
5. Spray Paint Stenciling
Spray paint stenciling works great with gourds. Spray paint is durable for outdoor use and is available in so many colors and the way spray paint adds texture and depth cannot be replicated by any other medium.
I use lace and dollies for my stencils, but any stencil will work including homemade stencils. Since the gourd surface is rounded, it can be very difficult to get the stencil to lay flat. I find this adds to the effect. You are forced to work with the speckled/foggy quality of the paint and raised stencil. This technique is easy and fun and allows for lots of creative freedom.
Finishing Your Gourd Art
It is a good idea to use a wood sealer to preserve your artwork. Make sure to use an appropriate sealer for the particular use of your gourd. Use an outdoor sealer for birdhouses or yard art. A UV protective sealer goes a long way to keep colors from bleaching. Indoor art does not necessarily need to be sealed, but sealing adds a beautiful shine that adds a great finishing touch to your artwork.