With a vast array of shapes and sizes, dried gourds provide an ideal surface for decorating, regardless of whether you draw stick figures or are a proclaimed artist. Decorating dried gourds is a versatile art project that you can do by yourself or with others; if you choose to make it a family or classroom project, don't forget to provide clear safety instructions for any children involved. If you're planning on decorating more than one gourd, try to clean them all at the same time so you don't have to go through the cleaning process repeatedly.
Clean your dried gourd. Once dried, gourds typically have a crust of mold encasing their skin. Let your dried gourd soak in a 5-gallon bucket full of hot water for 15 to 20 minutes, then scrub it with a steel wool kitchen scrubby. Remove any stubborn bits of moldy skin by paring them off in thin strips with the dull side of a butter knife. Dip your dried gourd in a solution of bleach water (one part bleach to nine parts water) to disinfect any remaining mold.
Consider how you'd like to decorate your dried gourds. Popular options include painting, wood burning, carving, staining, dying and using three-dimensional objects such as beads; your only limit is your imagination. Unless you'd like to learn a new crafting technique, you'll most likely find it easier to use an art medium that you're already familiar with, especially if this is your first time decorating dried gourds. Also, to make your gourd decorating project less expensive, try to decorate your gourd using materials and tools that you already have in your home, so you don't have to go out and purchase supplies.
Decide what sort of design you wish to put on your gourd. Be creative. Jim Widess, author of "Gourd Pyrography," suggests that you use defects, warts and blemishes on the surface of your gourd's skin to guide your design, especially if you're using wood burning to decorate your dried gourd.
Sketch your design onto the skin of your gourd. Using a pencil, lightly outline the shape of your chosen design on your gourd's skin. Make sure you can see the pencil marks, but don't press so hard that you leave deep indentations on the gourd. One particularly amusing technique many gourd artists use with bottle neck gourds is to draw a face on the gourd, using the elongated neck as the nose.
Decorate your dried gourd. Mickey Baskett, author of "Glorious Gourd Decorating," suggests that you practice on a piece of scrap gourd first, in order to get familiar with the decorating process before working on your project gourd. Regardless of whether you're painting, carving or burning a design into your gourd, use small, light strokes and go slowly. As you get used to working with the gourd's skin, you can go over the design with firmer strokes if you need to.
Finish the dried gourd with varnish. Use a small paintbrush to paint over the entire surface with clear varnish. This protects your design and the surface of the gourd so you can enjoy your artwork for years to come. Once the varnish has dried completely (typically after about 24 hours) you can do your finishing touches, such as adding beads.