With Fall approaching, I’m trying my hand at acorn craft. Today I’m sharing the most effective way to prepare and paint real acorns!
What is the Best Way To Gather Acorns
Late August, for me, if the best time of year to harvest acorns from oak trees. They’re still green, so aren’t quite mature yet, and haven’t fallen to the ground. So we pull them right off the branches. Why pick them up off the ground when you can pluck them right from the tree?
Only gather in a year when there is a bumper crop of acorns; our wild and furry friends rely on them as a food source! White oaks produce a crop every other year and a heavy crop every third year. Red oaks, pin oaks, swamp chestnut oaks, and all the rest produce a crop every other year. The key is to identify which species of oaks will produce acorns this Fall and concentrate on gathering from those trees.
Leave behind any that have obvious pin holes; that means there are critters inside.
Creative Craft Blog Hop
It’s time for another blog hop! I’m excited to share the fun and crafty creations of 14 other bloggers. If you are visiting from My Hubbard Home, welcome! I just love the beautiful velvet pumpkins that Rachelle shared! They are simply gorgeous and I’m definitely going to make some.
At the very bottom of this post, I’ll be directing you to the next stop on this venture. But don’t forget to check out the other stops too. Be sure to drop back in throughout the week to visit them all!
Before we gather acorns, get your craft mojo on at Birdz of a Feather and subscribe! You can also follow us on Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.
How do You Preserve Acorns for Crafting?
Collecting Acorns for Craft
I gathered our acorns in a plastic bag. That’s ok, but if you don’t plan on preparing them for a few days, transfer them into a mesh bag so they can breathe. If you leave them in plastic, they can start to go mouldy.
If you gather acorns from the ground, you should wash them first to remove dirt and debris.
Add some vinegar into a bucket of water. Swish the acorns around and change the water if they’re overly dirty. Then drain and allow to dry completely before moving onto the next step.
Acorn Craft Supplies
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- Paint sticks
- 8 ft strips of cedar (cut in half to make two 4ft strips)
- 3M masking tape
- 1/2″ flat paint brush
- Permanent marker – Sharpie Fine Point
- Plastic trays
- Aluminum foil
- Gorilla glue: I use Gorilla Contact Adhesive
- Paint in a variety of colours – you can use acrylic (like Apple Barrel) or house paint. I used left over PPG BreakThrough
- Clear top coat. I use Varathane Diamond Wood Finish – Satin
- Ice cream stick
- Egg carton
- Plastic container
- Paper towels
Note: The pictures below demonstrate how to set up the cedar strips to clear coat the acorns. We cut our cedar down into 4 ft sections to make it easier to handle. However, the process is exactly the same to hand paint the acorns with a brush. The only difference is that you’ll be using the paint sticks instead of the 4 ft cedar strips when painting. If you plan to use spray paint instead of brushing the acorns, you’re all set. This post shows you exactly how to paint using a spray gun, if you want to give that a try!
How to Dry Acorns for Craft Projects
Drying acorns is essential; it kills off any critters that may be hiding inside. Heat will effectively destroy the risk of future insect problems.
Step 1: Place in Toaster Oven
As soon as you have enough acorns for your project, place a piece of tin foil on a cookie sheet or fashion a tray from the foil. Because you don’t want the acorns to roll away, be sure to fashion a lip around the makeshift foil tray. I have a toaster oven I specifically use for crafts.
Load up the tray with your acorns. You’ll likely have to do several batches.
Set the oven temperature to 200 degrees. I let them bake for anywhere from 2 – 3 hours. Initially, you can leave the door open a crack for the first hour to help dissipate any moisture. Once done, let them cool.
Now that the initial prep is done, let’s move on with what to do with acorns!
Step 2: Separate Acorns and Caps
If you’re tempted NOT to remove the caps from the acorns and glue them back on later in the process, they will eventually fall off anyway. So you might as well spend the time now upfront. Separating the acorn caps from the acorn is also the fastest way to paint acorns – an added bonus!
Pull the acorn caps off the nut. Using a permanent number, write a corresponding number onto each cap and nut so you can easily pair them up later. To organize, a plastic tray with two compartments is ideal for this step. Put the acorn caps in one end and the nuts in the other.
Sometimes the nuts won’t release from the cap. In that case, wait a day or two and try again. All it takes is some extra dry time and a bit of twisting to get it to release. Of course, the later you gather acorns in the season, the easier this is to do because they’re more mature.
Step 3: Prepare to Paint
Tear off two short pieces of masking tape and set aside. Pull out a strip of tape (sticky side up), keeping it attached to the roll . Take one piece of the short masking tape and attach it onto the end of the strip still attached to the roll. When you attach the shorter to the longer piece, put the sticky sides together. Wrap it underneath the stick so it attaches securely as shown below.
Continue to unroll the strip of tape as long as the paint stick and tear off the other end, leaving a bit extra.
As you did before, take the second short piece and attach it in the same manner tucking the end around the back of the stick to secure. This will leave you with a stick surface the entire length of the strip.
Wrap two more lengths of tape around the mid section of the stick, dividing it into thirds. This prevents the tape from lifting as you work.
What Paint Do You Use on Acorns?
You can use anything you have on hand; from acrylic to house paint, chalk paint to even nail polish! For this project I’m using a variety of colours of left over PPG BreakThrough.
I want my colours looking grey and muted to keep with my Fall decor, as opposed to bright and clear. Because of that, I’m painting directly onto the acorn without a base coat so the woody tone shows through the paint. For dark colours, like blue, I only do one coat. Colours, such as red and yellow, are more transparent so I do at least two coats, sometimes even three.
If you use chalk paint but want your acorns shiny, finish with a clear coat.
How do you Decorate an Acorn?
Step 1: Paint Stick Trick
As explained above, set up a paint stick with masking tape and line up a row of acorns. Leave room in between to allow access with the paint brush.
Start painting the acorns with the 1/2″ flat brush. Start at the top, then move to the middle, then finally paint upward from the bottom for full coverage. The flat brush is ideal for maneuvering around the acorn. Tilt the stick to ensure you have paint coverage along the bottom; you can even turn it around to see all the angles. Allow to dry 24 hours.
The paint sticks can be used up to four times before the tackiness wears out and you have to swap out the masking tape for fresh. Just remember to position the acorns in between where you previously painted (where it’s most sticky).
Of course, for the cedar sticks, you’ll have to refresh the masking tape every time. That’s because clear coat or paint overspray will cover the entire surface rendering the tape unusable again.
If you find an acorn becomes unstuck as you are painting, keep an ice cream stick handy.
Press it down onto the pointy top of the acorn and you’ll be able to continue painting with no problem.
Step 2: Mix Your Own Acorn Craft Colours
I created the purple colour you see in the picture above by mixing equal parts of the blue and red you see below. They end up looking like large, plump blueberries! If you have primary colours – red, green and blue, you can create all the secondary colours by mixing. For example, orange, purple and green.
Step 3: Top Coat Acorns
The next day, prepare a cedar strip with masking tape.
Now that the acorns are painted, it’s time to seal them with a top coat to preserve them.
Attach the flat bottom of the acorns onto the sticky surface. Also, I find it easiest to pair the acorn and cap side by side – with the numbers, this part is easy!
After you’ve got all your pairs on the stick, spray clear top coat onto the acorns and caps.
Hubs just holds the stick in his hand as he sprays. When one side is done, he turns the stick around and sprays the other side. Again, let dry overnight.
Step 4: Glue Acorn Caps onto Nut
I initially tried hot glue but most of them popped apart the next day! Gorilla contact adhesive does the trick. It provides a permanent bond that won’t fail, as long as you follow directions on the package.
Squeeze out a ring of glue around the nut. Place it into the egg carton.
Then squeeze a ring of glue on the inside of the cap. Place cap in the lid of the egg carton (it’s easier to pick up from the lid!).
As a rule, allow the Gorilla glue two minutes to set up. If you don’t allow this time, you won’t get the proper bond! You’ll know it’s ready when you see the clear glue turn to an amber colour as shown above.
Place the cap above the acorn paying attention to the placement. Before making contact with the two sides of the glue, eyeball that you are happy with the fit. Then press the two pieces together. Hold it briefly then place the glued acorns into a plastic container.
Glue 12 at a time. Keep the assembly line going in this manner until all the acorns have their corresponding caps.
Gorilla glue is pretty smelly so wait several days before using the acorns in your acorn craft to let them off-gas.
Acorn Craft Decor
If you read our Fall Home Decor Tour post, you might have noticed this gum ball machine in one of the shots. Clearly, there’s room to improve on the twig grapevine balls, which is why I’m updating it!
Until I started this acorn craft, I really didn’t notice that the gum ball machine has stylized oak leaves and even a squirrel on the metal face! It’s just begging to be loaded up with ‘gum ball’ acorns!
But before loading in the acorns, I’m covering the very bottom so acorns don’t accidentally get stuck in the mechanism.
I simply cut a plastic lid, punch a hole in the centre and slip it over the spindle.
Acorn Craft ‘Gum Balls’
Can you believe I haven’t found a single picture of a gum ball machine filled with acorn ‘gum balls’ in the blogosphere? Maybe that will change after this post :). Without a doubt, these acorns and the gum ball machine are meant to be together!
The painted colours make me happy. While the garden starts to fade, now I’m ready for Fall!
With the few leftovers I pile them into this carved turtle. So if you don’t have a gum ball machine, grab a decorative bowl!
For more DIY fall crafts, check out our Craft Ideas for Autumn.
Or if you’re not overly crafty (or even if you are!), check out our Fall decor picks from Walmart:
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Creative Craft Blog Hop
Now I’d like to send you on to Chloe at Celebrate and Decorate. She has a fairy house wreath for you!
When you are finished visiting Chloe, please remember to visit these other amazing talents below:
Design Morsels | My Thrift Store Addiction | Debbees Buzz
My Family Thyme | White Arrows Home | Home Is Where The Boat Is
Chas’ Crazy Creations | B4andAfters | The Painted Apron | Purple Hues And Me
Oh Yay!!!! I’m so glad you found the right glue Sara. What an awesome idea putting the painted acorns inside the gum ball machine. It’s so unique. I never would have thought of the making tape trick either. That’s brilliant. I’ll remember it for next time when I have to try paint rolling stuff 😉
Hubs came to the rescue and found the glue; you have no idea how happy I was to finally have something that works! Of course, I’m still high on the fumes but that’s another story – lol! The masking tape trick is Hubs invention too – a real time saver. Without that, I wouldn’t gone ‘nuts’ (pun intended) trying to paint them all!
I don’t think I would have the patient to do all those steps necessary! But your end result looks great!
Thanks Liberty. It’s actually a LOT quicker than it looks and quite relaxing to do 🙂 You’d really be surprised how fast it goes.
I love how pretty your acorns turned out and the fun “gum ball” project you created! I never knew any of the “science” behind acorns and what you have to go through to use them properly. This is a wonderful, informative tutorial, Sara! Thank you!
Glad you like it Gail! I’m always overly cautious about bringing nature indoors; it often has a mind of its own so I over-research – lol!
Wow, how did you ever figure all that out! I probably would have just painted them as is! They look adorable, and filling the gum ball machine with them is so cute! Thank for the detailed tutorial! I am always amazed at how creative our blog hop group is!!
I know; I can’t tell you how much I enjoy reading everyone else’s post! Such incredible talent.
I love the acorns in the gumball machine; it is such a GREAT idea. I don’t know if I have the patience to devote to painting the acorns; you and hubs did a great job! I had a friend collect some of hers for me last year (I only have maple trees!) and I left them closed up–phew! They molded! I hate learning things the hard way!
Thanks so much Kathy! Oh, that’s too bad! Maybe your friend can collect some more if you want to give it a go again. The post may be lengthy, but the actual painting does go pretty fast 🙂
This has me so happy because I love acorns. I have 100s of preserved acorns. It’s my first fall decor every year.
Baking them is key and polyurethaned mine and 6 years later, they’re perfect!
That’s just what I love to hear Cindy! Hopefully mine will still be going strong in 6 years too – lol!
This is such a cute way to use acorns. I’m only able to pick mine off the ground, so the tips on washing drying etc. them painting is really helpful.
Thanks Rachelle – glad it’s helpful!
Sara, this is one of the most unique and clever fall crafts I’ve ever seen! So colorful and fun! Thanks for the great tutorial. I never knew how to dry out acorns before. Love learning new things through blog hops!
Aw, thank you Debbee! I always learn new things on the hop too; so glad to be a part of it!
I love how the acorns turned out. They’re so pretty! And they look amazing in the gumball machine. What a fun project!
Thanks Michelle; I love any opportunity to go crazy with colour 🙂
Adorable acorns and over the top cute placed in your wonderful vintage gum ball machine! Happy to be crafting with you again!
Thanks Mary; great to craft with you too!
I love that. I would never have thought of painting them and I like the natural cap, but it looks so adorable in the gumball machine. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen acorns that look as good as those in my area. Thanks for joining in the hop today.
Thanks Andrea! It might just be a matter of letting the trees mature more. But there’s also a difference between acorns from different types of Oak trees. For instance you’ll find that acorns can be small (black oak), big (bur oak), oblong (English oak) or barrel shaped (red oak). Some are even striped (pin oak).
Oh my goodness, the colors are amazing! I wish we had more acorns in our area. SO fun!
Thanks Kim. We were lucky to have so many this year!
What a great idea and I love the acorns displayed in an old gum ball machine. Thanks for sharing your paint stick tip, I can certainly make use of it.
Thanks Linda; that tip is the one we use the most – it always comes to the rescue!
These are adorable! So fun to use in so many ways! Pinned!
Thanks Lora; I can think of so many more ways to use these so I wouldn’t be surprised if there was one more project this season.
I’ve learned so much about crafting with acorns today, Sara. I love the rich colors that you painted them. I’ll have to remember the masking tape trick next time I’m painting something that rolls around. And what a clever idea to put them in the gum ball machine! It was fun crafting with you 🙂
Thanks Rebecca! It was fun crafting with you too!
Hi Sara, Your colored acorns are so pretty! Pinned!
This is such a fun fall diy, Sara. The acorns turned out great! Love the rich colors!!
Thanks Lori; I love creating with colourful crafts!
Amazing, love gorgeous colors of the acorns, just pinned.
Thanks so much Maria!
What a great project, it turned out wonderful. I would never have thought about critters in acorns. I will remember that for next time.
Thanks Anita! You have to be so careful with what you bring into your home. Critters and mold are always top of the list to resolve before bringing things indoors.
The colors are so pretty! What a fun project. Thanks for the tips on getting rid of the critters, lol.
Thanks Kim! Glad to pass that tip along; no one wants critters 🙂
Sara, this is a beautiful craft. You are so organized. I love the acorns and how you used them. It is beautiful!
Thanks Deana! I have to be organized; I’m painting in the dining room so need to be able to easily clear the table – lol.
Those acorns are so pretty! I really appreciate all of the step by step directions you offered. There are a lot of steps that I didn’t know, but will certainly use! Thanks so much for hopping with us!
Thanks so much Chloe! Glad it can be of use to you 🙂
This is a darling idea! I have never seen this done. And I also, had never thought of drying acorns in this manner.
Thanks so much Rachel! Next time we have a bumper crop, I can’t wait to come up with another project 🙂
Very creative, Sara. How cute to put the painted acorns in the gumball machine.
The tape on the board idea is BRILLIANT! I’d love for you to share over at our Wednesday to Sunday weekly Creative Linky Party https://creativelybeth.com/creative-crafts-linky-party-5-join-in-the-fun/
Have a great weekend!
Thanks so much Beth; would love to join the link party 🙂
Sara, the tape board is a genius idea and so is labelling the tops with the bottoms. What a cute idea putting them in a gumball machine! I love the colors too.
Thanks Marie! I had so much fun with those paint colours! Can’t wait to do something else just as colourful 🙂
These are so cute in all the bright colors! What a fun idea! And I love them in the gumball machine.
What a great idea! I have many trees that drop acorns and now have a use for them. Thank you for sharing.
You’re welcome Nancy! Happy crafting 🙂