Embrace the Viral Ghost Painting Trend

As summer fades, the annual shift into spooky season takes hold. You can’t escape it. Most of us are willing victims ready to welcome moody colors, cool air, and fall traditions.

Suddenly, we’re asking for pumpkin spice everything, visiting cider mills, craving hearty soups, slipping into cozy sweaters, and hunting for 12-foot skeletons. (Is it just me or do they always feel like friendly souls waiting for a much-needed hug with their outstretched arms?)

I started noticing another trend creeping into my social media feed: #ghostpaintings.

Have you come across any yet? I had to try it myself and I’m here to tell you that YOU should too! You won’t regret it. I promise! It was a delightful experience. Keep scrolling and I’ll share some great tips and tricks you can use to create your own.

ghost painting

What is the Ghost Painting trend anyway?
Basically, you transform an old piece of framed art from a thrift store or consignment shop into something new by painting over the original scene to add Halloween-inspired images. Think: ghosts, pumpkins, bats, etc. It’s such a fun idea. The possibilities are endless. See…

#ghostpaintings4 reasons you should try it:

  1. It’s cheap and easy. Your salvaged art will likely be a faded print from decades ago that’s been overlooked and forgotten. I got mine for $8. (If you can plan ahead, they often do 50% or 75% off certain price tags on certain days.) I used basic acrylic paint I already had and my daughter’s well-loved paintbrushes.
  2. No skills are needed. Ghosts are just white blobs with eyes. You can do this! Pumpkins are orange blobs (with simple faces if you choose to “carve” them). Bats are just black lines in the sky. Spiders have eight legs…
  3. You can fly solo or be social. You decide! No one even has to know. I did this on my own as a carefree experiment. It would also be fun to do with friends. Shop together, paint together, and laugh together. Whether you do it in your pjs after the kids go to bed or make a festive cocktail/mocktail to entice your besties, there’s no wrong way.
  4. You’ll be delighted. The expectations are low. All you need is a little time and a basic vision. Look for ideas online to get some cool ideas. Search #ghostpaintings on IG, Tiktok, or Pinterest and then do you own thing. It’s going to be great!

Okay, I’m in!! Now what?

  • Go to the thrift store and choose a picture. I found mine at the Volunteers of America. You could also try The Salvation Army, Goodwill, or your favorite locally-owned shop. Look for potential. Landscapes are popular, city scenes are fun, a house or forest both hold lots of opportunity for spooky details.

vintage thrifted paintingMy original, circa 1983. There was even a bug smashed inside.

  • Take the frame apart. If it’s covered in finishing paper, peel it off. This can be saved for collage ephemera. Use a putty knife (or butter/utility knife) to fold back the metal staples. Remove the cardboard backing to lift the picture out. The frame will need dusting. The glass will need to be cleaned on both sides.

ghost painting

  • Prep your space. Cover your table with an old towel or butcher paper. Fill a jar with water for rinsing your paintbrushes. Set out your paints (acrylic recommended). Use a paper plate as your mixing palette. Grab paper towel for drying your brush in between colors. Find a pencil to use for outlining basic shapes.
    • NOTE: I do not recommend using water colors. The original print is just a copy and will degrade if it gets too wet. Same with erasing pencil markings. It will erase the photo if you mark and erase too much in the same spot.


  • Make a plan and begin. Decide what you’d like to do or how you’d like to start and go for it. Remember, there are no consequences. You only paid a few bucks for your painting. Sketch some rough outlines and start painting over them! Once you make you first mark you’ll feel more brave. Wine helps. Starting is the hardest part.

GHOST PAINTINGI knew I wanted to paint over the faded, pastel florals with fall colors. That was an easy place for me to begin. One thing led to another from there. I knew I wanted ghosts and to put something cool in the big set of windows. I loved it more and more as I went.

  • Enjoy the process. Watch the magic unfold as you gain creative confidence. Your thrifted ghost painting can be as simple or as complex as your time, skills, or supplies allow. It might not look like the perfectly refined one with 100k views online, but it will make you smile and it’ll be fabulously festive and FUN!

GHOST PAINTING HALLOWEENMy finished ghost painting! I used acrylic paint pens too. They were really helpful in outlining shapes and straight lines like the witch, tables, and awning. I also had reflective gold acrylic paint which added a cool finishing touch. I painted the inner portion of the mat with this too.

  • Reassemble and display. Reverse the process of taking your photo apart to put it back together again. Don’t forget to sign the new one first! You worked hard. Be proud! Now, find the perfect spot to hang your new ghost painting and admire the heck out of it.

Happy Painting, Witches!!

Share your ghost painting with our followers to inspire others to go for it. Tag us with #MMMghostpainting to show off your masterpiece!

Previous articleContributor Open Call – Join the Mid-Michigan Moms Team
Next article2023 Halloween Costume Contest
Jessica lives in Grand Blanc with her husband and their smart, sweet, sassy daughter who shines as their one and only. Jessica thrived on the adrenaline rush of local TV news for 15+ years as a weeknight producer before leaping into a new career, mid-pandemic. She now works from home as a content specialist for a national early education and child care company and finally knows the true meaning of work-life balance. She’s a positive, sarcastic, margarita-loving momma who embraces creative challenges, adventure, and personal growth. Date nights, dog walks, friend time, and DIY projects are her favorite forms of self-care.