How to Make Unique Faux Concrete Pine Cones For Decor
Here’s a new look for Pine cones! Or maybe I should say a new old look for pinecones. An easy way to turn those great pinecones from nature into unique decor accent pieces.
I love the look of old concrete planters, pots, pumpkins, you too? So I ask, why not pinecones?
Yes, that’s the pinecone craft I’m sharing with you today.
Oh, and did you remember this is a first Tuesday? Yes!!! The Handcrafted Society is convening with the shared medium of pinecones!!!
If Missy [Sonata Home Design] sent you, I hope you brought a sampling of her pinecone cheese ball with you. It looked delicious as well as gorgeous — makes me hungry just thinking about it. All the pinecone projects are posted at the end of mine.
How after a good bit of trial and error I have come up with a great way to transform the shape and texture of a beautiful pinecone into concrete — well faux concrete.
We’re making concrete look pinecones.
Best part, it doesn’t take a lot of supplies, or experience!
Honest assessment: I would NOT say this craft falls in the easy crafts category.
It’s fun to do, but it does take some time. Smaller pine cones and cones that have not opened significantly are the easiest to work with.
Table of Contents (click to jump)
Let’s Make Concrete Look Pinecones
Materials and Supplies-
- Pinecones of different sizes and shapes
- Joint Compound
- Disposable decorating bag with tip, these are the ones that worked perfectly for me
- Binder clip
- Disposable container for paint and such
- Chalk paint or craft paint
- Cup of water
- Paint brushes
- Rag or sponges
- Thin dowels or rods with glues gun and hot glue, optional
- More Binder clips, optional
Surprised by the Joint Compound? That’s our substitute concrete mix.
It’s my go-to magic for so many faux finishes. Like when I ;
- DIY’d a cast concrete fireplace surround, mantel and flu,
- Finished an unbelievable plywood countertop
- Duped some large artisan rustic vases
- Made tabletop birdbaths for an outdoor wedding
- Transformed bright plastic Easter eggs.
I told you it’s my go-to for diy and crafting magic! You didn’t believe me, did you?
Step 1- Prep Your Pinecones-
There seems to be a lot of debate over whether pine cones need to be treated before using.
Personally, I do not wash or soak mine. For most crafts I do not want them filled with any moisture.
I do brush them well to try to reduce the thin layers of “skin” they often shed, remove any dirt or possible bugs. And there, I’ve said it, “Bugs”. This seems to be the heart of the very thoroughly discussed, debated and even argued over treat or don’t treat.
If I have recently brought the pine cones in from the “wild”, after brushing them, I will bake them on a cookie sheet with parchment paper in a 200 degree oven for 2 hours. That will kill any sneaky critter stow-aways.
If your pinecones have a pointy stem, see if it is long enough to attach a binder clip to it. If it is, then you have a great way to hang them to dry.
If not, clip off any stem from the base of the cone and then with your hot glue gun, glue a thin dowel or equivalent to the bottom.
Now poke holes for the dowels in a box for your pinecones to perch over while they dry.
Step 2- Base Coat of Paint-
For this, I prefer chalk paint for its great “sticking” super power. If you don’t have any on hand, another acrylic paint will do. You want a neutral color, anywhere from light beige to a darker grey will do.
I found it best to thin the paint a bit so that it easily gets down into all the nooks and crannies.
Step 3- Time for Concrete-
After your base coat has dried. It’s time for the fun part!
Today’s coating of joint compound is to fill the gaps between the scales. How much you use will depend on the kind of pine trees your cones came from, the size of the cone and how open the pine cone is.
Pinecones in nature can be rather airy between the scales all the way to the center core. But if a pinecone was really made of concrete, it would be mostly a solid concrete center with just the tips of the scales for texture and shape. So that’s what this step is about.
Here, we are filling the gaps between the scales building that more solid thicker center.
How much you fill in is really up to you. I did several different kinds to give you several examples to inspire you.
Keep in mind the thicker a single layer of joint compound the longer it will take to dry, and the more chances for some hairline cracks (good news: they are fixable).
In a disposable container, I used one just large enough for my largest pinecone to lay inside, mix a good helping of the joint compound with some water to thin it down a little bit. For this layer you want to be able to squeeze it through the piping tip. on the other hand if you add too much water, it will hhave the tendency to crack as it dries.
If you have a plan for an interesting color treatment, you can use acrylic paints to also thin the joint compound down a bit. Two tasks in one — thin and tint at the same time! I knew I wanted my pinecones to be on the warmer side than a really stark grey, So I used a bit of creamy beige paint in my joint compound.
Stir it well and load up your piping bag.
If you’re new to piping bags, the reason I like the ones I used is that the tip is integrated with the bag, no rings required, not seepage. And you cut the tip to the diameter opening you need.
Start by folding the open end of the bag to the outside down over the tip. Reach your non-dominant hand up inside the open end of the bag, cup your hand with the fold resting along the side of your index finger and thumb. Spoon the prepared joint compound into the bag.
Unfold the bag. Smooth the joint compound down to the tip end. Just beyond the joint compound, twist the bag to close it tight and hold with a binder clip.
Now cut the slightest bit off the tip. You can always go larger, but you can’t make the tip smaller.
Hold the bag with the tip down between scales and squeeze some joint compound in place. Do a whole row or two or three.
Then with a thin paintbrush, reach into the voids and smooth out the joint compound to your liking. Then proceed to the next rows.
The goal for this step is to fill the voids to a consistent depth and smooth it out a bit. Don’t worry about coating all the sides and ends of the scales right now.
Plug the end of your piping tip with a large headed tack or pin of some kind. You’ll be able to use it again. Wash out your paint brush
Let dry overnight.
Step 4- Finish Concrete-
It’s now the next day and you have a choice to make.
You can call the faux concrete good and move on to the next step or you can add another thin coat of joint compound and polish the texture off the way you want.
I find that I like the pinecones best when I go back in with a second thin touch up of joint compound.
If I have any hairline cracks from the first thicker coat drying, I coat those with a thin coat now. If I want to add a coat to all the ends of the individual scales, now is the time.
If I have some rough spots from the first layer, I’ll smooth them out now with a damp cloth wrapped around the end of a q-tip or the end of a paintbrush.
Here you can get as detailed as you like, or choose to keep it simple and not overthink it.
Again, let it dry overnight.
Step 5- Color-
I know, we don’t typically think of concrete as having much color. But there is plenty of room to play here. And whatever shade of grey or taupe or warm beige or even terracotta you choose to go, if your finish has multiple shades to it, your “concrete” effect will be that much better.
Be sure you are using flat paint!
If you want to add a bit more color before your final paint wash, assuming your “concrete” color is light, mix up a cup of chalk or acrylic paint that is a bit deeper than your current color.
Brush that all over your pine cone. Try to get on both the top and underside of each scale. If needed, thin it a bit so it can run into all the little crevices.
Let dry, but it shouldn’t need overnight. Both chalk and acrylic paint dry quickly,
Now for the finishing touch and where the whole thing comes together.
Here you’ll apply a paint wash. With a paint wash, typically you’ll start with 1 : 1 ratio. One part paint to one part water. It’s flexible though. if you need it thinner, add a dab more water, thicker, add a bit of paint.
I usually use a grey that I like to mix myself. It’s really more of an old black or what you might call a faded black. My faded black is white paint with black and a pinch of hunter green.
If I want it leaning more to the brown black side, I’ll swap the green for a bit of orange. The orange just acts to muddy it a bit to cut any potential blue undertones.
Test on the bottom of your pinecone for color and consistency.
With quick brush strokes, cover the bottom of the pinecone making sure the wash gets into all the nooks and crannies. Then gently blot or wipe off as much as you want from the raised surfaces. Then the sides of the pine cone and finishing with the top. Washing and wiping or blotting as you go until you get the look you like.
Allow to dry and you are done!
Want a Simplified Version?
You’re loving the concept and look, but not into the time commitment? I get that.
Grab some pinecone shaped ornaments at your local dollar store. Like these from Dollar Tree (they are only available in store).
I know, dollar store ornaments can look really cheap and cheesy, but that’s because the finishes are usually exactly that.
All you need is the shape and texture. Don’t worry about the finish. You’re going to change that into a classic beauty:
- Add a base coat of chalk paint.
- Add a thin coat of joint compound (optionally tinted)
- Add a second coat of “concrete” if needed.
- Add a second shade if desired
- and then your antiquing paint wash
A quick pause in the pinecone action: Have you enjoyed this project, please subscribe so you don’t miss all that’s coming up and access to my Free Printables Library:
Many thanks! Now back to the cones:
Ideas For Styling Your “Concrete” Pinecones
Pinecones are great seasonal accents for Fall, Christmas and Winter decor
- Pile in a bowl with orbs, bulbs or greens
- Add needed texture to a coffee table tray by tying a ribbon around the stem and lay on a book
- Add several to a tiered tray
- Add a bit of natural texture to a modern black and white tablesetting
- Add one large one or three smaller ones to wood boards to make a bookend
- In a bowl on the kitchen island
- Add to your bookshelf or tabletop styling
And wait until you see what all my handcrafting buddies have been doing with their stash of pinecones.
It’s time for me to send you on to Jennifer at Cottage on Bunker Hill to see her charming rustic pinecone ornaments she made. I am so going to make these. Tell Jennifer “Hi!” from me.
I LOVE how we agree on pinecones, but they couldn’t possibly be more different.
I hope you are enjoying this time with my Handcrafting Buddies.