Don’t throw away those empty spaghetti sauce jars. Upcycle them into spooky Halloween specimen jars using paint, Plaster of Paris and creepy diecuts made with a Cricut machine.
These Halloween specimen jars are giving me the heebie jeebies!
They’re so crusty and creepy — exactly the sort of thing a mad scientist would have in his lab for gory experiments. Or as macabre souvenirs.
But look under the lid, and you’ll see the “specimens” are nothing more than paper.
But in the right light, those spooky silhouttes look incredibly lifelike. They’re going to look great as part of our Halloween decor. Haunting!
Learn how to use cheap Halloween decorations from the dollar store to haunt your house. You can still get big screams on a small budget. Using vintage Halloween items, purchased at thrift stores and yard sales, is another great way to save money.
These jars are one of my favorite Halloween DIYs, right up there with these Dollar Tree Halloween crystal balls that are always a hit on Pinterest.
I first shared this project in an issue of Country Sampler Autumn Decorating magazine. and I used the specimen jars in our Halloween porch decor last year. I’m delighted to be able to share the full tutorial on Atta Girl Says, just in time for Halloween.
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- Glass jars (I used a mix of sizes and types of jars — spaghetti sauce jars, yogurt jars and salsa jars)
- Craft paint in assorted colors (I used gray, white and black, a mix of multi-surface craft paint and Chalky Finish paint for glass)
- Black spray paint
- Plaster of Paris (optional)
- Sandpaper (optional)
- Bats, rats, lizards, bugs and other spooky shapes cut from black cardstock
- Cricut Explore or other cutting machine
- Creepy Cloth or cheesecloth
- Specimen jar tags
How to Make Halloween Specimen Jars
To make the jars look old, like they’ve been sitting on a shelf for years collecting dust and dirt, I painted them with a watered down paint.
Create a wash using white and gray craft paint, thinned with water. Brush the thin paint onto the jars, creating a dingy, translucent finish that light can still pass through. You want the watery paint to drip down the jars, so really thin it out.
You can also add streaks of black paint, as well, just don’t add too much or you won’t be able to see through the jars.
You can add some Plaster of Paris to the paint wash to give the jars a dirty, antiqued look.
Once the paint has dried, you can use sandpaper to rough up the jars, if you like.
Spray paint the jar lids black.
Use your Cricut Maker, Cricut Joy, Cricut Explore Air or another die-cutting machine to cut out specimens from black cardstock. I used rats, bats, beetles and lizards from the Cricut online store to make these specimen jars.
You’ll have to adjust the sizes of the specimens, depending on the size of your jars. Luckily, that’s easy to do using the Cricut.
Place specimens, cut from black card stock, in the jars. If you don’t have a die-cutting machine, you can find clip art images to make the paper cutouts. You may even find some pre-cut paper shapes at the craft store.
Add the lids to the jars and embellish the tops creepy cloth.
Place the jars in front of a window or in front of lights to highlight the shadowy specimens inside.
More Halloween DIYs and Crafts
Need more spooky Halloween inspiration? Check out all my Halloween decor, past and present. Here are a few Halloween DIY and craft projects you may want to try.
- Halloween Treat Jars
- DIY Haunted Crystal Balls
- DIY Halloween Cocktail Stirrers
- Wedgwood Jasperware Style Spooky Pumpkins
- Legend of Sleepy Hollow Halloween Sign
- Walking Dead Zombie Cage from a Pallet
- Burlap Witch Hat Wreath