Halloween Pumpkin Carving Guide

Want to know how to carve the best pumpkin? You'll find tons of tips here, along with a few secrets on how to keep your jack-o-lantern spooking up the neighborhood longer.

Kids, make sure you ask your parents for help with carving.

What you need:

  • pumpkin

  • pattern

  • tape

  • knife

  • ice cream scoop

  • pencil, ballpoint pen, nail, or sewing pattern wheel

  • small saw with pointed tip

  • newspaper to cover your work area

What you do:

  1. Cut open the top of a pumpkin and clean out the inside. Scrape the inside surface with an ice cream scoop until smooth.

  2. Tape a pattern to the side of the pumpkin. Then use a pointed tool to make dots in the pumpkin's skin along all the pattern lines. Or roll along the lines with your pattern wheel.

  3. Remove the pattern and save it so you can look at it while you carve.
  4. To cut lines, use your saw. Push the saw down through the skin. Then move it straight up and down along the lines of dots.

  5. Be careful! Always ask a grownup for permission and for help when carving pumpkins or lighting candles.

  1. When picking out a pumpkin for carving, look for a young one. The pumpkin should have no cracks or bruises since that will cause it to age faster. Find one with a sturdy stem, but do not carry it by the stem since that can also speed up its aging. The perfect pumpkin will be stable when resting on a flat surface.
  2. When cutting the lid, make sure you angle the knife inward around the circle you cut so that you cut out a cone-shaped piece. This will keep the top from falling into the pumpkin cavity. Make sure the hole is big enough to scoop out and clean the inside. A hole about 2/3 the diameter of the pumpkin is perfect.
  3. You can make your own carving patterns. Print or draw the design using heavy black lines on white paper. Tape it to the face of the pumpkin, and use push pins to make a perforated outline along the edges of the pattern. Remove the paper and carve by sawing along the perforated lines. Rubbing a little flour over the dots can make them easier to see when you begin carving. You can also just draw a design directly onto the pumpkin with a washable marker and remove it later when you're done carving with a damp cloth.
  4. Remember that the jack-o-lantern uses "negative space." What's black on your design will be cut away and lighted by the candle. To create two-tone shading in your design, cut away some areas of the skin to expose the white flesh underneath.
  5. It is easier to start carving from the middle of the pumpkin and work your way outward.
  6. If you use a candle, make a chimney in the lid. After carving, anchor the candle, light it and pop the lid back on for a few seconds. Wherever the smoke blackens the inside of the lid, cut a small hole to allow heat and smoke to escape.
  7. There are other great and safe options for lighting your pumpkin besides using candles. Battery-powered tea lights, LED lights, 40-watt bulbs, black lights and glow sticks are safe alternatives. Use them in combination with tissue or wax paper behind the carving or with foil on the back wall for extra interest (NEVER use candles with paper!).
  8. Keep your jack-o-lantern moist. Soaking it in water overnight will restore moisture lost in scraping and make it easier to carve. Add a very small amount of bleach to the water to prevent mold. After carving, coat the cut surfaces of the pumpkin with petroleum jelly to hold in moisture or use a commercially available preservative. All of this will help your jack-o-lantern outlast the season.
  9. Store your jack-o-lantern in a cool, shady place during the day.
  10. When scraping your pumpkin, aim for a front wall no more than an inch thick, to make carving easier. Make sure the back wall is especially smooth. This area reflects the most light.
  11. When carving your design, saw, don't cut. Go slowly for better detail. Be gentle to avoid damage, especially with intricate designs.
  12. Don't want to bother with carving? Vegetables and flowers, secured with toothpicks, can create colorful characters, with kale for curls, cut or sliced veggies for facial features. Craft foam, pipe cleaners, or wire hangers can make great appendages, and there's no end to the scary fun you can add with bolts, nails, jewelry or plastic pieces.

These templates are ready for you to print and use. There are some for beginners and some for the most extreme pumpkin carvers!

  • The Pumpkin Farm

  • SpookMaster

  • Pumpkin Masters

  • Stoneykins

  • eHow Pumpkin Carving Templates

  • Pumpkin Lady

  • Hershey's
  • Carving tips courtesy of USA.gov.

    Images courtesy of stock.xchng.

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