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Pumpkin Carving Tips and Templates

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Carving your own Jack-o-Lantern can be a family tradition! As you can see from the photos above, our family certainly looks forward to this treat each year.

Pumpkin Carving Tips

The jack-o’-lantern dates back to the days of Jack the Irishman, who, for playing pranks on the Devil, was punished by being forced to carry a lantern all over the world as a punishment. Create your own scary jack-o’-lantern with these seven super tips:

1 Choose a Pumpkin

Be sure it is firm, without any soft spots or nicks. The pumpkin you choose should be large enough for your design, strong enough to withstand carving, and flat on the bottom so you can stand it up.


2 Take the Top Off!

Carefully cut off the top, you can do this in a variety of ways. I recommend using a thin, serrated knife to gently saw around the stem of the pumpkin.

You can also use an xacto knife or box cutter if you prefer, but be careful not to hurt yourself on the jagged edge. If you’re using a small pumpkin for decoration you can just leave the stem attached – it looks pretty!

If you want to create a spooky look you can cut the top off with a saw – just make sure you wear safety goggles! No matter what method you use it’s important to remember that this will be the opening of your pumpkin, so don’t cut too close to the stem. Cut in a circle, leaving a small notch to make it easier to place the top back on.

Cut off the stem of the pumpkin at an angle

3 Spill Your Guts

Next, scoop out all of the innards, use a spoon to carefully scrape the inside clean! The less of the fibrous pulp and seeds that you leave inside, the easier it will be to carve.


4 Apply the Template

Wipe your Pumpkin off and apply your chosen template to the pumpkin. Make your design ghoulish and horrifying. You can either draw the design directly on the pumpkin or draw it on paper, tape it to the pumpkin, and fold it or snip it to conform to the curves.

apply the pumpkin carving template to the gourd

If you have pumpkin carving tools, great- use the poking tool to poke small holes through the template (into your pumpkin) tracking all along the lines of the pattern. If you don’t have pumpkin carving tools, you can use a small nail, straightened paper clip, fine point pen, etc.

With a tack, nail, or official pumpkin poker, poke perforations at 1/4-inch intervals in the rind to transfer the pattern. Connect the dots with a dry-erase marker if you have difficulty seeing them. You’ll be able to remove them easily once your design is finished.

5 Carving!

Now that you’ve carefully traced your pumpkin, remove the pattern and set it aside. You will need to cut it out. You can use a knife to cut along the dotted lines, or you can use a carving saw.


Begin carefully carving out your design. Depending on the design, this may take up to 2 hours!

Cut out the smaller features first, such as the eyes, then the larger ones, such as the mouth. It helps to scrape the inside of the gourd down to make the wall thinner in areas where you’ll be cutting fine details.

Take your time and try not to twist your pumpkin saw when you get to “corners” or you could break your saw.

Save the cut out face pieces. Using toothpicks, attach the cut-out eyes to the outside of the body and create ears or fangs, or other monstrous 3D features.

pumpkin carving tips halloween

6 Protect your Work

After you’ve finished carving your pumpkin, rub all the cut edges with petroleum jelly to slow the natural drying/dehydration of the gourd.
There are several ways to help preserve your carved artwork to prevent mold and premature wilt.

6 Light’er Up!

Now is a great time to insert a pumpkin battery light or candle. Light up your masterpiece, turn out the lights and share your work with the world.

carved pumpkins halloween
Pumpkin Carving Tips from

If you’re lighting your jack-o’-lantern with a candle, you should let the candle burn for a few moments with its lid on, then create a chimney by boring a hole in the blackened part of the lid.

eerie pumpkin carvings

Nowadays, most people opt to use battery operated candles to reduce the risk of fire.

bat haunted pirate ship pumpkin

Here are a couple that my kids carved a few years ago. The goblin is one of my favorites, I only wish I’d have gotten a better photo!

gobline witch pumpkin carving

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