Carving your Halloween Masterpiece is a lot easier than you might imagine! Whether you’re carving a simple Jack-O-Lantern face or a more complex design, the basics of carving are pretty much summed up below. You’ll find some additional pumpkin carving tips and tricks here as well. If you’re looking for some advanced carving tips, please be sure to check out our Pumpkin Carving How-to Videos!
We also have a set of instructions you can download and print out!
Pumpkin Carving Instructions
Step 1: Pick of the Patch! (Pick the perfect pumpkin)
No one wants a rotten pumpkin! To have a pumpkin that lasts until you’re ready to carve it, pick one without any nicks or soft spots.
Step 2: Get ready, get set, goo! (Removing the seeds and goo)
Cut a circular lid into the pumpkin by carving a wide circle around the stem. Make sure it’s at least big enough to put your fist through. Next, pull out as many seeds and stringy goo that you can by hand, and then use a pumpkin or ice cream scoop to scrape the inside clean.
Step 3: Place Pattern. (Applying your pumpkin carving pattern)
Tape or pin your pattern onto your pumpkin (make sure the surface is dry so the tape will stick!). Use a pumpkin poking tool, awl, or nail to poke small, shallow holes through the paper, following the lines of the pattern. When all lines have been traced, remove pattern and save it for reference later.
Step 4: Carving Time! (Carve out you pumpkin carving pattern)
Insert your carving saw (never use a knife!) into a poked line. Begin sawing out each section. Remember, saws don’t twist and pumpkins don’t give! To prevent your saw from breaking, saw curved areas carefully, gently turning the saw the direction you wish to go while you continue to saw.
Step 5: Let it Glow, let it glow, let it glow! (Light your Halloween Masterpiece)
Battery lights are great for pumpkin lighting. However, if you really love candles, use these to light your pumpkins. Light your candle and then, about a minute or two later, blow it out and observe the inside top of your pumpkin. You’ll see a dark area singed by the candle’s flame. Carve a chimney hole into this area, just over an inch wide, to allow the flame’s heat to escape. Now, relight the candle and watch your pumpkin GLOW!
Pumpkin Carving Tips & Tricks
Hint 1: Choosing a pumpkin with smooth skin, rather than deep ridges, will make applying a pattern so much easier! More bumps equal more hassle.
Hint 2: Even if it’s the “ugly” side, choose the flattest side of your pumpkin to apply the pattern and carve. When the day turns to night, viewers will only see the glow, not the gory, and it will make your pumpkin carving process a snap!
Hint 3: If you’re having trouble viewing your poked out pattern, rub a little flour, cornstarch or baby powder into the dots. The dots will turn bright white and your design will practically pop off the pumpkin!
Hint 4: Having trouble putting on the pattern? Before you tape it down, make several tears, about three inches apart, all around the outside edge of the pattern. When you tape it down, this will make the pattern form to your pumpkin’s rounded shape.
Hint 5: When you apply the pattern, poke the holes about 1/4” apart, and even closer together on more intricate patterns. The holes only need to just pierce the pumpkin skin – about 1/8” deep.
Hint 6: Never use a knife to carve your pumpkin. Even when carving with a saw, keep your non-carving hand away from the blade. Remember, a safe Halloween is a Happy Halloween!
Hint 7: Hold your saw like a pencil and insert it at a 90-degree angle to the pumpkin’s surface to carve a simple pattern. To create different effects (like a portrait’s shadow), you can angle the blade.
Hint 8: When you begin carving, carve the tiniest sections first. Next, carve the areas in the center of the pattern, and then carve out the other sections working towards the outer edge. Never rest your hand on a carved out area or your design might break!
Hint 9: To light candles (and esp. to relight them on blustery Autumn nights!), forget the top lid and carve an opening into the bottom of the pumpkin instead. When it’s ready to glow, light your candle, pick up your pumpkin and gently place it over the candle. Viola! No burnt fingers!