Use a pumpkin poking tool to poke small, shallow holes through the paper, following the lines of the pattern.

How to Carve a Pumpkin

Pumpkin Carving Instructions

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!

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!

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.

Learn how to Pick Out the Perfect Carving Pumpkin for your Halloween Masterpiece this year!
Pick out the perfect pumpkin!

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: 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.

Print out your favorite Pumpkin Carving Pattern but make sure it fits your pumpkin!
Print out your favorite Pumpkin Carving Pattern but make sure it fits your pumpkin!
Tear the pattern at the edges so it will conform to the shape of the pumpkin.
Tear the pattern at the edges so it will conform to the shape of the pumpkin.
Use a pumpkin poking tool to poke small, shallow holes through the paper, following the lines of the pattern.
Use a pumpkin poking tool 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.
When all lines have been traced, remove pattern and save it for reference later.

Step 4: 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.

Never carve a pumpkin with a knife! Only use the safe carving tools designed for carving!
Never carve a pumpkin with a knife! Only use the safe carving tools designed for carving!

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!

Rub a little flour, cornstarch or baby powder into the dots and they will become bright white!
Rub a little flour, cornstarch or baby powder into the dots and they will become bright white!

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!