Halloween Pumpkin Carving Tips And Instructions

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Halloween decorations wouldn't be complete without jack-o-lanterns, so check out these pumpkin carving tips for easily creating this autumn decor staple. Large or small, create funny, friendly or frightening pumpkins to display around your home or yard. All you'll need is a few easy to find tools and about thirty minutes to an hour. Remember, once you're done carving, the decoration doesn't need to stop there. Consider painting or accessorizing your pumpkin once it's done.

What You'll Need:

  • One sharp knife
  • An ice cream scoop
  • A large bowl or trash can
  • A marker
  • A pumpkin
  • Carving templates if you'd like them

Note: You can purchase a pumpkin carving kit, which typically includes knives for cutting into the pumpkin and carving facial features, scrapers to create thin shavings off the pumpkin's skin without fully piercing it, facial feature punch outs, templates and a scoop. Pumpkin carving kits are commonly found at hardware stores, drug stores and retail stores.


    1. Select a pumpkin of any size. Remember, the larger the pumpkin is, the more room you will have to cut out a face. However, it will require extra effort to scoop out.
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    1. Set the pumpkin outside on grass, or newspaper set on a kitchen countertop. Be sure to pick an area where you will have plenty of space to work, and don't mind getting a little messy.
    2. Carefully cut into the top of the pumpkin, in a circle around the stem. Angle the knife slightly outwards (leaning away from the stem as you cut) to create a tapered circle. This will prevent the pumpkin's top from falling back into the pumpkin once it is set back on. The circle should be large enough for your hand to freely pass through.
    3. Once you have cut a complete circle, lift the top of the pumpkin off, by the stem. Pull slowly to not break the stem, and cut any seeds or strings attaching the top to the rest of the pumpkin.
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    1. Use the ice cream scoop or pumpkin carving kit scoop to scrape out all of the seeds and stringy fiber from the inside of the pumpkin. Do not place them in the garbage disposal, as seeds can damage the blades.
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    1. Once the inside of the pumpkin is cleaned out and smooth, select a face or design to carve into the pumpkin. Draw an image free hand, or find a template online to print out.
    2. If you want to draw your jack-o-lantern's face, use the black marker to sketch your design onto the front of the pumpkin. If you decide to use a template, tape the printed sheet onto the front of the pumpkin. Use a large safety pin to poke a series of holes into the paper, following the lines of the design. When you remove the paper, the holes will have left an outline of the design for you to follow.
    3. Take a large knife, and carefully cut into the front of the pumpkin, following the lines you have drawn, or the holes left from the template. Be sure to cut all the way through the pumpkin.
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  1. Push the cut pieces out of the pumpkin, to leave the carved areas open.
  2. If you plan to use a real candle inside your jack-o-lantern, also cut a circle out of the bottom of the pumpkin. This way, you can lift the pumpkin up off the candle to light it, rather than reaching down inside.

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Jack-O-Lantern Light Ideas

  • Decide where you would like to place your pumpkin, whether inside or outside the house. Choosing the location can also affect how you decide to light the jack-o-lantern.
  • For a table centerpiece, actual candles are a good choice, as they can easily be monitored, and cast a pleasant, flickering light on the table.
  • Outdoors, try using a flameless candle to prevent accidents from wind or candles forgotten to be blown out.
  • If you're using jack-o-lanterns to decorate for a Halloween Party, try purchasing a specially designed strobe light. Made specifically to be placed inside pumpkins, small, inexpensive strobe lights from many hardware stores, drug stores and retail stores allow your jack-o-lantern to flash with light.

Pumpkin Carving Tips

  • If you would like to add an extra decorative touch to your carved pumpkin, try painting it black, white, metallic or glow in the dark.
  • White pumpkins with features rimmed in black look ghostly, while black pumpkins give off an eerie glow from their features when a candle is placed inside.
  • Metallic painted jack-o-lanterns in gold, silver or iridescent white provide a subtle, elegant light for dining tables, fireplace mantels and anywhere else a sophisticated Halloween decor piece is needed.
  • Glow in the dark pumpkins will only appear to glow when placed near a black light, but are a great way to surprise Halloween guests with your unique decor .
  • Try painting the inside of your jack-o-lantern with glow in the dark paint. When it is set near a black light, its features with ghoulishly glow green, orange, or whichever paint color you've selected.

Carving your family's pumpkins won't take long, and is relatively easy. Cut slowly and use caution when handling knives, and be sure to dispose of the pumpkin's contents in the trash, not your sink garbage disposal. Add extra decoration to your jack-o-lantern with paint, candles and small strobe lights for the perfect Halloween pumpkin display.

Last Updated: July 6, 2012
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About Alexandra Kerr Through Ideal Home Garden, Alexandra covers topics ranging from interior design to home improvement, gardening and cuisine. Having a passion for cooking and entertaining in her own life, she hopes to communicate her love of home design and decorating with her readers. 

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