Culture Holidays Pumpkin Carving 101 By Jenn Savedge Writer University of Strathclyde Ithaca College Jenn Savedge is an environmental author and lecturer. She’s a former national park ranger who has written three books on eco-friendly living our editorial process Jenn Savedge Updated May 07, 2020 There's a pumpkin face for every carver on Halloween. (Photo: JeniFoto/Shutterstock) Share Twitter Pinterest Email Culture History Travel Sustainable Fashion Art & Media Holidays Community Last night was pumpkin-carving night at my house. Out came the carving supplies, and down we sat to create our masterpieces. Back in the day (you know, a million years ago, when I was a kid) it seemed like you were creative if you carved circles instead of triangles for your jack-o'-lantern's eyes. But today the sky is the limit when it comes to pumpkin carving designs. Don't let all of these new designs scare you. Fortunately, there are free templates galore on the internet for everything from apples to zebras and anything in between. All you have to do is print, trace and carve. Here's how to turn your plain old pumpkin into this year's Halloween masterpiece: Gather supplies To get started, you'll need a pumpkin (obvious, I know) and your carving supplies. A large spoon or ice-cream scoop, a thin-bladed knife and some newspaper will work fine. We bought one of those $2 kits about five years ago and are constantly amazed that it still works. Pick Out Your Design You don't have to go the stencil route if you just want a simple pumpkin on the front step. Just draw and go. (Photo: alexkich/Shutterstock) If you just want a simple pumpkin carving idea, grab a marker and just draw it on the pumpkin. (This DIY Network gallery has a good batch of simple ideas that are easy to replicate.) You can use spell out ideas — "Eeek!" or "Boo!" are great, short options — and you can also get several pumpkins and put one letter on each to spell a word. Use the Pumpkin's Shape and Texture to Your Advantage If you bring home an odd-shaped pumpkin or gourd, your task is half-way done. (Photo: Pikoso.kz/Shutterstock) And never underestimate the power of a good hat. (What's true in fashion is also true for Halloween!) These jack-o'-lanterns are easy to carve, but adding a hat or even creatively stacking them will create a more enticing arrangement. (Photo: Yellowj/Shutterstock) If you want a more complex design and will be using a template from a kit or the internet, print it out now so it's ready to go. Here are a few sites with complex carving ideas to consider: Pumpkin carving patterns Zombie pumpkin carving patterns Spookmasters Cut and scoop With your thin-bladed knife, cut out a circle at the top of the pumpkin around the stem. Make the hole large enough to allow you to scoop out the guts, seeds and stringy membrane of the pumpkin with your large spoon or scoop. Carve If you've got a freehand design in mind, your pumpkin is all set to carve away. If you're using a template, place it where you want it on the pumpkin and fasten it with tape. Use a small knife or transfer tool to trace the design, poking small holes along the design. For complicated designs, make sure these holes are close together. These will be your guidelines for carving. Next, use your thin-bladed knife to carve along the lines and create your design. Light it up Once your pumpkin is carved, you can trim up the edges and clean out any pieces that may have fallen in your pumpkin. Your jack-o'-lantern should be ready for display. For added effect, place a small candle inside to bring your design to life. Voila! A Halloween masterpiece!