Step-by-Step How To Carve Pumpkins

boston-pumpkin-carving-festival-by-lodri.jpg Each year, we’re like a couple of “pumpkin picassos” carving Halloween pumpkins out on our porch …usually right up until the moment that the trick-or-treaters begin arriving!

Carving pumpkins has been an annual tradition that we’ve stuck to since our very first Halloween together.

Here is, step-by-step, how we document the annual ritual of turning an ordinary pumpkin into a jack-o-lantern:


#1. Gather your tools of the trade. What you’ll need: large pumpkin (with at least a 2-inch stem), tracing templates, Sharpie marker, tape, cutters, scrapers, newspapers.


#2. Cut out the top. To make the “perfect” lid for your pumpkin, cut a six-sided “notched” lid and carve at an angle toward the pumpkin’s center, so the outside diameter is slightly larger than the inside diameter. This creates a “ledge” to prevent the top from falling in when the pumpkin starts to shrink. Plus, a notched lid (or star-shape) makes it easier to fit the piece back on snugly.


Lynnette carving out the goo from the inside of a pumpkin. Jim carving out the goo from the inside of a pumpkin

#3. Scrape out the inside. After you scrape out all the goop, seeds, and slime, remember that the thinner the wall, the easier it will be to carve and the brighter your light will glow from the inside.



Lynnette using a template to carve a pumpkin.

#4. Transfer the pattern. Most patterns are made such that, when you print them out onto white paper, you can use tiny scissors to cut out the “white” parts of the pattern, leaving you with the black lines that create the actual design. Once the “white” parts are gone, you simply tape the piece of paper to the flattest side of your pumpkin, then use a Sharpie marker to outline or trace all of the individual sections that will ultimately create your finished design.



Jim using a template to carve a pumpkin.

#5. Carve! It’s easiest when you use an actual pumpkin carving knife (that comes in most “pumpkin carving kits”). Regular knives are too big and clumsy to carve out such fine details. The best part about pumpkin carving knives: you just keep poking them “in and out” along the lines that you traced onto your pumpkin. It’s much easier than it sounds.


Pumpkin carved with Pumpkin carved with Pumpkin carved with


TIP: The most dramatic effects are created by letting light shine through the pumpkin wall in varying degrees of intensity. To create a “dimensional” effect, don’t cut all the way through the pumpkin along the outermost edges of your pattern, but make shallow, angled cuts toward the center of the pumpkin instead.


Photos of pumpkins we’ve carved


More pictures of Halloween pumpkins that we carved


This video shows how to pick the right pumpkin for carving:

Lynnette Walczak

Lynnette Walczak

I like to help people find unique ways to do things in order to save time & money -- so I frequently write about "outside the box" ideas that most wouldn't think of. As a lifelong dog owner, I often share my best tips for living with and training dogs. I worked in Higher Ed several years until switching gears to pursue things I was more passionate about. I've worked at a vet, in a photo lab, and at a zoo -- to name a few. I enjoy the outdoors via bicycle, motorcycle, Jeep, or RV. You can always find me at the corner of Good News & Fun Times as publisher of The Fun Times Guide (32 fun websites).

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