We write about products and services that we use. This page may contain affiliate links for which we receive a commission.
Pumpkin Carving 101
Part 2: Pumpkin Carving & Pumpkin Decorating Ideas
First… The traditional steps for carving your basic pumpkin.
How To Improve Your Pumpkin Carving Skills
- For children, try to select a lighter-colored, softer pumpkin. These don’t last as long, but they are easier to carve.
- Try something different this year: carve the BOTTOM out of the pumpkin (instead of the top) – this will allow the pumpkin to sit up straight and make removing the seeds even easier. Then, you can simply place the pumpkin atop your light source.
- The thinner the wall, the easier it will be to cut, so scrape away until the side you plan to carve is only an inch thick or less. You can go for special effects by scraping until some areas become very thin, but don’t go too far or you’ll weaken the shell itself.
- Tape your paper template onto the pumpkin where you want the design to be. To get the actual design onto your pumpkin, you can either trace the template by using a Sharpie (after you cut out all the “black” parts of the design on paper with tiny scissors), or you can score the design onto the pumpkin by punching through the paper into the pumpkin wall with a large nail or pin (then play “connect the dots” with your small carving knife).
- Work from the center of the design outward to avoid putting pressure on areas already carved – since the pumpkin becomes weaker each time you remove a piece.
- If a piece breaks off while you’re carving, it can be reattached with a toothpick when you’re finished. Toothpicks are also good for adding extra features like triangle-shaped cats’ ears or prominent noses.
- By paring away the skin and only part of the flesh (rather than carving all the way through), the light inside will become more translucent. So, if you only carve through about half the thickness of the pumpkin’s flesh, you’ll be creating a 3-D effect where the light shows through at different intensities.
- For a whole different look, rather than carving chunks out of a pumpkin wall, use fine tool or chisel to just remove the outer skin layer of a pumpkin (in the same places you would normally carve the chunks). The yellow rind will glow nicely once a light has been placed inside the pumpkin. Result: your design is appears “carved” in the places where you removed skin.
Tips For Lighting Your Pumpkin From The Inside
If you cut the bottom out instead of the top, then place your light source — like a small lamp with a cord or a bundle of Christmas lights (wrapped around a glass for example) — inside. To take it a step further, you can even out the light by affixing a piece of wax paper with thumbtacks or toothpicks to the inside of the pumpkin directly over the carved sections.
You can put colored tissue paper or wax paper behind the cut-out design of the pumpkin, using toothpicks to hold it up and in place inside the pumpkin. This creates a colored filter effect (wax paper creates more of a stained-glass effect). Using different colors for different areas products a nice effect (red eyes, blue mouth, etc.).
To create a spooky effect for a scary carved pumpkin, choose a flashing light.
Use those neon-green colored light sticks that are so popular these days to light the inside of your pumpkin. Works especially well if you’re carving a Hulk or Frankenstein design on your pumpkin!
Try poking the little Christmas light bulbs through from the OUTside into some small holes. It gives a “sparkly” effect to the background.
Try visiting the camping section of a local department or sporting goods store for additional lighting options. There, you’ll find several types of small flashlights and lanterns that could work. In fact, a small battery-powered lantern (like those typically worn around your head or attached to your hat) puts out a lot of light and lasts a good long time.
Added “Spooky” Effects
You might consider placing a noise sensor in your pumpkin to light up or make sounds when someone approaches. These can be found at most craft & hobby stores. Or, for an even spookier effect, insert a speaker inside your pumpkin and make it talk (remotely from within the house).
To make your porch the most aromatic one on the block, try sprinkling the lid of your pumpkin with cinnamon, nutmeg, and pumpkin spice for a festive scent. Or, consider inserting scented candles inside.
You can even create the effect of “smoke” by placing a bowl into your carved pumpkin and adding dry ice plus warm water. This will create an extra spooky, smoke-filled jack-o-lantern.
If there is ONE thing I like… it's C H A N G E! The four seasons and major holidays are my favorite times of the year to recharge — and redecorate. I mostly like to share frugal DIY ideas for seasonal home decorating and party planning (for both, indoors and outside). Because who doesn't enjoy entertaining at home?! But even if you don't host many parties, I think you'll appreciate my DIY hacks and clever ways to decorate your house for the major holidays including Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas. Because those are the times when people tend to have the most visitors and overnight houseguests.