Pumpkin carving ideas – 9 looks, from simple to spooktacular (2024)

When you think of pumpkin carving ideas, Jack-o-lanterns are probably the first thing that comes to mind. While welcome, if you want to switch it up this year, you'll be happy to know that there's more than one way to slice a squash.

In fact, deciding on your pumpkin carving ideas comes down to creative expression, because the options are almost endless. Are you looking to create ambience in your home with Halloween decorating ideas during a party? Want to welcome tiny trick-or-treaters in a way that's festive but not frightening? Looking to flex your artistic talent and create something three-dimensional?

To help you choose your direction, we've rounded up our favorite pumpkin carving ideas for Halloween and beyond, whether you've been growing pumpkins yourself or have store-bought ones.

Pumpkin carving ideas

The first step in carving a pumpkin is choosing the right subject. 'Small pumpkins are harder to carve for two reasons,' says pumpkin artist Jamie Jones, 'The design needs to be much smaller so it's much more fiddly to do, and they tend to be much firmer.'

Choose a large pumpkin with a firm stem (a soft one can signal a fungal infection), and a sharp set of tools, and you're ready to get carving.

1. Create a pumpkin luminary

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(Image credit: Balsam Hill)

'If you want to try something different to Jack-o-lanterns this year, I love turning a pumpkin into a luminary by repeating a small-scale pattern all over it,' says Pippa Blenkinsop, stylist at Homes & Gardens. 'Then you just add a small light, and you're done.'

To simplify this look, clean out your pumpkin, then grab a power drill with large size bit, and drill holes in your preferred pattern.

2. Use a pumpkin stencil

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(Image credit: Alamy)

Wow passersby with your outdoor Halloween decor by using a stencil to carve your pumpkin this year. Simply adhere the stencil to the top of your pumpkin, then use a marker or pen to trace the design onto your pumpkin, and carefully carve it out.

If you're using a paper stencil, use a carving tool or sturdy metal skewer to poke holes along the stencil lines, which will outline the design on your pumpkin.You can buy Pumpkin Carving Stencils on Amazon.

3. Or, make your own stencil

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(Image credit: Alamy)

Learning how to make a stencil for your pumpkin will open up your creative freedom, because you'll be able to turn almost any design into a pumpkin carving.

'Regardless of whether you're using a pictureyou'vefound or drawing it yourself, I always make a stencil, obviously depending on the complexity of the design, drawing directly on a pumpkin can be difficult,' says Jones, who details the process of making a pumpkin stencil on her YouTube channel.

4.Monogram it

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(Image credit: The Wonder Forest)

Elevate your Halloween front porch decor by etching your family's monogram into your pumpkin.

Dana Fox, a craft blogger and shop owner, created this elegant pumpkin design using everyday household items. She did the ombre effect at the bottom with nail polish, and then carved a monogram into the pumpkin, but stopped short of going all the way through the flesh for a shaded look.

5. Try a 'shaded' pumpkin

(Image credit: Pumpkin Freak)

Shading a pumpkin is similar to carving, but you don't carve all the way through the pumpkin's flesh. 'It involved shaving the pumpkin to differentdepths, allowing varying amounts of light to past through creating a range of values and shades to make the design,' says Jones, who uses wood carving chiselsand lino cutters to create her designs, like the Hogwarts-inspired pumpkin above.

6. Create a geometric pattern

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(Image credit: The Wonder Forest)

Fox used drill bits in three different sizes to create the snowflake-inspired patterned pumpkin above. Go for a similar look, or try a zig-zag herringbone pattern, or a striped design with alternating drill bit sizes.

A pumpkin with a timeless design pattern is a fun way to create festive Halloween table decor that still feels chic, especially if you add a light inside for ambience.

7. Try a sculped pumpkin

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(Image credit: Getty Images)

Fancy yourself an expert pumpkin carver? For those ready to try a more advanced technique, sculpting a pumpkin requires a bit more effort, but the 3-D effect is worth it.

'Pumpkin sculpting is where you carve the pumpkin the same way you would clay or wood to make a 3D sculpture,' explains Jones. 'Clay loops cutting ribbons are best for this method.'

8. Let your pumpkins age

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(Image credit: Getty Images)

Once carved, pumpkins quickly start to rot. But, if you factor that into your pumpkin carving ideas, a little wilting can be a good thing. The pumpkins above are a few days old, and the sagging skin enhances the overall effect.

9. Swap candles for LEDs

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(Image credit: Pottery Barn)

'I like to use weatherproof LED lights inside my pumpkins,' says Jones, who varies the color and size of the light depending on the look she's going for.

Small LED lights are not only safer than candles, you don't have to worry about them burning out. Choose a waterproof version and you can leave it out in the rain, adding spook factor to your Halloween door decor whatever the weather.

What is the best thing to use to carve a pumpkin?

'Don'tuse the supermarkettools, they are blunt and flimsy – when they're blunt, you need to apply more pressure, which increases the risk of an accident,' says Jones.

For making basic cuts, like when carving a Jack-o-lantern or tracing a larger stencil, Jones recommends a small hack saw blade or thin serratedknife.

Should you carve a pumpkin from the top or the bottom?

While most people carve a pumpkin by taking the top off and scooping out the insides, Jones says this is all wrong. Instead, cut out the bottom or back of the pumpkin to clean it out.

'The stem still contains some nutrients, cutting off the top will make the pumpkinrot faster,' she says. That said you can find out how vinegar prevents pumpkins from rotting with our dedicated guide.

Can you carve a faux pumpkin?

If you want your carved pumpkins to last more than a few nights, you can carve a faux pumpkin instead. As long as the pumpkin is hollow in the inside, it's a candidate for carving. Just make sure you sturdy tools that are extra sharp, or use specialty tools like Greatever's Halloween Pumpkin Carving Kit and Pumpkin Punchers, both available on Amazon. This Pumpkin Carving Kit for Kids is a safer option forlittle ones.

Or, for a no-carve pumpkin idea that'll last for years, simply paint a faux pumpkin instead.

Pumpkin carving ideas – 9 looks, from simple to spooktacular (2024)


How do you make pumpkin carving easier? ›

Thin out the interior wall of the pumpkin on the side where you plan to carve, making the carving process easier. Design your Jack o' Lantern using a dry erase marker. If you make a mistake, it's easy to wipe it away and start over.

How do you decorate a pumpkin for beginners? ›

How to make
  1. Jewelled Pumpkin. Paint the pumpkin orange and allow to dry. ...
  2. Bat Pumpkin. Paint the pumpkin black and allow to dry. ...
  3. Simple Painted Pumpkin. Paint the pumpkin one solid colour and allow to dry. ...
  4. Ribbon Pumpkin. Paint the pumpkin and allow to dry. ...
  5. Welcome and Spooky Pumpkins: ...
  6. Decoupage Pumpkin.

How do you make a pumpkin with eyes? ›

Hollow out orange pumpkins; carve eye shape, then use linoleum cutter to carve lashes. Draw iris and pupil circles on white pumpkins, trace iris outlines with linoleum cutter, and lightly etch lines from outer to inner edge of iris. Paint with diluted green acrylic paint; when dry, use black acrylic paint for pupil.

What makes a good carving pumpkin? ›

"Make sure it's a good color, and what you want is a deeper orange." A pumpkin that is mostly green, but has patches of orange, will work if you don't plan on carving it right away, Rufener says. "It can still ripen even after you've picked it from the patch, but don't start carving until it's mostly orange."

What are 2 types of pumpkins for carving? ›

Carving Pumpkins

It is the Jack-O-Lantern pumpkin! These pumpkins were bred for carving, so they have little flesh (“pumpkin guts”) on the inside and thin walls that make it easy to carve and allow candles to shine through. Lumina pumpkins are also a fun choice for carving due to their eerie white skin.

What is the best time to carve pumpkins? ›

"Carve no more than three days before Halloween," Evan recommends. If you plan to celebrate on the weekend before or after Halloween, pick a pumpkin carving date a few days before the celebration. Carve too early, and your pumpkin will scare off trick-or-treaters with its rotten teeth!

What do you put in a pumpkin before carving? ›

Soaking with water, before you carve the face, is the best way to make your jack o' lantern last up to a week especially in cool dry weather. If you soak after you carve the face, the thinnest bits may break off of the pumpkin. You don't need petroleum jelly or pumpkin saver spray.

How do you carve a pumpkin without special tools? ›

Punching tool: Use a nail or an ice pick to punch out your design. Paring knife: Sharpen up a small paring knife to carve detail work. Small serrated knife: You'll want to use a serrated knife in a sawing motion to chunk out pieces requiring a little elbow grease. For smaller areas, try using a serrated steak knife.

How do you attach things to pumpkins? ›

You would want a sturdy glue or hot glue gun for best results, but you can glue your notions to your pumpkin any way that suits your fancy. This is a great way to dress pumpkins, especially for those who aren't into the scary and spooky aspects to Halloween, but who want to join the festivities with their own flair.

How do you make Halloween eyes? ›

Smooth the newspaper out with your paint brush. Keep adding the newspaper with the glue until you have covered the whole surface. Add bamboo skewer so you can cover most of the ball. To let the eyeball dry cut a small hole in the cardboard box and place the skewer in the hole.

How do you carve owl eyes in a pumpkin? ›

Make eye holes: Mark locations of eyes with a pen. Then drill with a 5/8-inch bit or cut with a large hole cutter. Make the eyes: In the tops of two mini pumpkins, cut holes slightly larger than eye holes; scoop out insides. Drill a small hole in the bottom of each mini pumpkin.

How can I make my face look like a pumpkin? ›


Using a wet brush and orange face paint, draw two big round shapes around the eyes for a pumpkin-shaped mask. Make sure these two shapes meet and cover the nose. Fill the shape with orange paint and a damp sponge.

How do you make a scary pumpkin in Minecraft? ›

They're pretty easy to make. Find a pumpkin – either out in the world, or in a shipwreck, or from a trader, or by growing on yourself from seeds – then use shears on it to carve a spooky face into the front. Finally, stick a candle inside in a crafting grid to light it up.

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