Pumpkin Carving Tips

Follow these tips to have an artful jack-o'-lantern this Halloween.
Carving pumpkins is a crafty (and fun)  Halloween tradition.

Carving pumpkins is a crafty (and fun) Halloween tradition.

Carving pumpkins is a crafty (and fun) Halloween tradition.

Photo by: Image courtesy of Mick Telkamp

Image courtesy of Mick Telkamp

Carving pumpkins is a crafty (and fun) Halloween tradition.

Ghosts and goblins, witches and wizards, and mountains of candy flow freely as kids armed with pillowcases traipse from house to house giddily collecting their bounty. These are the images that come to mind as Halloween looms. But perhaps the most iconic sign of the season is the jack-o'-lantern. Once carved from turnips or beets, as well as the familiar pumpkin, scary faces were carved into the vegetables and perched near the front door to ward off evil spirits.

The superstitions have faded, and you won’t see too many turnips resting on the front steps these days, but the tradition of carving pumpkins for Halloween is stronger than ever. From the simple crooked grin and glowing eyes to elegant mosaics, carved pumpkins of all sizes and styles light the way as anxious ghoulies make their way from house to house in search of the elusive king-sized Snickers bar.

Ready to put the face on Halloween? Check out the following tips to make carving your own pumpkin safe, sanitary and stylish.

Tools of the Trade

  • Newspapers spread out on a table or countertop before starting keep your carving station clean and tidy.
  • Dry erase markers will make drawing or tracing your designs a snap (and easy to wipe clean if you need to start over).
  • An ice cream scoop or large serving spoon makes pulp removal a snap.
  • Carving knives should be sharp and flexible with easy-to-grip handles. Thinner blades are helpful for more detailed designs. Children should not be allowed to handle knives, and adult supervision is always a must.

Selecting a Pumpkin

Whether your pumpkin comes from the grocery store or is selected from one of the many pick-your-own pumpkin patches, find a canvas that will suit your plans--big or small, perfectly round or misshapen--to create a grimacing ghoul. Whatever your design, find a pumpkin that is fresh and free of bruises or cuts and flat-bottomed to keep your jack-o'-lantern standing upright and stable.

Cutting the Lid

Use a boning knife to remove the top with an angled cut to prevent the lid from falling inside. The lid should be large enough to comfortably accommodate hands for scooping out the pulp.

Removing the Pulp

Make sure to thoroughly scrape out the inside of the pumpkin. Clean sides reduces decay and will allow light to shine through evenly. Be sure to save the seeds for roasting!

Drawing and Carving

Whether drawing freehand or using a template, use dry erase markers to mark all lines before making the first cut. Use knives of different sizes to cut along the lines: large knives to remove large sections and finer blades for detail work. 

Make It Last

To extend the stoop life of your work of art, rub a thin layer of petroleum jelly on the inside surfaces of the pumpkin to reduce mold and slow decay.

Lighting

Tea light or votive candles placed in the bottom of your jack-o'-lantern will provide a classic flickery glow, but battery powered LED “candles” are a cheap, safe and effective alternative (especially when jack-o'-lanterns are kept indoors).

Next Up

Halloween Craft: Mini Pumpkin Lanterns

Decorate your walkway or garden path with these delightful mini carved pumpkin lanterns.

Cookie-Cutter Pumpkin Carving With Kids

Create a high-end look for your jack-o'-lanterns with kid-friendly themes, from planes to stars, flowers and more.

Pumpkin-Carving Tips and Tools

Tips for selecting the right tools when carving, preserving and illuminating a Halloween pumpkin.

Smashing Pumpkins!

Give your gourds a lasting glow for fall and winter holidays.

Monogrammed Pumpkins

Avoid the mess of carving and personalize your pumpkins with custom templates.

Funky Decoupage Pumpkin

Use printed napkins to create an elegant take on Halloween pumpkins.

Cute Owl Pumpkin

"Hoo" says a pumpkin can't be trendy? This easy-to-create owl pumpkin requires no intricate patterns or pumpkin-carving skills and is an adorable way to greet Halloween guests and trick-or-treaters.

Parsnip and Carrot Pumpkin Characters

Kids will love creating a family grouping of these pumpkin characters. They'll add a fun, personalized touch to a Halloween-decorated foyer or front porch.

Painted Fabric Pumpkin

Decorate for Halloween by crafting your own fabric pumpkin.

Simple Square Pumpkin Display

Create a fun new twist on fall's most popular decoration in four easy steps.

On TV

Fixer Upper

7am | 6c

Fixer Upper

8am | 7c

Fixer Upper

9am | 8c

Fixer Upper

10am | 9c

Fixer Upper

11am | 10c
On Tonight
On Tonight

Hawaii Life

8pm | 7c

Hawaii Life

8:30pm | 7:30c

Island Life

9pm | 8c

Island Life

9:30pm | 8:30c

Island Hunters

10:30pm | 9:30c

House Hunters

11pm | 10c

Island Life

12am | 11c

Island Life

12:30am | 11:30c

Island Hunters

1:30am | 12:30c

Hawaii Life

3am | 2c

Hawaii Life

3:30am | 2:30c

Shop This Look

Found a living space you love in HGTV's Photo Library? Get the look in your own home with products from Wayfair.

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.