How to Carve a Pumpkin for Halloween

9 of 12 in Series: The Essentials of Halloween Parties

Carving a pumpkin is a fun and inexpensive Halloween tradition. For your jack-o’-lantern, carve a Halloween image that's funny, scary, or pretty into pumpkins that are green, white, pale orange, or even red-orange. Take your design template with you when buying pumpkins to ensure you buy one with the right size and shape. Look for pumpkins that are clean (dirt could be hiding a rotten spot!), gouge free, and smooth.

1

Cut a hole into the top of the pumpkin by using a long, thin knife; remove the top.

Insert the knife, at an angle, a few inches away from the stem. Make sure the hole will be large enough to place your hand in for removing the seeds and membrane. Alternatively, you could cut a hole from the bottom if the pumpkin doesn't have a stem or to suit your design. Removing the guts is also easier!

2

Scrape the insides thoroughly, using an ice cream scoop, large spoon or pumpkin carving kit scraping tool.

Make sure that all the membrane is removed and slather a good coat of petroleum jelly on the inside of your pumpkin to seal in moisture. (A good spritzing of vegetable oil works well.)

3

Tape your pattern to the pumpkin and use a punching tool to score the lines of your design onto your pumpkin, punching indentions approximately 1/8 to 1/4 inch apart.

Don’t poke the tool completely through the flesh. Remove the pattern occasionally, checking to make sure you’ve adequately outlined your carving lines.

4

With a serrated knife or sawing tool, saw, don’t slice, through the pattern lines using short back and forth motions. Push out the pieces, and trim the edges.

You control the cuts better by sawing. Use a paring knife to trim the edges and to cut the inside of the holes at about a 45-degree angle to allow more light to shine through. Smooth a light coating of petroleum jelly on the cut edges.

5

Place a candle in a glass votive cup inside your pumpkin and light it.

Place the top back on, or leave off. A battery-operated "candle" is perfect for safe, fuss-free light.

6

Optional: Photograph your jack-o'-lantern to commemorate the fun — or an especially creative design.

To photograph your masterpiece, turn off your flash, so that your camera doesn’t bounce light off the surface of your object leaving your photo bleached out and non-dimensional. A pumpkin is lit from within. What you want to do is capture that by artificially lighting the image from the front with lamps, candles, or other subdued lighting without using flash photography. You’ll enjoy the eerie effects you get.

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