Sep 17

Complete How-To Guide for Creative Pumpkin Carving Using Stencils

pumpkin-carving-2Can you imagine Halloween without a funny faced pumpkin on the porch? That’s just my point. Pumpkin Carving is the main event that makes it feel like Halloween. And as far as Halloween crafts go, it’s most likely the only one that a lot of families make time for. So it’s very special not to mention a long time tradition. What’s changing is that folks are using stencils to take their Jack O Lantern from a simple toothless face to an ornate scene.

In this article I’m not only going to tell you how to carve a pumpkin but I’m also going to show you how to use a stencil in the process so that you can create a pumpkin masterpiece that will be the talk of the neighborhood.

You can find some great printable Halloween stencils on the internet. This makes pumpkin carving easy because you can just print the stencil out and start creating your pumpkin masterpiece. Plus you’ll find that some designers have come up with some very creative images. There are more than just funny and scary faces. You’ll find cemetery scenes and flying bats or hunch backed cats.

OK! Let’s get started.

First, here are a few items that you’ll need:

  • A Stencil Pattern
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • A Carving Saw
  • A Transfer Tool
  • A Large Spoon or Scoop (You may be able to find the last three tools mentioned in a pumpkin carving kit).

You’ll want to match your pumpkin and your stencil design. If you already have a pumpkin that is tall and thin, then find a pattern that will fill in the height and not curve too far around the sides. If you have chosen a pattern that is short and wide, look for a pumpkin that is squat and round. You want your carving to be clearly visible from one direction.

Also, try to find a pumpkin that has a smooth side for your pattern to fit snugly against. This will make it easier to transfer the pattern and carve it.

Allow the pumpkin to sit for a while at room temperature. Draw an outline of a six-sided lid on top of the pumpkin that will be large enough for you to clean out the inside and place a candle. Use a carving saw and cut along the outline with the blade at an angle towards the center of the pumpkin in order to create a ledge to support the lid.

Use a large spoon to clean out the seeds and pulp. Scrape the pulp in the area you plan to carve until the wall is no more then 1 inch thick. If you were able to find the pumpkin carving kit at your local store there is most likely a small plastic scoop enclosed. I would recommend using a larger metal spoon if you have one. The plastic spoon is no match for the seeds and the pulp inside a pumpkin.

Trim the excess paper from your stencil with scissors making sure to leave at least a ½ inch border on all sides for the tape. Line up the pattern and tape both sides of the stencil, top and bottom. To tape the corners, you may need to crease the stencil. Depending on the roundness of the pumpkin, this may distort your design so try to make the creases where the pattern will be the least distorted.

Use the Transfer Tool to make holes along the lines of the design at about 1/8 inch apart. Complex designs might require the holes to be closer together. The tip of the tool should be pushed in just far enough to penetrate the paper stencil and the outer skin of the pumpkin. Don’t push so hard that the tool goes through the wall of the pumpkin. Make sure that all the lines have been marked clearly before removing the pattern. If you need help seeing the holes once the pattern is removed, rub flour into them. They’ll turn white.

Cradle the pumpkin in your lap, and use the Carving Saw to cut out the design by connecting the dots. Hold the saw like a pencil and cut with a continuous up-and-down motion, keeping the saw perpendicular to the pumpkin. Only use gentle pressure to avoid stressing and breaking the tool or the pumpkin. It’s best to start in the center of the design and work your way out. You may need to rotate the pumpkin in your lap to keep the side that you are cutting closer to your hand. To cut sharp corners, remove the saw blade and re-insert it at the new angle. Use your finger to push the cut pieces out from the inside of the pumpkin. Cut large areas into smaller ones for easier removal.

One last thing to do! If you want to put a candle inside the pumpkin you need a chimney in order to allow the heat to escape. When all the carving is done and the inside is clean, smooth and free of loose pulp, place the candle inside and carefully light it. Put the lid in place and let the candle burn for just a couple of minutes. Once the candle smoke has blackened a spot on the lid or top, use the Carving Saw to cut a 1 inch diameter hole at that spot for a chimney.

Oh yeah! Coating the cut edges with petroleum jelly will reduce shriveling and extend the life of your pumpkin by keeping it moist.

Wait! Before you toss out the seeds, you can bake them for a tasty snack. Separate the seeds from the pumpkin strings and pulp. Toss the seeds in a bowl with a little olive oil or melted butter. Place them on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with salt, garlic powder, onion powder, seasoned salt or any other seasoning of your choice (to taste). Bake at 250 degrees for about an hour, stirring every 15 or 10 minutes until they have a golden brown color.

For those of us that want to create art but don’t quite have it in us, stencils are a great tool! Now we can see that this rule even relates to pumpkin carving. Sure, it’s art that may not last forever, but it’s art none the less. I really hope that you enjoy using stencils to create your pumpkin masterpiece this year and that you become open to how using stencils can inspire you to create many other forms of art.


For some great stencil designs like those mentioned in the article and more ideas for using stencils, visit It’s a great place to find stencils for carving your pumpkin and also some ideas for decorating your pumpkin with paints. Don’t miss the cute Halloween Mask stencils too. They are great for creating your own costume. Plus, you’ll find a collection of 22 different Fleur de lis, an extensive Oriental Designs Collection including 10 symbols, fun Tree Frogs, Wine and Spirits, many children’s stencils and of course holiday themes. Oh! Don’t miss the Old Fashioned Luggage Labels and Travel Posters, great for making art prints. Plus, too many more to mention here. Also, if you are looking for stencil how to and instructional information, plus many creative ideas for how to use stencils, go to

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