It’s pumpkin season yet again and we all practically picture all the fun projects that we want to do with them. The most iconic of ideas would of course be to make a jack-o-lantern.
You’ve probably done it before and you’re probably familiar with the process or you can at least assume what the main steps are but just in case you need a little bit of help or some tips that can make everything easier, we’ve prepared a short tutorial and some inspiring jack-o-lantern design projects for you to take a look at.
How to Create the Perfect Jack-O-Lantern Designs
Acquire the Proper Tools
Before you can even begin dreaming of all the ways you can carve a pumpkin you will need to acquire the proper tools to do so. While you may be tempted to just grab a steak knife out of the drawer and begin, this is a less than ideal way to carve the jack-o-lantern design of your dreams. Instead, you should look into buying some pumpkin specific tools.
Set of Pumpkin Carving Tools
This first option is also the easiest, as it is a set of tools specifically selected to make carving your jack-o-lantern a breeze. There are several variations of this product, but the best one is this one by Elmchee. It not only comes with the necessary tools for clearing the pumpkin of its seeds, but it also contains several smaller tools that can help you make more precise lines and designs on your jack-o-lantern. So if you are looking for the easiest way to get the job done, this set is for you.
Wood Carving Tools
Of course, you don’t have to spend the money to get pumpkin specific tools, as there are several other instruments out there that will work just as well. One of which is a set of wood carving tools like these from Augsun. These are less specific than the above set and don’t contain tools that allow you to clean the pumpkin, but what this set does have is a bunch of amazingly precise carving tools that will allow you to design a spectacular jack-o-lantern down to the most minute detail.
Are you good at free hand drawing? Don’t worry you aren’t the only person out there who can carve on the lines but can’t draw to save their life! If this is the case, then you will need a jack-o-lantern design stencil kit like this one found on Amazon. This was you can use convenient stencils to design your pumpkin ahead of time then carve away to reveal your perfect design. You can also use regular cookie cutters as stencils for your jack-o-lantern.
A Paring Knife
For those wondering just how you are supposed to use a steak knife to carve the delicate lines you have put on your pumpkin with the aforementioned stencils, you aren’t. Rather you should purchase a paring knife like this one from Mercer. This knife has the perfect point to go through your pumpkin exterior with ease, while also being small and easy to maneuver to create your design.
Maybe it isn’t the carving that makes you nervous, but rather the part of the event where you must clear out the pumpkin of its seeds before you begin. When this is the case, you should look into a specific pumpkin gutting tool like this one from Dakota Products. It’s an attachment that you can add to a drill you already have on hand to make clearing the pumpkin a breeze.
Don’t have a drill for the above fancy pumpkin gutter? No problem! You can simply pick up a melon baller like this one from Norpro from the kitchen utensil section next time you head to the grocery store and this will work just as well as a pumpkin gutter. This option is cheaper and can be less messy than the official pumpkin gutter.
Now if you are a serious pumpkin carver, far above those who are just beginning their pumpkin carving journey, then you will need tools that go beyond an all-in-one pumpkin carving kit or stencils. Rather you will want to look into an engraving tool like this one from Keshi. Surprisingly, these engravers aren’t very expensive, so even when you are just considering upping your jack-o-lantern design game, an engraver is a great way to try something new!
More Advanced Tools
Using an engraver to carve your pumpkin is already quite fancy, but for those pumpkin carving masters out there you can always purchase some even more serious tools for your pumpkin carving endeavor such as punching tools or linoleum carving tools like these from Falling in Art. These types of tools will offer your precision lines like no other when it comes to carving your pumpkin. But they definitely are not for beginners, so if this is your first time carving a pumpkin, stick to some of the other tools on this list.
A Candle or Tea Light
Technically, a candle or tea light to go inside your finished jack-o -antern design isn’t a tool. But either way, you should be sure that you have one on hand before you begin carving! This is because, without a light to put in your pumpkin, you will have no way to show it off! Because of fire danger, you are better off purchasing a strong tea light for your pumpkin like these from Mixlay, rather than trying to light a candle inside of your pumpkin!
Once you’ve successfully gathered all of the above tools that you will need, and chosen your perfect pumpkin, it’s time to start carving!
How to carve a pumpkin
Carving a pumpkin is not difficult and shouldn’t be dangerous if done correctly. It’s a fun activity that can be enjoyed with friends and family or a little project that you can occupy your time with on a weekend. Let’s go over the supplies that are needed first:
- medium knife
- small knife
Before you get started, prepare your work area with a newspaper. Cover the whole surface so you don’t make a mess while carving the pumpkin. This will make it a lot easier to clean up when you’re done.
The next step is to cut out the stem of the pumpkin. This is how it’s generally done. You can first draw a circle with the marker to use as a guideline. Make sure you cut at an angle towards the stem and also that the hole is big enough for your hand to comfortably fit through. If you don’t cut at an angle, the step will fall inside when you place it back on.
After you’ve removed the stem you have to hollow out the pumpkin. Use the spoon to take out the seeds and pulp and everything inside. Put everything in a bowl and make sure you don’t leave any of the stringy material in.
Once you have a nice and hollow pumpkin to work with, take your marker and sketch the design on one of the sides. The most common option is to make a face with two eyes, a nose, and a scary mouth. Don’t make the design too intricate because then you’ll have a hard time cutting out the bits.
Take the small knife and cut along the sketched lines, then remove the extra pieces of pumpkin. Cut at a perpendicular angle so it looks clean. When you’re happy with how it turned out you can erase the marker lines if they’re still visible.
At this point, your pumpkin is done. You just have to take a candle, light it up, and place it inside in order to turn the carved pumpkin into a jack-o-lantern. There are of course a few things that you could do differently than how we described it here. For example, you could get special pumpkin carving tools if you don’t want to use a knife or if you want to make it easier to carve out the desired design. You could also search for patterns and print them out and use them as stencils rather than drawing your design by hand.
Pumpkin carving tips
Make a hole into the bottom of the pumpkin: Although it’s very common to cut out the stem of the pumpkin in order to make an access hole, that’s not the only way. If you want to preserve the stem intact or if you don’t want to have to drop your candle from the top, another option if to make a hole into the bottom of the pumpkin. This means you won’t be able to hang it. It also means it will be easier to put the candle in and take it out without burning your hand and you won’t have a visible line all around the stem for everyone to see.
Thin the side that you’re carving: This is a useful trick that you can use to make it easier to carve out the desired design, especially if it’s a more intricate one. First, you need to pick the side that you’ll be carving. It’s usually the one that has an even surface without imperfections. Then you can either use a scraper tool or an ice cream scoop to thin this side a little bit so the pattern shows better on it.
Print out the pattern and secure it with tape: It’s a lot easier to follow a pattern when it’s secured onto the pumpkin rather than having to recreate it by hand. Go ahead and print it out on paper making sure the proportions are right for the pumpkin. You can make copies so you also have this next year. Take the paper and secure it with masking tape. You can also use some pins if you want to. Just make sure you insert them along the lines that need to be carved.
Make dots along the lines: Instead of carving your pumpkin by making long cuts along the lines, try punching a bunch of dots to trace the lines and then cutting along them. This gives you more control and makes it easier to create more intricate designs. Once all the dots are in place you can remove the paper pattern. Use either a punching tool or just a nail or something thin and sharp for this part.
Use flour to make the lines visible: Sometimes it can be difficult to see the actual pattern with all the dots but there’s a very easy trick that you can use to make them more visible. Just take some flour and sprinkle it over the pumpkin. It will fill the holes and it will make your pattern easier to see. You can also easily clean it when you’re done carving.
Secure broken pieces with toothpicks: Sometimes you can make mistakes and cut along a line that you shouldn’t or your knife can slip. Either way, you may end up with a few broken pieces. Not to worry because your design isn’t ruined. You can secure those pieces back in using a toothpick. It won’t look perfect but it will hold.
Reflect the light with aluminum foil: In case the light from your candle isn’t very strong or you feel that your design isn’t visible enough, you can use a bit of aluminum foil to reflect the light and amplify the effect. If that’s still not enough, it may be the case that your candle needs a bit more oxygen. Try to cut out a hole at the top to make a little chimney and bring more oxygen into the pumpkin.
Help your pumpkin to last longer: It’s quite disappointing when you’ve worked really hard to make a cool-looking jack-o-lantern and the pumpkin only lasts a couple of days. You can make it last a little longer by using a mixture of ice water and bleach. Add a teaspoon of bleach for each gallon of water that you’re using. Soak the pumpkin in this mixture. It helps to kill some of the bacteria. You can then also rub the inside of the pumpkin and the carved-out edges with petroleum jelly just so it looks fresh a little bit longer.
o lantern Design Ideas
1. Cute Boo Pumpkin
If you want a design that’s not your usual spooky face for this year’s jack-o-lantern, how about this pattern? It’s basically just a bunch of Boos carved out in a fairly random pattern. You can use a drill to make the holes once the pumpkin is ready, with the step cut out and the inside hollow and clean. Check out the tutorial on handmadecharlotte to find out exactly how it’s done.
2. Animated Bat Design
Wondering how you can take your jack-o-lantern carving skills to the next level? Well, one really cool idea would be to make an animated pumpkin that has motion rather than showing just a still image.
As you can expect, this is a bit more complicated than just carving out a face into a pumpkin. Still, it’s not so complicated that you couldn’t pull it off. All you need to know about making an animated pumpkin can be found on instructables.
3. Pumpkin With Realistic Eyes
Another idea is to add a bit more depth and character to the design of your jack-o-lantern. Even if you decide to carve out a face, you can make it interesting. Focus on the eyes and make them stand out. Check out how suggestive this design is and how much personality this lantern actually has. It’s a design that we found on reddit.
4. Switch It Up With Squash
Rather than using a regular pumpkin, consider a butternut squash instead. It will give you a more elongated and smooth surface to work with which is perfect if you want to create an alien-like face or a minion-inspired design. There’s plenty of inspiration that you can find on reddit in this regard, like this spooky design for example.
5. Music Lover’s Design
Forget about all the cliche designs and ideas associated with jack-o-lanterns and pumpkins. Come up with a design or a pattern inspired by something that you really like.
For instance, this is a music-inspired pattern and it’s really nice as well as easy to make. You can use a drill to get the round sections for the music notes and a small knife or some other tool to carve out the lines. Check out handmadecharlotte for more details.
6. Classy and Colorful Pumpkin Pot
You can also carve pumpkins for reasons other than to make jack-o-lanterns. One really nice idea that stands out, in this case, is to make a pumpkin vase.
It’s really simple. You start out just like you would when making a lantern and you cut out the stem and hollow out the inside. But then you don’t carve out a face into the side of the pumpkin. Instead of you just fill it with beautiful flowers. This idea is inspired by a project from thecraftedlife.
7. Initial Pumpkin
Printing out patterns and designs is a nice trick that you can use when carving pumpkins. You can transfer the designs onto the pumpkin and then use various tools to carve it.
Some designs are more intricate and require more attention and effort, like this one from younghouselove for example. Both the monogram and the ornate design are really beautiful and inspiring.
8. Black and White Design Mix
There’s a lot more than you can do to a pumpkin than just carve a face into it. A cool idea is to paint the pumpkins. For Halloween, a black-and-white combo would look really nice. There are a few interesting design ideas on whipperberry that you might want to check out. Some involve some carving and others don’t but they’re all beautiful.
9. Champagne Holder Pumpkin
This is a pumpkin ice bucket. It’s a pretty easy and straightforward project as you can probably imagine. A few things to consider is choosing a suitable pumpkin for this. It would be ideal for it to have a fairly flat side so it can stand on a table without wobbling. It should also be big enough to hold a bottle and sufficient ice around it. For more details, head over to everydaydishes.
10. Pumpkinless Jack-O-Lantern Design
You can also make a jack-o-lantern without actually using a pumpkin. Instead of that, you can use a glass bowl. To make it look like a pumpkin you need orange paint or food coloring.
For the face, you can use bits of tape cut into the various different shapes. The idea is to paint the whole bowl except for the face sections which is why you need the tape.
11. Light String Light Up Pumpkin
Using a candle to light up your jack-o-lantern is the classical choice but not the only one. Another option is to use string lights.
You can drill out holes for each of the little bulbs to poke through. They can form the outline of a face or something else, depending on what design you prefer. Either way, it’s a pretty simple project and you can find out all about it on instructables.
12. Unique Square “Pumpkins”
There are not really pumpkins or jack-o-lanterns but they sure look cute. They’re pieces of wood that have been cut, painted, and decorated to look like jack-o-lanterns.
13. Friendly Owl Face Pumpkin
When carving pumpkins with little kids in the home, or even just to place in a kid-friendly neighborhood, it can be important the be sure that the pumpkin designs aren’t too scary. After all, you want your pumpkin to attract trick or treaters, not scare them away!
Check out the instructions for owl face pumpkins that can be found on Birds and Blooms. This design is so adorable you’ll find yourself wanting to make a family of jack-o-lanterns with just this adorable design on them!
14. Creepy Cottage Pumpkin
Are you ready to create one serious jack-o-lantern design? Then take a look at this creepy cottage pumpkin you can find on Family Handyman.
This pumpkin will take quite a few tools, supplies, and some time, but the finished project will leave visitors to your porch awestruck. Don’t be afraid to switch it up a little as well and add your own miniatures to create your carved out pumpkin scene.
15. Toothy Smile Pumpkin
Everyone knows how pumpkins are supposed to look, smiling or scary with the same three block teeth they’ve had for centuries. But have you ever considered giving a jack-o-lantern a full smile? It’s high time you did! Just look at how amazing these pumpkins by The Kids Should See This look!
Whether you choose to give your pumpkin square, triangle, or even sharp teeth, you can’t go wrong with this fun jack-o-lantern design idea!
16. Polka Dot Pumpkin
Don’t underestimate the beauty in simplicity! When you want to carve a pumpkin but are looking for something on the easier side try this polka dot pumpkin idea from My Dear Irene.
This is one of the few pumpkins on this list where you will definitely want to invest in some nicer tools, like a hole punch tool, because carving each of these holes by hand will be quite the hassle and probably take all afternoon!
17. Witchy Pumpkin Design
Nothing says Halloween quite like a witchy design! Incorporate the funky fun of witches into your jack-o-lantern design using this template you can find on Woman’s Day.
Or you can freehand draw your own scary witch on your pumpkin before you begin to cut, for those who are artistically inclined. Additionally, feel free to add side designs like stars or even a moon to really bring out the feel of Halloween night in your pumpkin.
18. Adorable Mummy Pumpkins
There isn’t much about Halloween that people generally consider adorable, but that is because they haven’t seen these mummy pumpkins from Dream A Little Bigger.
Colorful, small, and slightly cute, this jack-o-lantern design idea checks all the boxes of what it means to be adorable and part of Halloween at the same time! And the best part is, this idea doesn’t require any carving—so no mess to clean up!
19. Lollipop Holder Pumpkin
Going out of town this Halloween? This doesn’t mean you can’t still hand out candy to the neighborhood kids! Consider using your jack-o-lantern designing skills to make this lollipop holder pumpkin from Simply Designing, then loading it up with lollipops and leaving it out for the neighborhood kids. The only downside to this idea is that you will have to hope that the kids that come by don’t take more than their fair share!
20. Franken Pumpkin
Maybe all of these jack-o-lantern design ideas are below you and you are looking for something much more difficult to keep you interested. In that case, look no further than the instructions on HalloweenTown for this spooky Franken pumpkin.
You’ll be strategically cutting apart your pumpkin and stitching it back together as well as stitching parts of other pumpkins to yours. This design really does give you free reign to do almost anything you want, so get to it and bring your creative side to help!
Overall, no Halloween season is complete without the carving of a pumpkin. But for those that are new to the idea of carving up these fun fall squashes, it can be difficult to know where to start!
Don’t be afraid though, because it’s easy once you collect the supplies, and decide on a design for your jack-o-lantern as all you will have to do after that is start carving!
No matter what design on this list you decide to go with, you will absolutely love the spooky jack-o-lantern that ends up inhabiting your porch for the season!