Halloween How-To: DIY Halloween Pumpkins

PHOTO Halloween How-To: DIY Halloween Pumpkins
Easy Instructions to Carve Your Own Halloween PumpkinsPlayCourtesy Sean Fitzpatrick
WATCH Boo! DIY Halloween Ghost Pumpkin

Carving your own Halloween pumpkin is an easy and fun activity for the whole family. Check out these carving tips from expert carver Sean Fitzpatrick, and get ideas, templates and step-by-step instuctions below.

Halloween How-To: Carve Your Own Pumpkin

Top 5 Do's and Don'ts of Pumpkin Carving

Tip #1

DON'T immediately start carving your pumpkin.

DO wash your pumpkin first in warm soapy water to reduce the spread of mold into the pumpkin.

Tip #2

DON'T cut the top off your pumpkin.

DO cut the bottom off your pumpkin to keep the moisture inside the pumpkin longer.

Tip #3

DON'T take the pumpkin guts out one scoop at a time.

DO scoop in one spiral motion, keeping the innards inside the pumpkin, until all of the strings and seeds are free from the walls. Then turn your pumpkin over a bowl and the insides will fall out in one drop.

Tip #4

DON'T carve big pieces out first.

DO start with smaller details towards the center of the design to avoid breakage.

Tip #5

DON'T put your pumpkin out as soon as you're done carving.

DO rub petroleum jelly on all cut edges to help preserve the pumpkin.

Halloween How-To: Carve Your Own Pumpkin

Top 5 Pumpkin Carving Tips

Tip 1 Cut a hole in the bottom of your pumpkin in the shape of a pumpkin. The stem shape will allow you to easily reattach the base once you have gutted your pumpkin.

Tip 2

An ice cream scoop makes a great tool to gut the inside of your pumpkin.

Tip 3

Use a fine serrated knife or small carving blade to make detailed cuts.

Tip 4

A plastic scouring pad can be used to clean and smooth the inside of your pumpkin and get rid of that loose stringy look.

Tip 5

Wrap your finished carving in plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to display.

Halloween How-To: Carving a Pumpkin with a Template!

Step by Step Ghost, Witch and Scarecrow

Follow the same instructions for each:

Step 1: Wash and Dry Pumpkin:

To reduce the risk of spreading bacteria or mold into the carved pumpkin, it is important to clean your pumpkin and carving tools with warm soapy water before you begin carving. Once everything is clean, be sure to dry your pumpkin thoroughly.

Step 2: Cut Bottom off Pumpkin

By cutting an access hole in the bottom of your pumpkin, you will allow the pumpkin to retain more moisture and therefore extend the amount of time you can display it. This also creates a cleaner more finished looking pumpkin. In red ink, draw a large circle in the shape of a pumpkin on the bottom. The stem you have drawn will act as a key way so you will be able to easily replace the bottom after you are finished carving in the same place -- no muss no fuss.

Step 3: Remove the Pumpkin Innards

Remove the bottom of the pumpkin and clean out the inside of your pumpkin with an ice cream scoop. You want to work in a circular motion, rotating the pumpkin working your way from the base all the way to the stem. Leave all the guts inside until the very end, just keep turning and scooping, turning and scooping. Hold the pumpkin over a bowl and all the innards will fall out at once.

Step 4: Attach Template

Print out the template.

CLICK HERE for the ghost template.

CLICK HERE for the scarecrow template.

CLICK HERE for the witch template.

Trim the excess paper away from the design. Use packing tape to attach the template to the pumpkin, starting along the edges and then covering the entire design. This will help keep your template intact, especially if you have a juicy pumpkin.

Step 5: Transfer Design Onto Pumpkin

Using a pointy tool, transfer the design onto the pumpkin by punching holes along the outlines of the template. Make sure the tool penetrates all the way through the tape, paper and pumpkin. Keep your puncture marks close together.

Step 6: Carve Your Pumpkin

Remove the template and you're ready to start carving. Smaller details towards the center of the design should be cut first to avoid breakage. A plastic scouring pad can be used to clean and smooth the inside of your pumpkin and get rid of loose strings. Petroleum jelly can be used to help preserve the pumpkin. Rub it liberally on all cut edges.

Halloween How-To: Carving a Pumpkin With a Template

Step-by-Step Smiley Pumpkin

CLICK HERE for the smiling pumpkin template.

Have you graduated past traditional pumpkin carving and are ready to take your designs to the extreme? Try this variation on a traditional Jack-O-Lantern that utilizes wood carving tools to create a shaded effect.

Step 1: Wash and Dry Pumpkin

To reduce the risk of spreading bacteria or mold into the carved pumpkin, it is important to clean your pumpkin and carving tools with warm soapy water before you begin carving. Once everything is clean, be sure to dry your pumpkin thoroughly.

Step 2: Attach Template

Print out the template HERE. Trim the excess paper away from the design. Use packing tape to attach the template to the pumpkin, starting along the edges and then covering the entire design. This will help keep your template intact, especially if you have a juicy pumpkin.

Step 3: Transfer Design to Pumpkin

This different technique requires different tools. With an exacto knife, transfer the design onto the pumpkin by slicing along the outlines of the template. You want to start with any shape within a shape. In this template, your first cut should be the teeth inside the mouth.

Step 4: Start Carving

Remove the template and you're ready to start carving. Begin with a v-type cutting blade for the eyebrows and gum lines around the teeth. Follow along your lines and wiggle the blade back and forth to carve off the top layer of pumpkin skin. Scoop out the eyes and nostrils with a rounded-tip cutting blade.

Step 5: Make Teeth Look 3-Dimensional

Shave the skin off the teeth, one tooth at a time, with a vegetable peeler or flat clay carving loop. Go back with a smaller clay carving loop and trace around each tooth. Carve away at everything in the gum line to make the detail of each tooth pop. Clean up the teeth with a scouring pad. With an exacto knife, make a V cut (2 cuts at opposite 45 degree angles) along all of the lines of each tooth and the gums. Clean up the teeth one more time with a scouring pad. Finally, rub petroleum jelly on all the cut edges to help preserve the pumpkin.

Sean Fitzpatrick is a self-taught artist. After almost 22 years as an auto mechanic, he took a leap of faith and fully invested in himself and his passion for the arts and started Fitzy Snowman Sculpting. The company is based around creating impermanent works of art with mediums like sand, snow, ice and, of course, pumpkins. Thank you to Wilson Farm in Lexington, Mass., for providing the pumpkins for Sean Fitzpatrick's carving demo.