To carve a Halloween design into your pumpkin, just follow these easy tips:
Pick your template before buying your pumpkin so you can be sure to get one that is the right size and shape for the design you want to create.
To transfer the design, tape or pin your printed template to the pumpkin. You may need to trim the paper and/or make small cuts in it to get it to lie flat.
Free pumpkin carving templates
Score the design into the skin by poking small holes through the paper with a nail or other sturdy tool, like a knitting needle, skewer, or old ballpoint pen. The holes should be about 1/8 of an inch apart, although more precise details will need a finer touch. If reaching over the table to punch the holes is tiring, hold the pumpkin in your lap.
After you have created your guide holes, remove the pattern. If the holes are hard to see, rub a little flour, baking powder or unscented baby powder into the holes to make them more visible.
The best carving tool is a special (and inexpensive) pumpkin cutter, but you can also use a serrated kitchen knife. Whatever you choose, it's often best to hold your tool like a pen, keeping it perpendicular to the surface of the pumpkin.
To avoid breaking off sections of the pumpkin, start cutting at the center of your design and work outwards.
Use a gentle sawing motion to slowly and carefully cut along the dotted guide lines. Use only light pressure -- don't force it. For curves, you need to only slightly turn the tool, and for sharp angles, create a new cut.
Gently push the pieces out with your fingers, or push them through to the inside of the pumpkin with your fingers or a blunt pencil (or the eraser side of a pencil, depending on the size of the space). For larger pieces, you may want to cut larger pieces into smaller sections before removal.
You can reattach a section that has been accidentally cut out or broken off by using a toothpick or two on the fleshy side of the pumpkin to pin it back in place.
Not every cut has to be straight through to the middle! Create a glow effect by trimming away only some of the outside layer of the pumpkin. Varying the thickness of the skin will alter the amount of light that shines through. Use a screwdriver, spoon or potato peeler to create these gradations. Also try acutely angling your cuts so the inner light reflects off the sides of the hole instead of shining straight through.
And before you can say "boo," your halloween jack o' lantern will be the envy of the neighborhood!
More Halloween tips