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How to Decorate, Carve a Pumpkin for Halloween

Display your carved or decorated pumpkin on your porch for Halloween!

The art of carving a pumpkin gets more creative every year.

There’s always the traditional jack o’ lantern face and spooky Halloween creatures. Then there are faces and objects to carve from popular book characters, movies and pop culture events that have happened throughout the year.

After you pick a pumpkin at one of the local patches, use the tips below to create a spooky (or artsy!) decoration for your porch.

To make a neat, clean carve, follow these instructions:

  1. Cut a hole in the top of the pumpkin with a large kitchen knife, preferrably one that is serrated. Be sure to cut at about a 45-degree angle inward so that the top will sit nicely once you’re done carving. If you’re carving with kids, adults should take care of this step.
  2. Use a large spoon, or a pumpkin scraper to remove all of the guts and seeds from the pumpkin. Make sure the side you carve your design into is clean. If you’re planning on saving the seeds for roasting, this is a good time to separate them from the rest of the guts.
  3. Now it’s time to sketch out your design or trace a stencil so you can start carving. If you’re drawing on the pumpkin, a sharpie or other permanent marker is the best option as it won’t smear. (Tracing a stencil can be challenging, especially if it is a more advanced design. Most pumpkin-carving kits provide a “pounce wheel” to help with this. You can also try a connect-the-dots technique.)
  4. After your design is on the pumpkin, it’s time to start carving. It’s definitely worth investing in a pumpkin-carving kit because the blades will allow for more control, and they’re a lot safer than kitchen knives—especially for kids.
  5. If you're working in close quarters, be careful not to cut too far when carving out different parts of the design. The cleaner the cut, the easier it will be to take the carved parts out without tearing nearby rind.
  6. Carefully remove the unwanted pieces and clean up any rough edges.
  7. Light up your pumpkin with a battery-operated light or a candle in a holder. Don’t ever put a candle in the pumpkin by itself—this is a huge fire hazard.
  8. When your pumpkin is done, find somewhere to display it proudly for Halloween. And remember to keep an eye on it if you decide to use candles!

For more tips on how to creatively carve your gourd, check out this video.

For those families who may not want the mess or sharp objects involved with carving a pumpkin, we found some family-friendly pumpkin-decorating ideas that don't require carving. These ideas will surely take you beyond the jack o'lanterns of old.

  • Make a mummy pumpkin. Pick up a pair of those goofy googly eyes from a craft or hobby shop, wrap the pumpkin in cheese cloth for a Halloween decoration that's perfect for greeting trick or treaters.
  • Send your children out in the yard to collect some of the leaves that have begun to fall. Then use the leaves as patterns to make cut outs and paste onto your pumpkin. This decoration will last until Thanksgiving.
  • Pick up some Washi tape—it's similar to masking tape and comes in lots of colors and patterns—and let your imagine go wild. See how many one-of-a-kind pumpkin designs you can create.

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