Pumpkin Carving Tips

Ah YES! – Me On a Pumpkin© for Mac Tutorial

Pumpkin Carving Tips from Carving Technologies

Watch PC version intro video here!

safety | preserve pumpkin | tools & supplies | illumination | stencil | clean out pumpkin | hints

SAFETY RULES!There are many different ways pumpkin carving techniques but before we show you our way, we want to stress SAFETY.

Carving pumpkins and Jack O’Lanterns has some inherent dangers. You could injure yourself very seriously with any sharp tool used to carve, you will illuminate with a flame or electricity.



  • Never carry the pumpkin by the stem. If it breaks off you are stuck with a goofy looking injured pumpkin and no handy way to lift the lid.
  • To prolong the carved pumpkin store it in a refrigerator when it is not on display.
  • Before you store the pumpkin in the refrigerator, wet down the area around any cutouts and cover them with some type of plastic wrap to seal in moisture. Do the same for the lid. A tiny bit of bleach added to water will slow decay.



  • Choose your digital photograph.
  • Choose a ripe pumpkin with a good stem,with no nicks or bruises.
  • Work in an area that can be cleaned up easily. The kitchen counter is always good.
  • Medium sized sharp knife to cut the lid.
  • Large serving spoon for hollowing the pumpkin.
  • Smaller cutting tools, or saws, for doing the intricate carving.
  • There are several good pumpkin carving tool kits available commercially. The right tools will dramatically reduce the risk of injury. Most are reasonably priced and work well, look for them at various retail outlets. Store all tools away from children’s reach.
  • Illumination – candle or battery.

A point we want to make here is that you should always carve with competent adult supervision.


With a felt-tipped pen draw cutting line for a lid on the top of the pumpkin. Some people like to put a notch at the back edge of the lid to assist in placing the lid back on snugly each time. Rotate the pumpkin to choose the best side for the stencil and then make sure that the notch is to the back of the “good” side.

  • Cut on the lid line at a 45 degree angle toward the stem with a reasonably sharp knife. This technique will make the skin side of the lid larger than the flesh side of the lid and will keep the lid from falling through.
  • Once the hole is cut, pry the lid open and cut off the pulp attached to the flesh side and let if fall back into the pumpkin. REMEMBER- keep your hands clear of the sharp blade!
  • Use a large serving spoon to scrape the membrane and seeds from the sides of the pumpkin and shape the wall to a comfortable carving thickness (we suggest about 1″ wall that allows for strength but isn’t so thick that it is difficult to carve). A smooth inside will also prevent weird shadows inside that might interfere with illumination display.
  • When you have all of the walls and the sides scraped, turn the pumpkin over a receptacle and dump the inside out all at once. Then you can decide whether to retrieve the seeds for drying, composting the remains, or discarding. (Webmaster contribution – garbage disposals may not be able to handle pumpkin seeds.) You are going to get messy here but if you do it right, it will only be once and it won’t take long (especially if you don’t clog your disposal).

Decide if you will use a candle or battery application to illuminate your pumpkin:

  • To use a candle:
    • Make the inside bottom of the pumpkin flat and then use your spoon to “drill”; a depression that will hold the candle.
    • To determine the best place to “vent” the lid, place the candle in the hole, light it and put the lid on only long enough to determine where the black spot is on the lid from the burning candle. Drill out a hole clear through the lid at the blackened spot in order to vent the candle’s exhaust.
  • To use an electric light bulb:
    • To disguise the electrical cord for display cut out a keyhole shape in the back of the pumpkin at the bottom and save the plug. The big part of the hole it used to insert the light. The little groove at the bottom is for the light cord. When you are ready to display the pumpkin place the plug (less the little notch) back in the pumpkin. The light cord will fill up the little hole and all of the light will come out the front for your display.
    • We suggest using a standard clear Christmas tree bulb of 5 watts or less. Since there is no candle to replace, there is no need for a vent hole in the top of the pumpkin, and the lower heat helps the pumpkin last longer. Remember this, you are now using ELECTRICITY to light your pumpkin – DON’T LET IT SIT OUT IN THE RAIN!


  • After you print out stencil and directions, trim away excess paper from the stencil edge, leaving about 2 inch border around the outside of the pattern.
  • Attach the stencil to the pumpkin’s “good” side with masking tape.
  • Crease the paper into the grooves and curves of the pumpkin as you tape.
  • Transfer the stencil to the pumpkin using a pointed tool to lightly score the pattern outlines by poking all of the black dots on the stencil through the pumpkin wall – this is one of the reasons to scrape the pumpkin wall to 1″.
  • Remove the stencil and keep it handy as reference; keep the photo, too.


  • Start near the center and do small areas first. – Using the dots (or lines you have drawn with a permanent maker between dots) as a guide, and with the stencil and photo as reference, locate an area near the center of the stencil to be removed first. By starting in the middle and doing the smaller sections FIRST there is more stability in the cutting surface and you will be less likely to rest your hand on a section that might not support the pressure of cutting.
  • Cutting at a 90º angle from the surface of the pumpkin will provide the best stability in “thin” pattern areas where there will not be much pumpkin flesh for support in the final product.
  • Dramatic results can be achieved with the advanced carving technique of “shaving”. By varying cutting angles from 90º to the surface of the pumpkin, in appropriate parts of the image you can have the appearance of shadows once the interior is lit and the pumpkin is placed in the dark. These advanced techniques aren’t necessary to get a good basic carved pumpkin.