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7 useful steps to a sexy Jack O’ Lantern

A couple of weeks ago I guided you through a few easy steps to make a pumpkin stencil out of a photograph. As handy as that may be, it won’t do you much good by itself. This week, I’ll finish this two-part series with a second tutorial on how to carve the pumpkin with your stencil.

There are two ways to go about creating your masterpiece and at some point you’re going to have to decide which is right for you. One option is to carve a shape out of the pumpkin. This is the traditional pumpkin route that most tend to take considering it’s less time consuming. However, you can also choose to peel off the skin of the pumpkin in such a way that the candle glows through your design. Check out the two examples below to see what I mean. This tutorial will deal with the latter as it will allow you to add more detail to your stencil.

Required material:

  • Stencil (see Stencil Tutorial)
  • Adhesive Tape
  • Push Pin
  • Pumpkin (make sure it’s sized to fit your stencil!)
  • Pumpkin Carving Saw or Serrated Knife
  • Scalpel or X-Acto Knife
  • Bread Knife
  • Spoon/Hands
  • Large Bowl
  • Newspaper

Step 1) Prepare your working area

Pumpkin carving can get messy! Grab a bundle of old newspaper and lay it out on the surface you will be working on. If you’re carving on the floor, make sure to place your knives and carving saw in a safe place so you or someone else don’t step on them.

Step 2) Carve out innards

Hold up your stencil to the pumpkin to get a rough idea of what side you want to carve your image on and to make a note of where the uppermost point of your image sits. Then, grab your carving saw or serrated knife and cut an angled hole in the top of your pumpkin, making sure not to cut through your image area.

Pull the lid off and use your spoon to scoop out the pumpkin guts into your bowl (keeners will separate their pumpkin seeds and guts to roast and make into pie later).

Step 3) Tape and poke stencil to pumpkin

Place your stencil on the pumpkin and place a strip of adhesive tape on each side of your stencil paper. Try your best to stretch out any folds that occur during this process, but don’t stress over it. As long is the stencil doesn’t move the image will turn out fine. Once attached, take a push pin or another small, pointy object and poke it through the stencil to create a dotted line on your pumpkin. If you’re using a push pin, push it as far as you can into the pumpkin, otherwise you may not be able to see the holes you’ve made when you take off the stencil.

Step 4) Outline design with scalpel

Tear off the stencil and keep it beside you for a reference. You should see the holes you’ve poked in the pumpkin but it may not look like anything quite yet. Then, grab your scalpel/X-Acto Knife and connect the dots.

Step 5) Peel off pumpkin skin

Now that you’ve outlined your image, you can start peeling off the pumpkin’s skin. In small fragments, cut an incision near the edge of your design and leverage the skin off with your blade. Do this until the white area of your stencil design is skinless on your pumpkin. Don’t worry about how rough your peel job is, we’re going to smooth this out in the next step.

Step 6) File down front and back of design

Grab your bread knife and gently grind down the skinless sections of your image. When you’re satisfied with your smooth surface, use your bread knife or spoon to grind down the pumpkin from the inside. Your goal is to make the peeled sections of your design as thin as possible without breaking through the pumpkin’s body.

Step 7) Light and enjoy!

You’re done! Place a candle or light inside of the pumpkin and test it in a dark room. If you find that your image isn’t bright enough then you may need to thin out your pumpkin design even more. Also note that if you’re using candles, you’ll need to cut a hole in the top or back of the pumpkin to allow oxygen in.

Hope this tutorial helped and happy Halloween!

As the social media and community coordinator at, Michael is the voice you hear when you phone our 1-800 number and the text you read skim three days a week on our blog. Keep up with his antics on Twitter @MrConkin.

One Response to “7 useful steps to a sexy Jack O’ Lantern”


I tried this last night with a picture of a guy in lederhosen (what I’m doing for Hallowe’en!) and it worked really well, but you definitely have to carve it THIN to make it glow 🙂


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