10 Tips for Perfect Jack-o’-Lanterns

Need a stencil for your Jack-o’-Lantern? Print one of our 27 pumpkin carving patterns.

10 Tips for Perfect Jack-o’-Lanterns©2009 Jupiterimages Corporation


  • 1.

    Never carry your pumpkin by the stem.

    It’s part of the visual allure, and if it snaps, it can accelerate the pumpkin’s rotting. Always carry the pumpkin from below.

  • 2.

    Store your uncut pumpkin in a cool, dry place.

    Once pumpkins ripen, they will deteriorate fast, and heat and light speed up the process.

  • 3.

    Wash the exterior of the pumpkin well before carving.

    Use a solution of 1 gallon water and 1 teaspoon chlorine bleach. This will help prevent mold.

  • 4.

    Draw your pattern on paper, or use a pumpkin-carving template.

    This is easier and cleaner than drawing right on the pumpkin, and makes revisions a snap.

  • 5.

    To transfer a pattern to the pumpkin,

    cut it out and adhere it to the pumpkin with masking tape. Then either use pinpricks to mark the shapes and lines on the pumpkins, or use a craft or utility knife and cut through the design to score it on the surface.

  • 6.

    Don't just think of face designs.

    Moons, stars, cats, and witches are all fun and easy to do. Using a drill to make patterned light holes is a wonderful idea as well.

  • 7.

    Seriously consider buying a pumpkin carving kit.

    Often they can be found for just a few dollars. Kits usually contain small scoops and serrated saws that aren’t commonly found in the typical toolbox. They work terrifically well when doing detailed carving work.

  • 8.

    When cutting out your shapes, always use a sawing motion.

    Go slowly and gently. A small serrated saw is best for the detail work. Never try to cut your pumpkin with a straight-edge razor, using force; you’ll damage the pumpkin, hurt the knife, and possibly cut yourself!

  • 9.

    The more pumpkins in your display, the better.

    Four or five small pumpkins in a row have much more visual impact than one large one.

  • 10.

    If scraping out a pumpkin is too much hassle for you,

    consider buying a hollow acrylic or craft pumpkin. These are becoming increasingly popular, thanks to their realism and their ease in carving. Yes, you carve those soft plastic pumpkins just like a real one; most are made to be about 1/4 inches thick, with inside colors that match a real pumpkin. And they last forever, meaning jack-o’-lanterns for next year!

Step-by-Step Pumpkin Carving Guide

12 Free Printable Pumpkin Carving Stencils

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