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6 Pumpkin-Carving Tips for Halloween

Family carving pumpkins using markers and knives.

Don’t think you have the skills to pull off an epic jack-o'-lantern that’ll have the whole neighborhood talking this October? Think again! We're here to help. With our six pumpkin carving tips, you’ll have every front-door visitor, ghoul, and goblin oohing, ahhing, and shrieking with delight this spooky season. Read on and get ready to be inspired! 

1.    Scavenge Your Kitchen for Spooktacular Tools

Store-bought pumpkin-carving kits offer the basics, but believe it or not, there are plenty of other tools you might already have around your house or in your kitchen. Wide metal spoons, for example, are ideal for scooping out pumpkin pulp and seeds. A paring knife works well for intricate cutouts, and an ice pick helps poke holes to guide your design. Other tools like lemon zesters, potato peelers, and cookie cutters can be used to achieve scary-good shapes and features when you're carving a pumpkin, too. 

2.    Cut the Back, Not the Top

It may seem like a common sense pumpkin carving idea to cut the top of a pumpkin in a circle around the stem to scoop out the seeds and innards. However, if you want your jack-o'-lantern to last as long as possible, you're better off cutting a hole through the back or bottom of the pumpkin. It isn’t just a bunch of hocus pocus—doing this will keep the stem intact, which is responsible for providing the pumpkin with the nutrients and moisture it needs to retain its structural integrity. Typically, carved pumpkins only last three to five days, but this hack will keep the spirit going for a few more days. Who doesn't want that? 

3.    Transfer Paper Does the Trick

You can find many pumpkin carving tips and templates on social media and the Internet, but transferring those templates to your pumpkin can be a frightful feat. One trick for this is to use sewing paper to transfer the design from your template directly onto your pumpkin. You can find this paper in any arts-and-crafts store, and it's very easy to use. Simply tape the transfer paper between your template and your pumpkin, then trace over the design with a pencil or ballpoint pen. From there, you'll have a perfect tracing of your pumpkin design that’ll make the carving job much more manageable--and you'll look like a pro. 

Make your pumpkin carving even better with a spooky movie! Check out our top five Halloween movies for escaping into the otherworldly.

4.    Raid Your Craft Closet

Think outside the box and boo-tify and jazz up your pumpkin with craft supplies you already own and have on hand. Think paint, glitter, stickers, pom poms, beads, pipe cleaners, ribbon, and cardboard, to name a few. Acrylic and tempera paints tend to be the longest-lasting on pumpkins, but any paint will do. Bonus: You can get the kids involved in the search for kooky accessories—and the entire decoration process of your pumpkin carving.

family carving multiple pumpkins

5.    The Gnarlier, the Better

Whether it's an unsightly dent or bruise in your pumpkin or a mistake in your carving, remember that imperfections are at the heart of Halloween. Don’t toss your pumpkin if it's a little lumpy or you accidentally carved an extra eye instead of a nose—just change your design to accommodate the oops. Challenge your family to see who can pick out the most unique pumpkin at the patch or in the store, and have a skele-ton of fun decorating a pumpkin together. 

Are you trick or treating this Halloween season? Read our top eight dos and don'ts for handing out the sweet stuff to every little ghost and goblin

6.    Just Say "No" to Fire

The heat from tealights and candles can cause the inside of a jack-o'-lantern to break down and rot quickly. Instead, use a flameless votive inside your pumpkin that won’t give off heat. Many of these also come with automatic timers, so you won't have to manually turn on the lights each night. To get extra thrills and chills from your pumpkin lighting, consider using multi-colored holiday lights or twinkling fairy lights.

Go Beyond Pumpkin-Carving This Autumn 

From skipping the candles and raiding your craft closet to choosing imperfect pumpkins and using transfer paper, these pumpkin carving tips are unbelievably helpful and will ensure your Halloween is one for the books. However, there are plenty of other opportunities for outings, new adventures, and exciting discoveries this fall. If you’re looking for activities to do with the whole family, check out “Your Ultimate Fall Bucket List” for a fresh spin on traditional, season-right excursions. Happy fall, y'all!