Everything you need to know about carving pumpkins.

Not Your Average Jack-O-Lanterns
Download Pumpkin Carving DesignsCreating designs on your pumpkins, like the ones shown here, is easier than you think. Kits are available everywhere–from dollar stores to high-end kitchen shops–but you really don't need a kit. Assemble your own with basic kitchen tools such as a sharp knife, a smaller paring knife, and wide, sturdy spoons to clean out the seeds and stringy pulp. A small handsaw is also helpful.
| Credit: Jennifer Davick / styling Lisa Powell Bailey, Rose Nguyen / food styling Vanessa McNeil Rocchio

How to Trace a Template for Fantastic Pumpkins

  • After cleaning your selected pumpkin, wipe the outer surface clean.
  • Decide if you want to remove a round piece from the top with the stem as a handle, or remove the bottom of the pumpkin.
  • For the "top" method, cut off the lid of the pumpkin at an angle. This prevents the top from falling in.
  • Using the "bottom" method allows you to place the carved pumpkin over a candle or lights. Without breaking the stem, carefully turn the pumpkin upside down. Cutting about 1 inch in from outside edge, cut and discard bottom from pumpkin.
  • If the flesh inside is very thick, gently cut or scrape away any excess to about a 1-inch thickness.
  • Templates use negative space to create designs. You will cut away the dark areas.
  • Tape desired template to the "front" of your upright pumpkin. If you have trouble making it fit, cut small slits in edges of template paper to ease it around the curved surface.
  • Using a thumbtack, straight pin, or wooden pick, poke holes about every 1/8; to ¼ inch along design lines on the edge you are supposed to cut.
  • Carefully remove template. Save the pattern to use as a guide.
  • Cut away the negative space along pierced lines.
  • If a piece breaks or is cut in error, use wooden picks to secure it back into the design.
  • To preserve a cut pumpkin, place "front" side down in a tub of cold water. Let pumpkin float and slowly fill with water. Soak up to 8 hours or overnight. You may add a tiny bit of liquid bleach to water to prevent mold. Immediately dry pumpkin when removed from water.
  • Rub a coating of petroleum jelly on cut edges to hold in the moisture from soaking.