Creative Pumpkin Carving Ideas

Show off your artistic side with special jack-o-lantern and pumpkin carving ideas this Halloween. A good pumpkin design isn't just about two triangle eyes and a half-moon mouth. You can even carve letters in the pumpkin that spell out a message ("COME IN" or "GO AWAY"). Here's how to get started:

Get Inspired
Templates are available for free at spookmaster.com, and you can get even more if you become a subscriber. Just print out the design, trace it onto the face of the pumpkin and then carefully carve it out. To flesh out the design, add items to your pumpkin. For example, you can carve a big mouth on your pumpkin and put something in there, like a doll, a smaller pumpkin or a hamburger if you want, and make it look like the pumpkin is having a chomp. You can carve the Bat Sign (signal calling Batman) into your pumpkin, add features such as a baseball in the eye or even paint the pumpkin another color. Check out extremepumpkins.com to find out what else you can do with your pumpkin.

Fun Carving Techniques
You can carve the design in negative, meaning that the parts you leave are the main focus of the design and the part you carve out is the background. This technique is good for big pictures, in which you are carving out the outline and the details of the picture, and the pumpkin shell you leave is the main part of the design. It's highlighted by the light shining through the holes. You can also carve off the skin and leave the rind showing for features such as teeth.

Prepping Your Pumpkin
Before you get crazy with pumpkin carving, you still need to find the right pumpkin and get it ready. Choose a pumpkin that is straight on the bottom, firm all over and just the right size and shape for the design you have in mind. Cut around the stem in a complete circle. Remove the stem. Remove the pulp and pumpkin seeds with a large spoon. If you strain out the seeds, give them a quick rinse, spray them with some olive oil and sprinkle with salt and seasonings in a single layer on a cookie sheet. You can toast them in a low oven while you do your carving and have a great snack afterward.

Basics for carving the pumpkin include drawing your design on the pumpkin with a dry erase marker first. Have sharp knives of different sizes for complicated designs. Once you have finished carving, place one or more tea candles or a thick candle inside, and light it. Put the lid back on and watch the candle light illuminate the design you made.

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