How to Carve a Pumpkin

By: Tracy V. Wilson  | 
man's arm carving pumpkin
Carving a pumpkin doesn't have to be hard. ©iStock/Thinkstock

Carving a pumpkin is really pretty easy. With a few short, straight cuts with a knife, you can make triangular eyes, ­a nose and a toothy mouth. The result is a face almost anyone can recognize, even if you just draw it on a piece of paper. It's the face of a Jack O Lantern.

But carving a really memorable jack-o'-lantern can take a little more planning. Sometimes, you can do it with the same knives you'd use to carve a basic face. Other designs, though, require extra tools and extra time. This guide will give you a good idea of how to carve jack-o'-lanterns in a variety of sizes and styles using a range of techniques.


Whether you want to create snaggletooth grins or elaborate scenes, the first step in carving a good jack-o'-lantern is selecting a good pumpkin. The shape of the pumpkin should match the shape of the design you have in mind. Or, you can pick your pumpkin first and decide on a design that will suit it later. You can also try carving a white pumpkin, a butternut squash or a gourd in place of a traditional orange pumpkin.

Your pumpkin should sit on a flat surface without rolling over. Its skin should be free from cuts or abrasions, and its stem should be about 2 inches (5 centimeters) long. Before purchasing a pumpkin, tug the stem firmly and press the area around it with your finger. If the pumpkin is soft or if the stem pulls free, it has started to rot, and you should choose another one. Once you get your pumpkin home, use a damp cloth to remove any dirt from the surface, and pat the pumpkin dry.