40 Cool Pumpkin Carving Ideas to Try This Fall


Carving pumpkins is a rite of passage leading up to Halloween. It’s an activity that’s fun for kids and adults, regardless of skill level. If you’re ready to design your pumpkin, we’ve rounded up 40 pumpkin carving ideas, ten free templates, and the best tips for easy carving.

Pumpkin Carving Ideas

What is the tradition behind carving pumpkins?

Irish immigrants brought the tradition of carving pumpkins to America, although their original jack-o’-lanterns were made from big turnips and potatoes – not pumpkins.

According to, the root of this tradition is in the centuries-old Irish folktale about Stingy Jack, who tricked the devil but was not allowed into heaven. When he died, he was doomed to roam the earth with burning coal to light his way, which Jack put into a hollowed-out turnip. They called him “Jack of the Lantern,” from where the current name comes. In the United States, the larger pumpkins – native to the country – make an even better vessel for Jack’s burning coal

When should you start carving pumpkins?

You can carve your pumpkin about five days in advance. Although some sources state that you can carve a pumpkin a week or more before Halloween, the gourd starts deteriorating when cut open. To have a nice-looking jack-o-lantern on Halloween night, don’t carve your masterpiece any earlier than five days before.

How long after carving does a pumpkin rot?

Once you cut open and carve your pumpkin, the breakdown process begins. Pumpkins are like any other fruit: Once you cut them, oxygen starts to do its job, wilting and rotting the flesh. How fast that happens depends on a number of factors, but generally, pumpkins only look good for about three to five days after you carve them.

  • Warm weather speeds up the rotting process.
  • Even dry weather can affect a cut pumpkin and cause wilting.
  • Once cut, the pumpkin can attract insects, which can also hasten your squash’s demise.
  • Creatures like squirrels love a good pumpkin, so don’t be shocked if you find your masterpiece has been munched.

Can I make my pumpkin last longer?

As the saying goes – nothing lasts forever, and the break-down of your Halloween jack-o-lantern is unavoidable. According to Maniac Pumpkin Carvers, there are a number of things you can do to prolong pumpkin rot:

  • Cut a hole in the back and not the top. Leaving the stem intact can help delay rotting and wilting.
  • Wrap it up. Instead of leaving it on the front step all the time, when it’s not lit or on display, wrap it snugly with plastic wrap and put it in a cool spot – the refrigerator is great.
  • Spray the carved pumpkin. Another way to slow down the rot and mold growth is to spray your pumpkin with diluted lemon juice or vinegar.
  • Soak it. If you notice your squash starting to look a little sad, soak it in ice water with a tablespoon or two of bleach to give it a few more days of good-looking carved glory.
  • Seal the edges. Smear some petroleum jelly on all the cut surfaces to prevent them from drying out.

Can you eat a pumpkin for carving?

You shouldn’t eat a carved pumpkin. Once you’ve carved a pumpkin and let it sit on the stoop for a few days, the only future it has is the compost pile. You can eat a pumpkin meant for carving if it’s fresh, but it won’t have the same taste as smaller varieties.

  1. Pumpkins sold for carving have a thinner skin and wall that makes them easier to cut. This also means the flesh is usually watery, stringier, and more fibrous. Technically you can eat them, but because they are not bred for flavor, they can be tasteless.
  2. Pumpkin varieties for cooking tend to be smaller in size and labeled with a varietal name. Sugar pie pumpkins are common, as are cheese pumpkins.
  3. If you’re searching for a pumpkin for cooking, look for the small ones sold in the produce department of the grocery store instead of the big ones piled outdoors. Local farm stands and markets are also good sources.

How long will an uncut pumpkin last?

Kept in a cool, dry place, uncut pumpkins last a long time. According to experts at the University of Illinois, you can store them for 3 to 6 months if the temperature is around 45 to 50 degrees. For optimum storage, follow these tips:

  • Choose pumpkins with at least 3 to 4 inches of the stem still intact. Those that have no stem don’t keep well.
  • Make sure the pumpkin is not cut or bruised and has no soft spots, cracks, or blemishes.
  • Don’t store uncut pumpkins in the refrigerator – the environment inside the fridge is too moist.
  • Wash the uncut pumpkin in a very dilute bleach solution to kill mold and bad microbes.

What should I carve in my pumpkin?

After picking your prized pumpkin, deciding what to carve is your most important decision. While there is an endless array of pumpkin carving ideas, the main question is how much time and effort you want to devote to the project.

If you are carving a pumpkin with children…

If you are carving your pumpkin with children, choose simple designs that they can help with, and that won’t take too long.

If you’re a novice…

Even as a beginner, there are plenty of unique designs that are a little more complex than the basic jack-o-lantern face.  Another option is to carve pumpkin luminaries.

Can you carve small pumpkins?

Yes, you can carve small pumpkins. Small or mini-pumpkins make a fabulous display when used in a grouping. That said, carving mini pumpkins is more dangerous because of the small surface area.

According to the Mini Gardener, before you start carving small pumpkins, consider these points:

  • Carving small pumpkins is not a project for children.
  • Although the carving process is similar, cutting takes extra care.
  • Wear a protective leather glove on the hand holding the mini-pumpkin and brace it against your body or a surface.
  • You’ll need to trace and cut a hole in the bottom of the pumpkin to accommodate a tealight.
  • It’s best to use battery-operated tealights in small pumpkins.

How do you carve a pumpkin easily?

How do you carve a pumpkin easily

Carving a pumpkin is a fun process, but you should make it as easy as possible to prevent injury.

Here are the basic steps to follow so that you can carve a pumpkin easily.

  1. Take a clean, dry pumpkin and place it on your work surface.
  2. Using a pencil or pen, mark where you will cut off the top.
  3. Turn the pumpkin sideways and use a very sharp knife – and a lot of caution – to slice off the top. Set the top aside for later and turn the pumpkin upright.
  4. Take a smaller sharp knife and cut around the inside to remove the top disk of the flesh.
  5. Use a spoon to scoop out all of the seeds and stringy pulp from the inside.
  6. If you have a thick-walled pumpkin, you can use the spoon to scrape away additional flesh from the inside in the area where you will be doing the carving.
  7. Next, use a pen or pencil to mark your design on the outside.
  8. Use a sharp knife to cut out your design. You can also use a carving tool kit that includes a poker to pierce the design into the pumpkin and a variety of little saws for cutting. (The kit is a safer option for children and allows them to do more of the work.)
  9. Pop out the pieces you have carved, and wipe off the front of the pumpkin, rubbing out any stray pen or pencil marks.
  10. Use a tealight, candle, or battery-operated light to illuminate the pumpkin, put the top back on, and display!
  11. To make your masterpiece last longer, follow the tips we laid out above for prolonging the life of your carved pumpkin.

How do you carve a simple pumpkin face? 

How do you carve a simple pumpkin face

Carving a simple pumpkin face is an easy project as long as you have the right tools.

  1. Take a clean, dry pumpkin and place it on your work surface.
  2. Using a pencil or pen, mark the line all the way around the pumpkin where you will cut off the top.
  3. Carefully cut out the top of the pumpkin and set it aside for later.
  4. Use a spoon to scoop out all of the seeds and stringy pulp from the inside.
  5. With a pen or pencil, mark the basic face design on the outside of the pumpkin. The easiest design uses triangles for the eyes and nose. The mouth is a wide smile with a few teeth sticking up into the open mouth. If you have trouble with the mouth, an option is to cut it out of paper, tape it to the pumpkin, and then trace the design.
  6. Cut out the eyes, nose, and mouth using a small, sharp knife or a pumpkin carving kit.
  7. Put a candle or tealight inside and replace the top.
  8. Voila!

The Best Pumpkin Carving Templates

Jack-o-lanterns convey many moods – goofy, funny, happy, scary, or downright sinister. If you’re ready to venture beyond the basic pumpkin face of triangles, check out these 10 great pumpkin carving templates:

Looking at You!

Looking at You! - Pumpkin Carving Template
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The Looking at You template is a modification of the basic pumpkin face. Its sideways eyes give it a more lifelike appearance.

Here’s a tip for your pumpkin carving ideas: Always start with the smallest parts and then move on to the largest. Also, if you accidentally slice off an eyeball protrusion (or a tooth), don’t worry. Just use a toothpick to anchor it back in!


Goofy! - Pumpkin Carving Template
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A great non-scary option for a pumpkin face is a goofy expression like this one.

Rounded curves are more challenging to carve. If the first cuts aren’t rounded enough – and they very well might not be — you can always go back and shave off a little more to smooth out the curve.

Cheeky Jack

Cheeky Jack! - Pumpkin Carving Template
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Cheeky Jack looks like he’ll be the troublemaker at your Halloween party. The design template is easy since the features are misaligned. These attributes make it a great choice for beginning carvers or those who want a forgiving pumpkin face pattern.

Worried Jack

Worried JAck Pumpkin Carving Template
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Still looking a little goofy, the Worried Jack pumpkin carving template is easy to carve. The rounded eyes are large, and while the mouth is thin, it’s made up of straight lines and angles. Even better, it does not have to be symmetrical, so it’s a very forgiving design.

Franken Jack

Franken Jack Pumpkin Carving Template
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This pumpkin face pattern is a fun take on Frankenstein’s big angular teeth and square eyes. If you save the cubes from eye cutouts, you can attach them to the sides for even more authenticity!

One-Eyed Jack

Franken Jack Halloween Template Carving
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Reminiscent of a kids’ movie character, this pumpkin carving template is easy due to its large cutout areas. Other than the eyelashes, it’s a simple design with curves you can round out with a little shaving after the initial cuts.


Hmm…Jack - Halloween Template Download
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A little further up the scary scale is this pumpkin carving template. The angular eyes give it a bit of spookiness, but the silly mouth keeps it from being too much. This type of pumpkin face pattern is forgiving since its asymmetrical.

Watch Out

Pumpkin Carving Ideas
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A scarier variation on the Hmmm Jack pattern, this is an easy pumpkin carving template with a variation of the traditional triangular shapes.

Scary Jack

Pumpkin Carving Ideas
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True to his name, this jack-o-lantern has narrow, angular eyes and eyebrows, giving him a sinister look. The thin lines of the teeth can be challenging to carve, but the other cuts are straightforward.

Jack Nightmare

Jack Nightmare Halloween Template Download
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If you’re looking for a challenging pumpkin-carving idea, Jack Nightmare is for you. Not the most difficult, but pretty close, this pumpkin pattern is reminiscent of a famous Tim Burton movie character.

The eyes are distinctively shaped but not terribly difficult. The real challenge comes in the thin, stitched mouth.

Best Easy Pumpkin Carving Ideas for This Halloween

1. Pumpkin Ice Bucket

Pumpkin Ice Bucket Carving

Turn your pumpkin into an ice bucket with this easy idea. First, find a pumpkin big enough to accommodate a bottle of wine or champagne. Then carve out a portion on one side, scoop out the insides, and add ice. {found on everydaydishes}.

2. Carve and Dye Mini Pumpkins

Carve and Dye Mini Pumpkins

Once you’re confident with your pumpkin carving skills, try something more complex such as the cute and colorful pumpkins featured on Cfabbridesign. To make them, you need white mini pumpkins, food coloring, bowls, and a knife.

3. Make a Pumpkin Alarm Clock

Make a Pumpkin Alarm Clock

Turn your favorite pumpkin into an alarm clock with this tutorial from Built by Kids. The pumpkin clock is functional, and a great idea for anyone entering a pumpkin carving contest. You’ll need good carving skills and a quality set of tools to complete this project.

4. Slice Up a Scary Mummy Pumpkin

Slice Up a Scary Mummy Pumpkin

Womans Day provides this stacking mummy pumpkin carving idea. It requires minimal tools, making it a great project for beginner pumpkin carvers.

5. Keep It Simple With a Pattern

Keep It Simple With a Pattern

On Remodelanolacasa, you can learn how to use the Sonicrafter F30 to carve out a feather pattern on your pumpkin. If you prefer a geometric pattern over a scary face, this is a fun method to try.

6. Use Pumpkin Stencils

Use Pumpkin Stencils

Everyday Dishes provides three unique pumpkin carving stencils you can download. The stencils include an owl, a feminine skeleton, and an alien. You can trace them onto your pumpkin and then carve them out.

7. Party Pumpkin Carving Ideas

Create Party Pumpkins

Jack-o-lanterns don’t have to be scary, instead, try happy faces like these. Gather inspo from the cheerful designs featured on BHG.

8. Carve Your Pumpkin Using a Drill

Carve Your Pumpkin Using a Drill

Looking for easy pumpkin carving ideas that don’t require a lot of skill or a lot of time? Create designs with a drill. Everydaydishes shows how she made these easy patterned pumpkins.

9. Design Easy Vampire Pumpkin Candle Holders

Design Easy Vampire Pumpkin Candle Holders

Add a vampire-like touch to your pumpkins by burning a red tealight candle on top. Freutcake shares the tutorial for these easy-to-carve vampire pumpkins.

10. Engrave Your Pumpkin

Engrave Your Pumpkin

Engrave your pumpkins with a cutter, grinding stone, and glitter. Handmadeintheheartland shares the tutorial, which you can customize to your liking.

11. Draw On Your Pumpkin

Draw On Your Pumpkin

Some projects are easy, while others require more skill and creativity. If you want to go the easy route, try this project from Craftinomicon. The mini jack-o-lanterns are a perfect craft for small kids.

12. Cut Odd Shapes on Your Pumpkin

Cut Odd Shapes on Your Pumpkin

Make your pumpkin look like a mummy by carving odd shapes into it. BHG uses a greenish-gray pumpkin to make the mummy appear petrified. If you can’t find the right color pumpkin, paint one.

13. Make a Pumpkin With a Message

Make a Pumpkin With a Message

Greet your guests with a funny message delivered by your jack-o-lantern. After carving your pumpkin, print out your message on card stock and attach it to the pumpkin with a toothpick.

14. Try Themed Pumpkins

Try Themed Pumpkins

Makezine created these Bert and Ernie pumpkins. While the design is simple, these happy pumpkins make a big impact. The most important factor in creating a character-inspired pumpkin is choosing the right shape.

15. Decorate Your Pumpkin With Objects

Decorate Your Pumpkin With Objects

Give your pumpkin a funny face using things you already have. Drawing inspo from a snowman, this pumpkin features a carrot nose and an old pair of reading glasses.

16. Go For Something Simple but Elegant

16. Go For Something Simple but Elegant

Invisibly provides a tutorial for creating this simple but elegant pumpkin. She uses a linoleum cutting knife to scrap away enough pumpkin flesh to create a leaf pattern.

17. Carve a Hat For Your Pumpkin

Carve a Hat For Your Pumpkin

Ladyfaceblog used two pumpkins to create this 3-D design. She bought one pumpkin slightly bigger than the other to use for parts, such as the jagged hat and long tongue.

18. Monster Eyes Pumpkin Carving Idea

Give Your Pumpkin Monster Eyes

Martha Stewart created a set of big-eyed pumpkins with the use of candy eyeballs. Try this if you want an easy pumpkin carving idea that’s cute and customizable.

19. Create Anatomy Pumpkins

Carved Anatomy Pumpkins

Symbolism is important, especially on holidays such as Halloween. Check out Brit for ideas on giving your pumpkins an anatomy-inspired theme.

20. Pumpkin Carving Idea With Visual Effects

Pumpkin Carving With Visual Effects

Instructables provides a tutorial for creating a Tinker Bell inspired pumpkin. The design is best for intermediate to advanced carvers.

21. Drill Holes and Keep Your Pumpkin Abstract

Drill Holes and Keep Your Pumpkin Abstract

The Garden Glove uses a drill with various-sized drill bits to create fun patterns. Drills provide one of the easiest ways to make clean cuts, and the design options are endless.

22. Use Marshmallows to Give Your Pumpkin Teeth

Use Marshmallows to Give Your Pumpkin Teeth

Marshmallows are the perfect size to act as teeth in your carved pumpkin. Crafty Moods shares a tutorial for this easy pumpkin carving idea.

23. Design a Scene With Two or More Pumpkins

Design a Scene With Two or More Pumpkins

Create interesting scenes using two or more pumpkins. They can interact in funny, cute, romantic, or funky ways, like the two featured on Woman’s Day.

24. Craft Braces For Your Pumpkin

Craft Braces For Your Pumpkin

Make your pumpkin stand out with a set of braces. Behance provides a picture tutorial for carving the pumpkin and applying the metal braces.

25. Consider Special Effects For Your Pumpkin

Consider Special Effects For Your Pumpkin

Ideal Home Garden uses dry ice to make their pumpkin scarier. You could also use an essential oil diffuser for a similar effect.

26. Carve Flowers in Your Pumpkin

Carve Flowers in Your Pumpkin

How About Orange offers suggestions for the best pumpkin carving tools to create intricate designs like this. After carving this design, they illuminated it with LED tealight candles.

27. Monogram Your Pumpkin

Monogram Your Pumpkin

Monogrammed pumpkins are simple but versatile. Use them on your front porch, beside your mailbox, or camper. You can also spell out a name or word by grouping several carved pumpkins together.

28. Ensure You Have the Right Tools

Ensure You Have the Right Tools

Check out Thebluebrick for suggestions on giving your pumpkin an elegant and charming look. You’ll also find tips on perfecting your carving technique.

29. Use a Hot Knife

Use a Hot Knife

Carving with a hot knife can help you achieve clean lines, which is important in a tall skinny pumpkin design like this one. {found on inmyownstyle}.

30. Don’t Carve Your Pumpkin All The Way Through

Don't Carve Your Pumpkin All The Way Through

You don’t need to carve the pumpkin all the way through for it to illuminate. As long as you cut out most of the fleshy skin, your pumpkin will light up when you stick a candle inside. {found on witandwhistle}

31. Utilize Cookie Cutters as a Guide

Utilize Cookie Cutters as a Guide

Modern Parents Messy Kids uses cookie cutters to create easy designs on pumpkins. They start by using a rubber mallet to beat the cutter into the pumpkin and then trace around it with a knife.

32. Go For a Peek-a-Boo Pumpkin

Go For a Peek a Boo Pumpkin

When you’re short on time but still want a cute pumpkin, try this peek-a-boo style. The only carving you need to do is cut the top off of the pumpkin.

33. Paint Your Pumpkin

Paint Your Pumpkin

Don’t want the hassle or mess of having to clean out a pumpkin? Then this no-carve pumpkin project from The Spruce is the one for you.

34. Make a Mice Infested Pumpkin

Make a Mice Infested Pumpkin

This project from Martha Stewart is an easy pumpkin carving idea that makes a big statement. Use a carving knife to cut holes of different sizes in your pumpkin, then head to the store and pick up some cute plastic mice.

35. Create a Franken Pumpkin

Create a Franken Pumpkin

If you have a pumpkin carving contest coming up (but a limited amount of time to design), try this Franken pumpkin from DIY Network. This pumpkin looks unique enough to win a prize while also being an easy pumpkin carving design to conquer in a few hours’ time.

36. Batman Pumpkin Carving Idea

Batman Pumpkin

If your kids love Batman, try one of these easy pumpkin carving ideas from Bat Blog. To make them, you can print out your favorite Batman icon or image, trace it onto your pumpkin, and cut it out.

37. Pumpkin Hamburger

Pumpkin Hamburger

Step up your originality with this hamburger pumpkin from Princess Pinky Girl. Carving is easy, the most difficult aspect is finding material to use as your hamburger patty and toppings.

38. Cookie Monster Pumpkin

Cookie Monster Pumpkin

Create this Cookie Monster pumpkin to go with your Sesame Street theme. You can even use this at a party to display your freshly baked cookies. Find out how to make this easy pumpkin carving idea at Shared.

39. Trick or Treat Pumpkin Carving Idea

Trick or Treat Pumpkins

Create a self-serve candy station this Halloween with these trick-or-treat pumpkins. Unique Ideas shares a list of fun and spooky pumpkin carving ideas.

40. Carve a Pumpkin Within a Pumpkin

Carve a Pumpkin Within a Pumpkin

Add drama by placing a tiny pumpkin into the mouth of your large jack-o-lantern. Find out how you can make this project a reality on DIY Network.


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