27 of Our Best Pumpkin Carving and Design Ideas
Carving pumpkins is an activity that belongs on every fall bucket list. While you've likely perfected the toothy grin and triangular nose, odds are you haven't transformed your pumpkin into an owl or given it 3D googly eyes. Our templates for mix-and-match features are designed to help you up your game, providing just the right amount of guidance while leaving plenty of room for creative freedom.
To start, download and print out your favorite templates, and play around with different combinations. Tape your chosen designs to the pumpkin, and start carving. Black areas on the templates indicate where you should cut all the way through, while gray ones mark where to carve off only the skin, allowing light to filter through moodily and giving your pumpkin even more depth.
But why stop at carving? Use paint, appliqués, and accessories to give your gourds an extra haunting touch. Some are easier to create than your average jack-o'-lantern. (If you can glue it, you can do it!) Others are showstoppers in their own right. But each one is an opportunity to make your home shine bright on All Hallow's Eve.
No carving knife is required to make these cheery pumpkins. First, pick a few softer-skinned, colorful types—we used pink Porcelain Doll, white Casper, and green Crown Prince, as well as standard orange. Next, punch matching shapes out of two different-shaded ones with cookie or hole cutters. (For extra help, tap the cutter with a rubber mallet.) Then, swap! Fit contrasting colored cutouts into the holes—or leave them out to let candlelight shine through. Either way puts a sweet stamp on your Halloween scene.
Shop Now: Kemper Hole Cutter 1/2" by 6 1/2", $6, dickblick.com
Colorful Decoupage Pumpkin
You can achieve one of two different looks—coated in colorful leaves, or paired with a pretty printable design. Our seasonal clip-art was created for us exclusively by artist Angie Pickman. Print out one of the templates, snip them out, and glue them down, silhouette-style, to set a not-so-spooky mood—just right for any gathering this fall. Tip: When punching leaf shapes from tissue paper, add a sheet of plain paper to the top of the stack to keep the tissue from ripping.
Whooo-ville Owl Pumpkins
Owls have long been folklore's spooky and ominous messengers. But our take on these glowing nocturnal birds is more friendly than foreboding. Grab two pale white pumpkins—Lumina, New Moon, and Casper cultivars will all work. Stack a squat one on a taller one for an adult; give the babies bigger noggins.
To start, use a knife to cut the tops off your pumpkins and hollow them out. Turn the head pumpkin upside-down. With a knife, etch a heart-shaped face and triangle beak into it, then cut out two oval eyes. Go over the face and beak lines with a rotary saw. To attach ears, stick toothpicks in triangles cut out of the sliced-off tops. With a knife, etch two long, curved lines into sides of body pumpkin for wings. Put an LED light inside. Set head on top, using toothpicks if needed to hold in place.
Eggs this gigantic don't hatch regular snakes. And their inky interiors hint that something seriously scary is slithering out. Embellish aptly named snake gourds with gigante-bean eyes and tongues made of forked twigs or curly devil's pods (find them online or at the florist). The "shells" are beach-ball-size Full Moon pumpkins with jagged holes; twist your knife as you insert it to create the cracks. Then scoop out the seeds, and tint the insides by brushing on black food coloring diluted with a little water. The flesh will soak it up, but it won't seep through to the skin—a clever little trick we call the dark arts.
Ballerinas train for decades to perform Swan Lake, but it'll take you less than an hour to stage this production. Grab a gaggle of gourds (a large gooseneck for Mom or Dad, plus autumn-wings for the babes), and spray-paint them white. Paint a black diamond onto the big gourd's stem and neck for the beak, and dot two black eyes above it. For each cygnet, just tap on two eyes and brush the stem. Reserve one youngster to spray-paint solid black. She'll be the diva who steals the show.
By day millipedes hide under rocks and leaves, but at night they skitter around, fearsomely free, feeding on plant rot. Our blown-up version is impossible to miss at any hour, with its conga line of big Blue Hubbard squashes for a body, lotus-pod antennae, and army of okra-pod legs. Blue Hubbard squashes are naturally soft, so you can easily push in okra-pod stems to give this insect its many limbs. Do the same with lotus pods for its antennae. Misnomer alert: These insects don't have a thousand limbs—more like 30 to 330. But four per pumpkin are plenty to send shivers up the spine of any human who stumbles upon this one.
Etched Woodland Animal Pumpkins
Step into our fairytale realm, where all the critters get along. The secret to these sweet (and impressive) creations is our bunny and fox templates. Slice off a small piece of the bottom to make a level base, hollow the pumpkin out, tape on a template, and press a pin into the skin along the lines. Then remove the paper and connect the dots with a linoleum cutter, scraping the surface just deeply enough for light to shine through. Insert a battery-powered candle, and watch your etchings come to life.
Shop Now: Novelty Place Flickering LED Candle, $12.95, homedepot.com; Falling in Art Craft Linoleum Block Cutters, $13.99, amazon.com.
Embroidered Appliqué Pumpkin
You don't need magic beans to cultivate this ethereal pumpkin. The delicate tendrils encircling it are actually fabric appliqués from a crafts store. As for technique, simply place the floral pieces where you want them and secure them with straight pins. We chose a smooth pumpkin with a unique pale-pink skin that contrasts softly with the embroidery colors, then gave the blushing beauty pride of place on a moss-covered pediment. But it will look just as lovely at the center of a table or spotlighted on your stoop.
Fairy House Pumpkin
Let the ghouls and goblins knock on everyone else's door while you spend the evening hanging with fairies. To invite them in, transform a pumpkin into a cozy hollow. Slice off a small piece of the bottom, scoop out the seeds, and tape on our template. Then, go over the lines with a pin. Remove the paper, and trace the pinpricks with a linoleum cutter. For the windows, apply enough pressure to cut out the panes; everywhere else, use a lighter hand. With a glue gun or pins, add shelf mushrooms for front steps. Then do a little landscaping: A couple of T-pins secure a twisty branch for a homey arbor. Set a battery-operated candle inside to illuminate fairyland's most coveted real estate.
Etched Moth Pumpkin
Like most moths, the carved beauty here is drawn to the light. And it has space to spread its wings, since we sliced off the pumpkin's bottom and hollowed it out from below (a trick that also gives it a level base). To fashion our fluttering vision, print the template, cut it out, tape it on, and transfer the pattern with an awl. Then scrape off the outer skin between dots using a gouge, and add a battery-powered candle.
Our foreboding tree "shadow" casts a pall over this foyer bench, and would look just as bewitching stacked on your porch steps. First, pile some eerie pumpkins—for a truly ghoulish vibe, go for specimens with a naturally greenish tint, including the knobby Hubbard variety. Draw the outline of a leafless tree over several of them with a grease pencil, then fill it in using a brush and matte black paint. To throw extra shade, add a faux crow to the haunting scene.
Shop Now: Listo Grease Pencil, $12.99, amazon.com.
If you want a stellar display, this one's got astronomical potential. Hollow out a pumpkin from below. Punch holes in the shapes of constellations with a drill, and connect the dots with a gouge. (If you want to be more exacting, print our template and tape on the formations you want.) We brightened the night by placing the individual bulbs of an LED strand in each hole. For a faster finish, use a single battery-powered candle to light the way.
Shop Now: BalsaCircle Fairy Garland Lights, $3.29, walmart.com.
This metallic leaf design is made using an easy-peasy foiling technique. More sleek than spooky, these pumpkins will look at home on your front porch or dining table. To begin, trace or draw a leaf on a pumpkin, and fill in shape with metal-leaf adhesive. Wait five minutes for adhesive to get tacky. Place a gilding sheet over the leaf shape, and brush with a dry brush. The sheet will stick to the adhesive and disintegrate around it so that a metallic leaf remains. Repeat all over the pumpkin, and paint the stem gold with craft paint. Let dry, then arrange on a bed of extra cutout foil leaves.
Shop Now: Speedball Mona Lisa Composition Copper Leaf, $10.29, dickblick.com; Metal-Leaf Adhesive, Speedball Mona Lisa Adhesive, $7.99 for 2 oz., amazon.com; Da Vinci Black Goat Quill Mop Brush, from $15.10, dickblick.com.
Place this slithering display in an entryway to scare the scales off of trick-or-treaters and dinner guests alike. Look for gray, green, or white varieties at pumpkin patches and farmers markets, and buy plastic snakes in bulk at dime stores. Spread out newspapers, and place pumpkins on top. Place tape around the base of stems, and coat them with gold acrylic paint. Lay plastic snakes on newspaper and spray-paint gold, turning to coat all sides. Once they're dry, spray them with fixative to set color. To display, wrap snakes around stems and arrange more underneath for a terrifying Indiana Jones effect. Add a gold bowl filled with "snake egg" candies.
Shop Now: Vinyl Snakes, $14.99 for 48, orientaltrading.com; Rust-Oleum Metallic Gold Spray Paint, $6.98 for 11 oz., homedepot.com.
In this "cheesy" project, a variety of drill bits create holes of different sizes. The result is a glowing, move-in-ready home for a family of skittering mice. Slice off the bottom of a pumpkin and scoop out seeds. Using a set of spade bits, drill holes of different sizes all over the pumpkin. Place plastic mice on newspaper and paint gold, turning to coat all sides; let dry. Pin critters into place on the pumpkin, both on its surface and inside larger holes, as shown. Place a flickering LED light on your table or mantle, and put pumpkin on top.
The hardware store provides plenty of inspiration for these pumpkins. Thoughtfully placed nails, brads, wire, spikes, and safety pins become glinting mohawks and piercings. Begin by covering the pumpkins with black spray paint, if desired (protect the stems with painters' tape). Let dry, then use craft paint to make faces. With a pencil, draw your design, then gently tap nails, studs, brads, and pins into the flesh with a hammer. Adhere small piercings, such as a nose ring, with superglue.
At the farmers market, look for produce that might work as facial features, hair, and props. Plan out the faces you want to create. Keep in mind that as items dry and wither, the results will change—and perhaps become even more interesting. Use hot glue to adhere small hard details like white beans, and to attach a tangle of Spanish-moss hair. Secure heavier vegetables with wooden skewers and lighter vegetables with toothpicks. T-pins prevent leaves from blowing away; straight pins work for thin, lightweight items.
Serpent and Toad Pumpkins
A witch's latest shipment of animals seems to have escaped the crates, and now they're inhabiting these ghostly green pumpkins. Carving the huge squashes is a cinch, thanks to serpent and toad templates. Scrape out the flesh around the patterns, set the pumpkins on the crates, and then keep your distance.
Maritime legend has it that the Flying Dutchman is a fearsome ghost ship, which never returns to safe harbor and is doomed to sail the seven seas forever. When it floats in from the fog, its appearance to mere mortals is believed to signal imminent disaster. In our carved iteration, this brigantine-style boat is brimming with a pirate's treasure haul: pearly white gum balls and candy gold doubloons.
No-Carve Lacy Pumpkins
Create an instant and intricate design with nothing more than a pair of lacy stockings and a can of spray paint. Start by cutting a section from stockings—one pair can be used for many pumpkins—and pull tightly around pumpkin. Use the hips section for big pumpkins, and legs for smaller ones. Cinch and knot the excess at the bottom. Wrap the excess at the top around the stem, and tie a knot. Next, wrap the stem's base with masking tape to shield it from paint. In a well-ventilated area, spray-paint the top half of the pumpkin with one or two coats and let dry. Turn the pumpkin over, and repeat on the bottom. Once dry, remove the stockings.
Haunted House Pumpkins
Hilltop haunted houses have their windows ablaze with the spookiness in these carvings. Choose tall, oblong pumpkins to showcase the vertical designs. Scrape the ring in an up-and-down motion with a linoleum cutter to further accentuate the houses' narrow height. To display, place the pumpkins on plates and then surround them with leaves and fine straw to simulate the eerie look of a neglected front lawn. To be on the safe side, use electric twinkle lights rather than a candle to illuminate any pumpkin you set off with decorations.
Etched Watercolor Pumpkins
Take a leaf out of our book, and dress up your pumpkins with elegant, etched designs. They may look fancy, but they're actually basic watercolors brushed over linocut carvings. We love the contrast of the paints on white, but the patterns will look striking on any pumpkin you happen to pick. First, choose a leaf template. Reduce or enlarge it as needed, then print. Attach to the pumpkin with clear tape. With an awl, pierce holes along the perimeter of each leaf shape. Remove the template, and use a narrow-bladed linoleum cutter to remove skin along marked holes. Then use a wide-bladed cutter to pare away skin within your design. For even application of color, paint the flesh soon after carving.
Fierce Feline Pumpkin
Trick-or-treaters will love this fierce feline, grabbing at "yarn" made from candy-filled plastic balls wrapped with twine. If you're resting the pumpkin on its side, cut the opening at the back instead of at the stem. Once you've lit the pumpkin, place the back piece on and secure it with T-pins.
Shop Now: Ashland Natural Jute Twine, $12.99, michaels.com; Yokinds Steel T-Pins, $6.99, amazon.com.
Transform your gourd or pumpkin into a modern-day mummy with this easy project. Choose a tall, oblong specimen so you'll have more room to wrap. For the pumpkin's eyes, cut two 1/2-inch holes. Place map tacks inside holes. To complete the eyes, draw dots on map tacks with a marker. Secure one end of a white streamer to the stem end of the pumpkin with double-sided tape; wrap the streamer around the pumpkin, leaving a gap for eyes to show through. Once the bottom of the pumpkin is wrapped, secure the other end of the streamer to the pumpkin with double-sided tape.
Shop Now: Celebrate It Crepe Streamer, $2.99, michaels.com; Scotch Removable Double Sided Tape, $3.72, walmart.com.
The contrast of white pumpkins with bronze sequined appliqués forms a stunning display that will quickly elevate your Halloween décor in a chic way. You don't have to stop at the color scheme we've suggested—black pumpkins with silver rhinestone appliqués looks spooky and stylish. To complete the display, cover the stems with liquid gilding to match their embellishments.
Floral Monogram Pumpkin
If you're less about haunting and more about happy, we suggest decorating your pumpkin with some flowers—fresh or faux. Here, we adorned an oblong white pumpkin with brightly colored florals and lush greenery.
Haunted Manor Pumpkins
Why settle for one pumpkin when you can have a whole house of them? This multistory manor is a masterpiece made of rickety shutters, cheesecloth ghosts, and more ghoulish details. It may seem like an undertaking to make, but consider it like the gingerbread house of Halloween. Plus, with our complete how-to, the DIY display becomes a cinch.