A fun and seasonal pastime, pumpkin carving ideas are most sought-after in October – the month of Halloween. A plain pumpkin can go from basic to amazing in a matter of minutes. And by using stencils or going freehand, you can produce some killer creations.
But if your DIY Halloween decorations go as far as carving a few triangles into this beautifully colored gourd – don't be scared, as there is plenty to inspire you creatively in spooky season.
Pumpkin carving ideas to practice
From creepy classic designs to self-serve candy containers for trick-or-treaters, there's lots to experiment with and a Jack-O-Lantern or two is sure to enhance any fall decorating ideas you have around the house also.
'It's unclear when the jack o lantern was first invented, but it is believed to have originated in Ireland and Scotland,' says Jamie Jones, founder of bespoke pumpkin carving studio, Pumpkin Freak.
'One of the earliest records of a mention of the Jack-O-Lantern comes from Irish folklore, in which a man named Stingy Jack tricks the devil into climbing an apple tree and then throws him down to earth.'
'The history of this festival has been traced back as far as 1000 AD when people would use turnips, potatoes or beets to make their Jack-O-Lanterns. They would carve faces into these vegetables and place candles inside them for light. These vegetables were later replaced with pumpkins due to their growing popularity in North America.'
1. Go for a classic Jack-O-Lantern
You know what they say: if it ain't broke – don't fix it. So if you're looking for a pumpkin carving idea that's easy as well as being familiar – a single, or trio of pumpkins in an classic Jack-O-Lantern design is something that's not to be sniffed at – as @oliver.theminibernedoodle proves.
There are thousands of free designs available online, so it's simply a case of finding one you like, printing it off, cutting it out and then drawing around the paper stencil. Or, if you're a little more artistic and clued up on how to carve a pumpkin like a pro you can go freehand.
2. Swap triangle eyes for eyelashes
A more feminine alternative to cutting out triangular eyes in your Jack-O-Lantern is to carve eyelash-like shapes. In this pumpkin decorating idea by Lauren (aka @houseonhideaway) she's given this "Jackie-O-Lantern" a girly glow-up, swapping in a grin over a grimace too for a less scary pumpkin carving ideas. And of course, we can't get enough of the pink ringlets.
3. 'Brace' yourself with a toothy design
While we love all three of these pumpkin carving ideas by @morning.sophie, we're particularly fond of the foil-braced orange face who has received some orthodontic work from its owner.
Other than the train tracks, we love the detail that's gone into giving the 'teeth' of this design some texture – something you can achieve with a fork or paring knife.
4. Unleash 90's vibes with a Barbie pink pumpkin
If you were born in the nineties, or grew up role-playing with the iconic female figurine – chances are you'll go gaga over this cool creation. Create a dreamhouse for you dollies by sticking them in this pink carved pumpkin.
To nail the logo, find the infamous 'B' logo online, print it off onto some paper, cut it out and tape it to the pumpkin, using it as a stencil to guide you. Use a pencil to etch around the letter. You'll then need to carefully carve this using a small knife. Cutting a little silhouette around the initial design, like Youtuber, Marina The 90's Barbie has done to give it more definition and make it pop!
She painted thin layers of bubblegum pink spray paint onto the pumpkin, covering the squash more generously as she got towards the bottom for an ombre effect.
You'll want this to look clean and pristine for picture-perfect results.
5. Create a Disney Princess inspired pumpkin
Move over Cinderella – there's a new Disney princess in town – and comes with her own pretty purple pumpkin carving ideas. Adorned with lilac flowers and gold glitter cards, one Instagrammer took to her gourd to create a touching Tangled-inspired scene.
'I drew the lantern scene on my iPad to then be cut out on my Cricut, which saves a lot of work!' explains Lola Hancock, founder of Luby & Lola.
'Then I simply cut a circle at the front of the pumpkin, painted it lilac and used to a glue gun to add the glittery silhouettes and paper flowers. Also used battery candles, just in case!'
While the adults may want to take charge of the carving, dipping cards in glue and sprinkling gold glitter over them is a just one of the Halloween activities that younger kids and preschoolers can get involved in.
6. Create a self-service candy bowl
Pumpkins make great Halloween tool for a self-service style trick-o-treat. Whether you've a newborn in the home who is sleeping, or you're out visiting friends and family over the holiday season – you needn't miss out on all the fun.
'Create a pumpkin candy bowl this Halloween by digging out your pumpkin and carve a fun message using a rotary tool,' says Sarah Fishburne, director of trend and design, Home Depot.
'Insert a plastic container or line your jack-o’-lantern with foil and fill with assorted candies. Keep this pumpkin candy bowl on display in your home or place it on an outdoor table on your front porch for trick-or-treaters while you’re away.'
Don't feel obliged to create a decorative design on the front. If you're after easy pumpkin carving ideas, a simple removal of the pumpkin's seeds and cavity will suffice.
7. Fake it with foam
'See those two carved pumpkins? Take a guess, real or fake?' asks Gillian (aka @thewoolycanvas)
'I recently learned from DIY blogger, Stephanie Hanna that you can carve foam craft pumpkins with a hot knife. I own a wood burning set from a previous The Crafter's Box kit that includes a blade so I tried my hand at carving craft pumpkins and am in love with the results and the simple fact that I can bring them out year after year!
And, as they're a non-edible product – it's one way to stop pests like squirrels eating pumpkins.
8. Carve the top of your pumpkin
Often, we will use the top of the gourd as a lid or head of our creation – some going as far as to use the innards in, gory or gruesome ways. But another way to tackle this task, is to flip it on its head – quite literally.
So before you give your squash a lobotomy, try and see if you can cut facial features into it. It's one of those pumpkin carving ideas that is simple, yet not many people do it. If you've picked your own from pumpkin patch or farm, you can even leave the stalk intact to depict a gnarly nose.
This Jarrahdale pumpkin variety is particularly good styled with grey, blue green decor – and it's zombie-like tinge is best suited if you're on the (witch) hunt for scary ideas.
9. Have a go at intricate designs
You've probably seen those fancy, postcard-perfect fruit designs in South Asia, but this pumpkin decorating idea can be done at home with a little time, patience and a steady hand.
Instead of taking a knife to a watermelon or pineapple, Andy Branca-Masa (aka @andys_carving) has sketched out his designs on a seasonal squash variety. But if you're more of a beginner, we suggest you start out with pumpkin carving ideas that are a little simpler or even no carve pumpkin decorating ideas.
10. Drill holes
If your carving skills aren't quite up to scratch, one way to tackle your pumpkin carving ideas is with your DIY tools – namely an electric drill.
Using this piece of hardware will deliver consistent results that you can easily control. We love this swirled pattern design by Spooks & Snow on Instagram, but you can also 'drill' out a slogan or go for a simple polka dot style instead.
To make this a fool-proof, easy pumpkin carving idea, dot your design on first with a marker pen.
11. Use multiple pumpkins
If there's one pumpkin carving idea that screams "Bite me" – it's this. Using a little and large combo of pumpkins, it's a duo that's destined for success. To create a cool contrast, why not use multiple varieties. For example, your standard orange squash could be gorging on a mini ghost gourd.
How long do carved pumpkins last?
'It really depends on the pumpkin, the carving, and a bunch of other factors,' says Marc Evan, co-founder of Brooklyn, NYC-based, Maniac Pumpkin Carvers.
'Pumpkins can last a few days to three weeks or longer with proper care. They look their absolute best for the first few days after carving and can typically look great for at least a week with minimal care.'
'Some things you can do to prolong your pumpkin are keeping it wrapped tightly in plastic wrap when not on display. Keeping your pumpkin cold also helps, so refrigerate it or keep it somewhere cool whenever possible.'
'Another great tip for pumpkins that are starting to shrivel or look old is to give it an ice bath (just make sure to remove any lights or electronics first) with a capful of bleach added. This will plump the pumpkin back up as well as kill any mold growth.'
'Wrapping the pumpkin tightly with plastic wrap and keeping it cool when not on display will greatly increase the pumpkins life. You can also lightly spray your pumpkin with diluted lemon juice or vinegar to help prevent oxidation.'
How are carved pumpkins lit?
'We use custom fitted electric lighting. Our LED lights are equivalent to 40 watt bulbs (60-100 watt equivalent are available for larger pumpkins),' explains Chris Soria, co-founder at Maniac Pumpkin Carvers.
'They are energy efficient and stay cool, helping your pumpkin last longer. We recently switched to LEDs from Compact Fluorescents (CFL). They are a more consistent light as well as much safer to use and better for the environment.'
'Please save your lighting units for future pumpkins or reuse the the standard sized bulbs in your home. Our LED bulbs are rated to last for 20 years!'