Nothing says Halloween like a grinning (or gruesome)
jack-o’-lantern beckoning trick-or-treaters to your door.
And carving a perfect design can be as easy as-pumpkin pie.
Follow these simple tricks to create your own Halloween
Tricks of the Trade
When choosing a pumpkin, opt for ones that are symmetrical and
firm with a bright orange colour and no bruises or soft spots.
You’ll need at least one good side to carve if placing the pumpkin
outside. If using as a centerpiece, make sure all visible sides are
The shape of the pumpkin determines what sort of design you can
carve, so plan your design before buying. Smiling faces work best
on round pumpkins while tall, oval ones are ideal for creepier
Remember: Carving a pumpkin is a fun activity for kids, just
make sure an adult is close by to supervise and handle sharp
Before carving, assemble the necessary tools and a garbage bag
to discard pulp, seeds and leftover pieces. Lay newspaper on the
floor or kitchen table to keep it clean. The newspaper will also
stop the pumpkin from sliding around. Then follow these simple
1. Clean your pumpkin using a wet rag to remove dirt and dust.
Make sure it’s perfectly dry.
2. Cut a hole at the top or bottom of your pumpkin using a knife
or keyhole saw. Use a back-and-forth motion to cut through the
thick, tough skin. When cutting a lid, carve at a
45-degree angle (the knife pointing down towards the centre of
the pumpkin). This will create a ledge for the lid to rest on so it
doesn’t fall down into the pumpkin.
3. Hollow out the insides with an ice-cream scoop, spoon or jar
lid. Scoop until the wall is about Â½ to one inch thick. This will
make it easier to carve.
4. Draw out your design with washable marker or pencil. Step
back and make sure the design is evenly placed. If using a stencil,
attach it to the pumpkin with tape or straight
pins. Transfer the pattern onto the pumpkin by poking small
holes along the outline with straight pins or nails.
5. Holding the pumpkin in your lap will give you the most
stability for carving. Knives are the quickest tools but don’t
always give precise, smooth cuts. Pumpkin saws are more
accurate but take longer and are prone to breaking if too much
pressure is applied. Woodworking tools also allow for precise
6. Hold your knife (or saw) and cut with continuous up-and-down
motions. Apply gentle pressure to avoid breaking the blade or the
pumpkin. Work from the centre of the design
outwards. Remove and reinsert the knife to cut corners. Gently
push cut off pieces away from the pumpkin using your fingers.
7. If you’re having trouble cutting through the skin, make
shallow cuts along the edges of the design. Then go over the
incisions with deeper cuts until they become loose. Or
use an electric drill to break through tough skin.
8. After the pumpkin is carved, coat the edges and insides with
petroleum jelly or cooking oil and wrap it in plastic so it doesn’t
shrivel up. If it does shrivel up, soak it in water for
a few hours. Drain well before setting it out.
9. When using candles or lights, cut holes in the pumpkin to
avoid it from over-heating and becoming a fire hazard. White votive
candles in clear glass holders give off the most
light and won’t tip over. You can also use a flashlight or
outdoor-safe holiday lights. When using a string of lights, wrap
them around a glass jar to avoid the bulbs touching
each other or the cord. Cut a hole at the back of the pumpkin to
thread the plug through.
Don’t forget: Blow out candles and unplug lights before
leaving the house or going to sleep.
Carve out your own spooky Halloween look with these fun
- Use a grapefruit spoon or craft knife to peel away skin for
- Cookie cutters (moons, cats, stars) make for easy designs.
- Coat pumpkin with a thin layer of transparent glue and sprinkle
glitter powder or coloured sugar over it. Glue artificial bats or
spiders onto the pumpkin. Cover with fake cobwebs.
- Create a creepy pumpkin person by stuffing old clothes and
placing a jack-o’-lantern head on top. Rest it on a chair to greet
- No time to carve? Glue fake eyebrows and eyes to a pumpkin then
top with a witches wig and hat; or paint a face with glow in the
Pumpkin treats for the table…
Reward yourself with a little treat after all your hard work.
Instead of throwing out the pumpkin’s seeds and flesh, use them to
create these delicious dishes, perfect for snacking
on after a fun night of trick-or-treating!
Try it today: