Keep Halloween stress free with this ultimate guide to picking, prepping and carving your pumpkin & print your favorite pumpkin carving stencils.
50 of the best pumpkin carving stencils to easily make awesome pumpkins this Halloween. Learn how to pick, prep, and carve your pumpkin too!
Halloween is such a fun time of year and brings so many exciting and cool activities. One of the most popular Halloween traditions is creating a Jack O’Lantern face for the porch and it’s something I love to do.
In this post, we have covered everything you need to know about creating a Jack O’Lantern including picking the best pumpkin, finding free stencils, prepping your pumpkin and stencils, carving and aftercare! It really is a great post to read if you want to streamline pumpkin time this Halloween.
Along with being an incredible how-to guide, we have thrown in over 50 spooky and fun Halloween pumpkin carving templates for beginner and intermediate carvers. There is a great selection of free printable pumpkin stencils that are all unique and look amazing.
So if you want to learn the ins and outs of creating the best Jack O’Lantern this year (without stressing out) and to see easy pumpkin face ideas then read on!
What this article covers
- Tools we recommend
- What are the easiest pumpkins to carve?
- Is it better to cut the top or bottom of a pumpkin?
- How to hollow out a pumpkin
- How do you make a pumpkin face?
- Do you cut the black or white of the pumpkin stencil?
- How do you stencil on a pumpkin?
- How do you carve a pumpkin?
- What to do after carving a pumpkin
- Tip roundup
- Free printable pumpkin stencils
Tools we recommend
Here you will find a quick list of the tools we recommend throughout the post. Each of the items listed is beneficial to creating a Jack O’Lantern but they are optional.
Pumpkin carving kit
This pumpkin carving kit is professional and has an amazing selection of tools that will make gutting and carving your pumpkin so much easier. The pumpkin carving kit includes all the tools you need for every stage of carving your pumpkin, so there is no need to worry about sourcing separate things elsewhere.
There are tools for the main bulk of hollowing and carving and finer tools for creating 3D patterns, intricate facial details, and much more. I personally recommend this kit. It has incredible reviews and you can see for yourself the amazing results other people have had with this carving kit.
Washi tape / Masking tape
If you prefer to draw your design onto your pumpkin rather than etching it or drilling it then a simple black sharpie will work wonders.
Toothpicks are a great way for fixing mistakes. If you accidentally cut off a section of the pumpkin then don’t fret, you can always stick it back on by using a toothpick to secure the section to the pumpkin again.
Petroleum jelly is a must-have for a carved pumpkin. Use the jelly to line the carved parts of your pumpkin and keep it fresher for longer.
What are the easiest pumpkins to carve?
If you’re new to carving or simply don’t want the stress of carving a huge pumpkin then it’s best to find a pumpkin that is easy to carve. We recommend using an Autumn Gold Pumpkin as these are one of the easier pumpkin varieties to carve and are still medium-weight and a sizable pumpkin. If you want a larger pumpkin (but not necessarily easiest to carve) then Gold Rush pumpkins are worth looking at.
As you are choosing a pumpkin to carve, inspect your pumpkin for rotting parts or discolored sections. It’s best to find a pumpkin without any flaws if you can!
Here are some tips for finding a healthy pumpkin:
- The greener the stem, the fresher the pumpkin
- If a pumpkin has a squishy bum then it isn’t fresh
- Look for a sign that says ‘carving pumpkins’ rather than ‘pie pumpkins’.
Is it better to cut the top or bottom of the pumpkin?
There is no right or wrong way of cutting a pumpkin but cutting the bottom is better for preserving your pumpkin after carving. I find that if I am carving a pumpkin for decoration then it is best to cut the bottom of the pumpkin with a pumpkin saw, but if you want to use the pumpkin as a bucket for holding candy then cut the top so you can have the ‘lid’.
Cutting the bottom of the pumpkin has a few benefits:
It holds the moisture better
The main thing that shrivels up your pumpkin is a lack of moisture. When you cut the pumpkin from the top and remove the stem, you actually cause the decaying process to happen and the rot starts from the top and creeps down, destroying your pumpkin.
If you cut from the bottom of the pumpkin and leave the stem intact, the decaying process is much slower and your pumpkin will last longer. A cut pumpkin generally lasts for three to five days unless you live in a colder climate. There are also other tips you can follow to preserve your pumpkin after cutting – scroll down!
Putting a tea light in is much easier
Raise your (burned) hand if you have a nightmare putting the candle in the pumpkin! Every year, without fail, I would burn my hand trying to put the candle or tea light in the pumpkin. I would reach down and the flames would reach up and burn me. To avoid this, I would try to drop the lit tea light into the pumpkin hoping the flame wouldn’t go out. What a nightmare!
To counter this unnecessary stress, you can simply cut the bottom of the pumpkin, place the tea light or candle where you want it to sit, and place the pumpkin over the top. No burned hands, no messing around! Or if you do prefer to cut from the top, opt for a battery-powered tea light instead.
You can level your pumpkin if it doesn’t sit straight
Being able to level your pumpkin is a game-changer. We are never guaranteed a perfect pumpkin, especially if we leave it to the last minute when it comes to picking your pumpkin.
Having the ability to level your pumpkin opens up options when it comes to pumpkin picking. You don’t have to fight over the ‘straightest’ pumpkin, you can buy the cheaper ‘wonky’ pumpkins and if you’ve left it too late to pick your pumpkin then it’s not the end of the world.
More carving space
Are you someone who gets ahead of yourself when it comes to carving a pumpkin? You bring your pumpkin home, print off your favorite pumpkin template, and fit it to your pumpkin only to find that when you cut the lid off your pumpkin, you’ve either cut through your design space or you have to squish your design down.
Cutting the lid off a pumpkin can drastically reduce the space you have left to carve. However, cutting the bottom allows you to create a hole to clean out the pumpkin, keeping it invisible to the eye and offers up extra space.
Get creative with your lighting this year. Although candlelight is very natural and atmospheric, you should consider changing things up. When it comes to using wired lighting there are so many choices and you could still recreate the soft glow of a candle without worrying about it running out!
How to hollow out a pumpkin
So you’ve found your pumpkin and decided if you’re going to top or tail it. Now, it’s time to gut it. That sounds gruesome but it is Halloween!
For many, hollowing out a pumpkin is a tragic affair. It tires you out, it’s never as easy as it should be and it gets everywhere! This year, let me help you with some top tips for quickly and easily scraping out your pumpkin.
Protect your surfaces
Pumpkin guts get everywhere, so a great idea is to put down some newspaper, kitchen foil, or baking parchment and use it as the surface for carving on. Once you have spilled your pumpkin’s guts, you can easily gather the surface and bin it, compost it or use it in a recipe.
Use a notch
If you’re cutting the hole to your pumpkin from the top, then you can easily pull the lid off using the stem but how do you pull the bottom off?
If you are accessing the bottom then the easiest thing to do is cut a hole slightly larger than your fist but small enough so you won’t see it once the pumpkin is sitting up. Once you’ve cut your circle, cut a small triangle notch on the perimeter of the circle. This will allow you to use your fingers or a tool to slide into the notch and gently wiggle the bottom of the pumpkin away.
Spill the guts
Rather than simply scooping out the pumpkin guts one at a time, use a large metal spoon to swirl around the inside of the pumpkin, loosening it. Scrape at the inside of the pumpkin and pull it out so the majority of the inside comes out in one go.
After you’ve cleaned the inside, use a flat scraping tool to clear the pumpkin walls of any loose and leftover remains. This pumpkin carving kit is perfect for all stages of cleaning and carving your pumpkin, making the experience much more enjoyable.
Prep your pumpkin
I like to thin the side of the pumpkin that I plan to carve on. This makes it so much easier for carving out any finer details when the time comes.
Once you’re happy with the inside of your pumpkin, clean it out with a mixture of bleach and water to help preserve your pumpkin and delay any rotting.
I’d also give the outside of the pumpkin a scrub with a vegetable brush and a clean with a damp cloth too. Pat your pumpkin dry or leave it to air-dry overnight.
How do you make a pumpkin face?
If you’re here because you’re looking for pumpkin face ideas then we have a great collection of free printable pumpkin carving stencils for you to choose from including 30 pumpkin face stencils! So if you want to kick off Halloween with a spooky face for your Jack O’Lantern then you’re in the right place.
All of our spooky pumpkin faces are easy to create and look amazing. Simply print and save the one you like and follow our tips for creating a Jack O’Lantern everyone will love!
Do you cut the black or white of the pumpkin stencil?
We have a great collection of free printable pumpkin carving stencils for you to choose from including pumpkin faces, ghosts, cats, bats and so much more. There are even a few pretty carving ideas for those who don’t want spooky pumpkins this year.
You will notice that all of our printable pumpkin carving templates are in black and white and when you print a stencil, you should cut the black part out.
A lot of our designs feature circles, which work as a bridge to some of our designs and allows them to become almost three-dimensional.
Don’t worry about cutting these designs perfectly, it’s all about having fun and if you make a mistake, no one will notice (we won’t tell them!) and you can always use toothpicks to fix errors later on.
How do you stencil on a pumpkin?
When it comes to stenciling your pumpkin there are a few things you can do to help you have better results when it comes to applying your stencil.
Clean that vegetable!
For the best start when carving your pumpkin, it’s a good idea to wash it or wipe it down with a damp cloth. Doing this will get rid of dirt and muck and will give you a clean, smooth surface to work with.
Once you’ve cleaned your pumpkin, you can leave it to air dry or gently pat it dry with a paper towel.
Prepare your pumpkin stencil
If you’re using a printable stencil such as ours then you will want to make sure you print it right. Save the stencil to your computer then print it out on regular copy paper or thin card stock. It’s important to use paper that is flexible enough to bend around your pumpkin and stay as close to the surface of the pumpkin as possible.
Next, check your design against your pumpkin, make sure it looks right and is exactly what you want going forward. This will stop any wasted time if you’ve cut your stencil and then decide it’s not for you.
Now you’ve got your stencil, it’s time to cut it. If you’re using one of our printable pumpkin stencils then the black sections are the parts you cut out. Once you’ve fully cut your stencil it’s time to add some scores around the paper to help give it extra flexibility when placing the design around the pumpkin.
Add some little cuts around the edges of the paper, roughly about 1-2 inches long and with a 2-inch gap between each cut. If you’ve ever cut tassels out of paper before when you were little, well this is a little like that.
Attach your pumpkin stencil
If you’re happy with your design and you’ve prepped your stencil then it’s now time to attach the stencil.
You’re going to want something that will attach your stencil to your pumpkin but won’t damage your pumpkin when you remove it. I recommend masking tape or washi tape for this. I find that washi tape is a little less sticky than masking tape and will remove easier with zero damage to the pumpkin. However, masking tape might do a better job at holding the stencil in place.
Add the tape to the sides of the stencil and add enough to hold the stencil in place without it moving when you work.
How do you carve a pumpkin?
Once you’ve attached your stencil to the pumpkin and secured it, it’s time to get to work. There are three ways you can use our free printable pumpkin stencils.
You can simply use a marker pen like a Sharpie to trace around the stencil and then carve out the parts you have drawn or you can lightly score around the stencil with an awl (included in the kit) to transfer the design that way. Another popular way is to ‘drill’ the pumpkin outline of the stencil, creating a dot to dot. You can find a drill tool in this carving pack along with other tools you will need.
Once your design has been transferred, gently remove the stencil but keep it for reference. Even better, come back to this page so you can see the stencil in full before it’s been dissected. It might be easier to use as a reference.
I’d recommend starting from the center of the pumpkin and working your way out. If you have any large sections to cut then divide them into smaller sections when carving if it makes it easier.
Use your tools to carve your pumpkin, using the small saws and other blades to cut your shapes. If you accidentally cut any parts off, you can use a toothpick to re-attach the part back to the pumpkin.
What to do after carving a pumpkin?
Now you’ve carved your pumpkin, you have started the countdown for the lifespan of your vegetable. It’s time to do what we can to slow down the decaying process.
If you’ve carved your pumpkin in advance, use this time to give your pumpkin a well-deserved bath. Add a gallon of cold water to your bath with 2 teaspoons of bleach and soak your pumpkin overnight. The water will rehydrate your pumpkin and the bleach will slow the decaying process. The bleach will also keep wild animals at bay if they fancy a nibble of your Jack O’Lantern.
Completely dry your pumpkin and move on to the next step!
Use petroleum jelly on the cut edges
Apply petroleum jelly to all of the carved and exposed areas of your pumpkin. This will stop your pumpkin from shriveling up.
Give your pumpkin a spritz of water every day to keep it freshened up. If you find your pumpkin needs a little extra help then give it an overnight bath again.
Keep it cool
When your pumpkin isn’t in use, try to keep it in the fridge. This might be hard because pumpkins aren’t exactly small but it will help preserve your pumpkin. You can also try to keep your pumpkin out of direct sunlight and rain.
Pumpkin Tip roundup
Let’s have a quick roundup of all the top tips and advice we have covered throughout the post.
- Choose an Autumn Gold pumpkin for easy carving
- Avoid pumpkins with squishy bums
- Cutting the bottom of a pumpkin gives you more room to carve and can level a pumpkin
- Protect your surfaces with parchment, newspaper or foil
- Clean the inside of your pumpkin with a water and bleach mix
- Cut out the black part of our stencils
- Print your pumpkin stencil on paper or light card – It has to be flexible.
- Use washi tape or masking tape to secure your stencil
- Always give your carved pumpkin aftercare
Free Printable Pumpkin Carving Stencils
Aside from all the sound advice we’ve given you, we also have amazing free printable pumpkin carving stencil templates for you to use too. All of our pumpkin stencils are free and easy to use so go ahead and save the ones you love, print them out, and get carving!
We’ve got a huge collection of scary, cool, creative, and cute pumpkin carving ideas. So we’ve split these pumpkin stencils into three sections.
Pumpkin faces are very popular and are the typical pumpkin that you’ll find outside people’s homes at Halloween. We’ve also got other popular symbols of Halloween if you don’t want a pumpkin face. Last of all, if you’re looking for something pretty then our range of cute pumpkin carving ideas will help you make something different this Halloween.
Halloween Pumpkin Faces
Pumpkin faces are traditional when it comes to designs for our pumpkins. This type of pumpkin stencil is perfect for beginner carvers and those who are more experienced.
Halloween Pumpkin Stencils
If you’re looking for a flurry of bats, ghastly ghouls and other creepy Halloween entities for your pumpkin then check out our spooky range of Halloween pumpkin carving stencils.
Cute Pumpkin Stencils
Maybe you’re giving the spooks a miss this year and opting for something pretty instead? We’ve created some cute pumpkin carving ideas for you to choose from including mermaids, butterflies, and more.
To get any of these pumpkin carving stencils, simply click the ones you want to open the large version, then save to your computer ready for printing. You can also drag and drop them to your desktop.
I recommend that you print a few of them so that you’ll have a few options to choose from when you’re ready to start pumpkin carving.
More printables from World of Printables
We’ve got loads more Halloween printables for you to enjoy. See our popular Halloween I Spy Game which kids love, and our huge selection of Halloween Coloring Pages that will keep your kids happy for hours.
Be sure to grab as many printables as you can while you’re here and print them off whenever you need activities for your kids.
We also have a huge range of printables for adults too here on World of Printables. You’ll find printables and templates to help you plan and organize all aspects of your life.
Free Printable Halloween Banners
Take some of the stress and cost out of Halloween decor with our free printable Halloween bunting. They are a free and simple option for everyone and you can even combine them with many of our other free Halloween decorations!
As well as all of our Halloween banners that you’ll find here, we also have many styles of banners for other celebrations too. You’ll especially love our birthday banner ideas if you’re planning a birthday celebration soon.
More awesome free Halloween printables
We’ve got tons more Halloween printables for you to enjoy. Many more printable Halloween Printables to print and enjoy for free.
Pumpkin carving ideas
I hope this post will help your pumpkin carving activity much easier this year and hopefully, you’ve found some free printable pumpkin carving stencils you like.
Do you have any pumpkin carving ideas? What theme will be adorning your pumpkins this year? Let me know in the comments below!
If you loved this post then please share it and pin it for later. If you use any of our free pumpkin stencils then tag us on Instagram with a picture of your Jack O’Lantern face and we will feature it on the blog!