Playful Pumpkin Stencils

Six ghoulish pumpkin designs to get you in the Halloween spirit

By Madeleine Wong with Jane Dorward, stencils by Sara Tyson

Carving Basics

You’ll need: • masking tape • pumpkin • stencils • paper towel • marker • child-safe carving tools

Simply click on one of the following design stencils, print it out and create your own frightfully fun jack-o-lantern.


1. Select a stencil and enlarge it on a photocopier or by hand so it fills the entire front of the pumpkin.

2. To transfer the design onto the pumpkin, use a sheet of paper towel and a marker (permanent marker may show best). Trace the stencil on the paper towel (or enlarge the design by hand directly on the paper towel). Lay the paper towel stencil on the pumpkin and use masking tape to hold it in place. Retrace the design with the marker, letting the ink bleed through. Or use a bamboo skewer to poke holes along the outline of the stencil to mark a connect-the-dots pattern on the pumpkin.

3. Another way to transfer the design: Cut out each shape in the stencil. Lightly tape each shape onto the pumpkin. This method better adapts the design to the actual pumpkin shape. To transfer the design, use a marker to trace around each shape (enlarging if necessary).

Helpful Hints • Carving can be difficult and dangerous for kids. It's a good idea to pick up a child-friendly carving kit instead of using a knife - the kit tools work well for intricate designs and cutting off the top of the pumpkin.


• An apple corer is a great tool for carving out small circular holes.

• Washable Crayola markers work well, if you're drawing the design freehand, and they wipe off easily when carving is complete.

• Choose pumpkins that best show off the shape of the carved face; look for odd shapes and long stems. Don't reject the ones with warts!

• White pumpkins (lumina) are becoming more widely available at nurseries and some green grocers. They're cool looking in the dark, carved as ghosts or skulls. White pumpkins are thicker, but aren't difficult to carve. Blue pumpkins are another variety, but are hard to carve and won't show up as well at night.

• Grown-ups can use a long knife with a narrow blade, such as a paring knife (we used a fish-filleting knife). Tip: The narrower the blade, the smaller the details you can cut.


• To let more light shine through, angle the cuts so the shapes are wider on the inside.

• Remove marker traces with solvent-based cleaner, like hand sanitizer.

• If you're carving a few days before the big night, rub cut edges with petroleum jelly to keep them from drying out, curling and browning.

• To lighten up your jack-o-lantern, place tea lights inside inexpensive dollar-store glasses to prevent them from blowing out in the wind. For easy lighting, set the candle inside the pumpkin, then light with a gas-fuelled barbecue lighter wand.

Back to Halloween Headquarters for more pumpkin decorating ideas, costumes, face-painting and more.

This article was originally published on Sep 15, 2006

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