One of the most popular images around Halloween time is the colourful orange Jack-o-Lantern face. There are endless possibilities when designing a Jack-o-Lantern. They can be scary, happy, sad, weird, angry, silly, human or animal-like. People love looking at a carved pumpkin, and they are often the centrepiece of outside Halloween decorations.
While carving a pumpkin is relatively simple, there are a few things to keep in mind while you are hunting for that perfect pumpkin for your display.
Pumpkin Prep Tips
1) Look for carvable pumpkins that have a strong stem that is firmly attached. To check for ripeness, pick up the pumpkin and thump it a few times. You should hear a hollow sound, which lets you know this pumpkin will be easy to scoop out. The pumpkin’s surface should be smooth and free of blemishes and discolorations.
2) Be sure to always carry your pumpkin from the bottom. DO NOT carry it by the stem, because the stem may snap, which speeds up rotting.
3) Store your pumpkins in a cool, dry place. Heat and light speed up rotting.
4) Before carving your Jack-o-lantern, wash it in a solution of 1 teaspoon of chlorine bleach and 1 gallon of water. This prevents mould.
5) Draw your jack-o-lantern pattern on a piece of paper first, that way you can make easy revisions without damaging your prize pumpkin. If you can’t come up with your own design idea, you can always use ready-made stencils or templates (these can be found online or inside a pumpkin carving kit). Cut the pattern out and secure it on the surface with masking tape. Use a carving knife (or poking tool) to create pinpricks, or marks, to score the design for you to use as a guide.
Your Jack-O-Lantern Pattern
6) To cut the actual design out, use a small serrated saw for the best results. Carve with a back-and-forth sawing motion. Go slow. NEVER use a straight-edge razor, because this can damage the pumpkin and cause possible injuries.
7) Consider buying a pumpkin carving kit to save time. Carving kits contain all the tools you’ll need to create great-looking Jack-o-Lantern faces.
8) If the thought of carving a real pumpkin sounds messy or like too much of a hassle, you can opt to buy an acrylic craft pumpkin. These look pretty real and are easy to carve too and they leave plenty of time for other activities. The best thing about these is that you can reuse them year after year!
9) Once you’ve carved your traditional face, think about mixing things up a little with some other interesting designs. Black cats, witches, ghosts, moon and stars, popular movie characters, or drilling holes in your pumpkin that form an unexpected pattern.
10) While one Jack-o-lantern on the porch or front yard is great, imagine how it will look if you use several small to medium-sized Jack-o-lanterns. Displaying several pumpkins together creates more drama for neighbours and trick-or-treaters.