Pumpkin Carving – Carving & Lighting Tips & Tricks

Pumpkin Carving - Carving and Lighting Tips and Tricks | Life With Lorelai

Create and Illuminate!

Here are some Tips & Tricks for carving your pumpkin that will take your design to another level. Differing depths give your carving light and shadows, and can create something almost life like when illuminated.

The unlit carving doesn’t always portray the greatness of the design. Take a look at this example…

Brunhilda Pumpkin Carving Comparison | Life With Lorelai

We can learn a lot by comparing these two images. Notice the multiple levels in this carving. We have areas that are completely cut out, areas that are barely scraped (such as Brunhilda’s hood on the right side of the picture), and other areas with differing depths. These depths give your carving intricate detail and help create your design and bring it to life. Look at the warts and creases, the jutting chin, crooked nose, lips, and piercing eyes.

Would you have imagined that the illuminated carving would look like this just by seeing the unlit carving?

Let’s look at a few other examples.

FrankenRod Pumpkin Carving Comparison | Life With Lorelai

You can see the flames on the side of the FrankenRod are carved deeper into the flesh of the pumpkin, which will make them lighter when the carving is lit. Take a look at the details of the engine, the three carburetors on top have deep holes in them, but are not completely cut out. The cut out area of the headlight gives the illusion of the light really being lit.

Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde Pumpkin Carving Comparison | Life With Lorelai

Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde is a good example of how you can texturize your carving with varying depths. In this case the depths created a skyline as well as Dr. Jeckyll’s face.

Frightful Carriage Ride Pumpkin Carving Comparison | Life With Lorelai

The Frightful Carriage Ride is an example of a carving created more by cut out than by sculpting. When you carve out lots of areas, be sure to leave the pieces in place until the end. Granted, some may fall out on there own, but don’t pull them out, they will help keep your design in tact while you work. In this design, there was so much delicate cut out work that I did not fully cut all of the pieces so they would help hold the pumpkin together while I worked in other areas. The large pieces were taken out in smaller chunks to preserve the design.

Carving and Sculpting Tips & Tricks:

  1. Use a bowl for stabilization and easy turning of the pumpkin. Resting the pumpkin in a bowl allows you to maneuver the pumpkin so you can better see the design, get a better angle for carving, and be able to position you hand in an area that is not delicately cut. The bowl also provides you both hands for carving. That way you can stick your hand inside the pumpkin to gently hold intricate areas while sculpting or carving.
  2. Place a towel under your bowl to keep it from sliding so easily.
  3. Start in the center of design and work your way out.
  4. Do the most detailed areas first.
  5. Don’t necessarily cut out an entire area that is cut through. If it is highly detailed, leave parts uncut so that it will be stronger for the remainder of the work.
  6. If an area will be very small or “weaker” when cut-out, do any shading or sculpting work before you cut it.
  7. Leave large pieces in place after cutting to help with stability.
  8. Drill Bits – you can use these by hand to make perfect circles. They also work well for starting cuts in tiny areas.
  9. Pumpkin Saws – Larger saws are for longer straighter cuts. As the design gets smaller or curvier, use the smaller saws.
  10. Wood working tools, Linoleum tools, and exact-o knives work well. Gouge tools – V-shape, U-shape, Round, Flat.
  11. Differing depths of sculpting will give light and shade to your carving.
  12. Taking a break in your carving? Place a damp paper towel over the carved area. If you will be away from your carving for more than 1-hour, place pumpkin in a plastic bag and refrigerate. (When you return to carving, pat dry the pumpkin with a dry paper towel. Be careful not to smudge your pattern.)

Lighting Tips & Tricks:

Pumpkin Carving Lighting Techniques | Life With Lorelai

There are three types of lighting for your carved pumpkin–battery operated, electric, and candle.

Battery Operated: In my experience, these work best if you can stack them so the light gets up behind your carving. The lights are not very bright, so they do not illuminate your design that well.

Candle: If you are using a candle, you need to light the candle and let it burn for a minute, then blow it out. Turn the pumpkin over and see where the smoke hit the inside of the pumpkin. You will need to create a chimney there. You can do this by using a larger sized drill bit to create a hole. Candles do not provide the best light for your design.

Electric: This is by far my favorite way of illuminating a carved pumpkin masterpiece! I found these electric lights at Joanne’s. They are made with a spring stand so they can stretch or bend to the perfect position for your carving. My spring stand lights  have replaceable night light bulbs (7-watt). They provide marvelous light for my designs.

Another way to use electric lights is to wrap a strand of  “Christmas” lights around a mason jar.

With electric lights, you also have the option to use colored light bulbs for a spookier ambiance.

NOTE: Having the hole in the bottom of the pumpkin keeps you from having the cord flopping out over the top of your pumpkin.

Do you have any carving tips & tricks?

How do you like to illuminate your jack-o-lantern?

You might ALSO LIKE:

Pumpkin Carving Contest - Life With Lorelai 2013


Follow me on

I would love to hear from youleave me a Comment. hmmm


This entry was posted in DIY, Halloween, Holidays, Life With Lorelai, Photos, Pumpkin Carving, Tips & Tricks and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to Pumpkin Carving – Carving & Lighting Tips & Tricks

  1. Who ever carved those pumpkins sure know what they are doing when it comes to pumpkin carving. Mine end up looking like a 2 year old did it. Thanks for the tips… Maybe mine will look like a 10 year old did it this year. I am soooooo bad when it comes to anything artistic.

    • These are my designs and carvings… thank you! 🙂 It really helps to know some tips and tricks when it comes to carving pumpkins. I can’t wait to see what you do this year. Maybe you can submit a photo for my pumpkin carving contest. 🙂

  2. Oh my goodness, Lorelai! I had no idea you were so talented. These are amazing. Like ‘My Journey with Candida’ said, mine would end up looking like a 2 year old did it, if that good. They are really a work of art. Thanks so much for sharing your talents with us.

    • Thanks, Regina! I really do have a lot of fun creating these jack-o-lanterns. I bet with the tips and tricks in my Pumpkin Carving series, you could make something wonderful and surprise yourself! Pumpkin carving is great with with the grandkids too. I would love to see it. 🙂

  3. Carli says:

    You are extremely talented Lorelai! Holy cow! I am blown away! Great work! I know when I want to carve the perfect pumpkin, you are the person to ask! You rock!

  4. Lisa says:

    Those pumpkins are so impressive. I may actually be motivated enough to try one on my own. I have honestly never done a pumpkin carving. I want to do a minion!!

  5. marikach says:

    Wow you did all this?You’re very talented, kudos to you. Absolutely loved the photos, you make it look so easy! Btw the first one with the old woman, it’s amazing!

  6. Pam says:

    Great tips. I wish I would have known some of this when my sons were little. We did ok but your pumpkins looks fantastic. They would have loved it! I love the electric lights too. They would allow your pumpkin a little more life too.

    • Well, the electric lights are certainly cleaner! My kids are 18 and almost 21… they still love pumpkin carving. I wonder were they got that from??? Kids or no kids, carve anyway. You can enjoy it and the Trick or Treaters will love it. 🙂

  7. kimverrochi says:

    You are amazing Lorelai! Absolutely a gift. I’m afraid my carving skills are limited to cutting/ gutting and cooking. I am terribly clumsy with sharp objects, well, all objects! But you’ve made me want to try, see if I can find my inner pumpkin 😉 You must light up your neighborhood and attract extra trick or treaters with these beautiful pumpkins.. Beautiful!! Can’t wait to see all the pics from your pumpkin contest 🙂

    • Give it a try, Kim! I would love to see what you can do. I thin you’d be surprised with the help of these tips and tricks. Find your inner pumpkin, and send a photo in for the contest. 🙂

  8. You amaze me lady! We’ve always used candles but I like your lights.

  9. Pingback: My Pumpkin | Victrocious

  10. Wow those are stunning pumpkin carvings! You are very talented. I am always happy to just be able to do a regular carving without mistakes. One day I will learn all these fancy tricks.

  11. Amber Nelson says:

    Wow, those are awesome!!! I don’t know if I could do those though. I’m not very artsy!

    • If you don’t draw your own designs or patterns, there are loads of free ones on the internet. Find one you like and give it a try. This tips and tricks series will make pumpkin carving much easier. 🙂 Send me a photo for the pumpkin carving contest!

  12. You. Are. AH-Mazing! I am still at the triangle eye & nose level pumpkins… sheesh! Thanks so much for the directions – I will attempt it this year… wish me luck 🙂 ~Renee

  13. Wow, amazing designs! I have no patience to carve pumpkins though!

  14. Holy buckets, Lorelai! Those were amazing! What a talented artists! I’m sure Halloween is awesome at your house!

  15. Rebekah says:

    Those pumpkins are amazing!! It must have taken forever to make them!

  16. Bonnie Frank says:

    These are wonderful tips! There is so much to know with all the layers. And the chimney–I’m doing a chimney this year!

  17. WOW! These are crazy beautiful pumpkins! No, I have no tips LOL Except maybe to not set me lose with a pumpkin and carving tools LOL

  18. adelien says:

    You have done an extremely great job. So talented. The pumpkins have perfectly 3D effects.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s