Pumpkin Carvings - Bob Zimmerman's WEB page
Pumpkin Carvings
by Bob Zimmerman, October 2002
Rhys pumpkin

Rhys, October 2001

Ever wondered how a digital picture could be carved into a pumpkin? If so, this short tutorial should get you on the path to making your own creations!

The picture above was taken of the first of three pumpkins that I carved for Halloween 2001. I used one of my digital photographs to make a pattern, and then used the paper pattern to carve the pumpkin. Since this method usually results in a significant investment of time, I would suggest that you do your carving using one of the new "foam" pumpkins that can be purchased from most larger variety stores. That way, you will be able to re-use the carving from year to year.

If this is your first time, and you are not ready to invest in a foam pumpkin, go ahead and use a real pumpkin and experiment. Real pumpkins can be both easier or harder to carve, depending on the amount of detail in the design. The less detail, the easier a real pumpkin is to carve. The trick for producing an impressive carving is to start with a photograph that produces a good pattern.

Rhys photo

To produce the pumpkin carving above, I started with this picture of our dog, Rhys. The size of the picture is important, because if the picture is too large, it will make a large pattern that won't fit most pumpkins. If the picture is too small, it will make a pattern with details so small that they will be almost impossible to cut out.

To make the pattern, check out The Pumpkin Master web site. They have a wonderful tutorial which shows how to convert the photograph into a pattern.

Rhys pattern

This is the pattern that was produced from the photograph above. The black areas are cut out of the pumpkin. The grey areas are "peel areas" where about half of the skin is carved from the pumpkin so that the thinner areas in the pumpkin will allow more light to show through from the inside. The white areas are not carved at all.

Rhys pattern

Here is the foam pumpkin after the pattern has been transferred and cut into the pumpkin. The pattern is transferred by taping or pinning the paper pattern to the pumpkin. A needle is used to punch through the paper, following the outlines of all the black and grey areas in the template. If you are using a real pumpkin, be aware that, as the holes are punched in the pumpkin, the juice from the pumpkin will start to ooze from the pin holes and dampen the template. For intricate patterns, the template may have to be replaced if it becomes too wet to use.

Take your time punching the holes, and take a break periodically if your hands become tired. It is important to punch enough holes so that you will have clear lines to follow when the template is removed. When finished with the template, you can use a fine marker to trace the lines on the pumpkin by connecting the holes. However, if the holes are close enough, tracing the lines is unnecessary.

To cut out the designs, use a small jig-saw blade. Start with the small holes first. A drill and drill bit can also be used. To cut away in the "peel areas", a dremmel drill motor with a small router bit works well. Be sure to wear safety glasses, and a face mask is useful when cutting on a foam pumpkin.

For a light, many variety stores and hobby shops sell small clip-on lights that have an in-line switch. I found one in our local "Bartells" drug store in the display section for Christmas houses. Simply cut a hole in the bottom of the pumpkin and mount the light.

In the light of day it doesn't look too pretty, but at night the results are impressive.

Additional Tips and Carvings

carving supplies

I bought my foam pumpkins from Fred Meyer. They are not as easy to carve since the "skin" is much thinner. However, with patience, good results can be achieved.

Thanksgiving Pattern

Here is the pattern that was used. If you would like a copy, right-click on the photo and save to your computer.

trim excess from pattern

With the pattern template designed and printed, trim within 1/2 inch around the pattern with scissors.


Here the pattern template is positioned on the pumpkin and taped in place.

trim excess from pattern

With pattern in place, I used the awl to poke holes through the paper, following the outlines of the lettering and design. It is a tedious process...

pattern transfered to pumpkin

Finally the pattern has been transferred. Now the real work can begin!

carving is finished

Using a small saw and the dremel drill motor, the pattern is used to cut out and peel away the pumpkin skin. Here is what the foam pumpkin looks like after it has been carved. Just one more step...

cut a hole for a light

Trace around the light socket, drill a small starter hole, and use the small saw to cut a hole for the light fixture.

install light into pumpkin

The light is fit into the pumpkin. The tension brackets hold the light in place.

install light into pumpkin

The finished product...a Thanksgiving Welcome!

Useful Links:
Fun-kin Pumpkins -- buy a foam pumpkin on-line ($29.95)
The Pumpkin Wizard -- How to make a pumpkin pattern from a digital photo
The Pumpkin Wizard -- Free Patterns
Jack-0-Lantern.com-- More Free Patterns

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