I don't know about you, but I've never successfully carved a jack-o'-lantern. Sure, I usually have a lot of fun carving them... but they typically come out looking like a hot mess. Those things are hard! This year, however, I've got the eye of the tiger. I've done my research, and it turns out, carving the perfect pumpkin requires more than a pencil and a kitchen knife. With a little preparation, the proper tools, and some inspiration from these creative Halloween pumpkin carving ideas, your stoop is going to look like a spooky art museum this year.
In years past, I've made two big mistakes: I haven't had the proper pumpkin carving tools, and I didn't exercise much creativity — no wonder my pumpkins looked so sloppy and generic! While some of these designs are perfect for beginners and others require a bit more skill, you'll have a better shot at each one if you invest in a few handy tools. First, I highly recommend looking online for templates once you've chosen a design. This will make your job much easier. Most importantly, I'd recommend purchasing a keyhole saw ($5, Amazon) and a fine-tooth saw ($12, Amazon), which work much better than your standard kitchen knives.
Rachel from A Little Craft in Your Day even has the perfect pumpkin carving tutorial for beginners if you aren't quite sure where to start. It's a simple tutorial to follow, and she shows you exactly how to get a picture perfect jack-o'-lantern. She personally recommends purchasing a pack of pumpkin carving tools like this one ($9, Amazon), which isn't a bad investment if you're going to be carving pumpkins year after year.
Once you're set up, all you need is your inspiration, which is where these 16 ideas from some pumpkin-carving experts come in.
1. Template Pumpkins
If crafty goddess Jo-Anna at A Pretty Life in the Suburbs uses templates to carve her pumpkins, I no longer think it's cheating. Most of the pumpkins above* were carved using templates she found her templates at Walmart and Michaels, and they even came with carving tools. Pro-tip: if you already have carving tools, find a free template online instead!
*One pumpkin above was free-handed... can you guess which one? The classic barfing jack-o'-lantern is a good option if you don't want to use a template!
2. Drill Designs
Cutting out a detailed design with a little fine-tooth saw takes patience... and let's be real, we don't all have that. I love this kitty pumpkin by Handmade Charlotte, and it's easy and fast. She painted her pumpkin first, but you certainly don't need to. A drill and saw were used to create the cute cat silhouettes. Not a cat person? This music note pumpkin uses the exact same process, and is equally as cute!
3. Toothpick Smile Pumpkin
If you prefer to follow along to a video tutorial, Sharrah from YouTube channel Live Your Style has you covered. In this video, she shows four easy jack-o'-lantern ideas, but the third is my favorite. She carves a simple face into her pumpkin but then takes it to the next level by adding creepy, toothpick-teeth to its smile. It's way easier than carving the teeth yourself, and it looks more interesting, too.
4. Sugar Skull Pumpkin
5. Man's Best Friend Pumpkin
Why not use your pumpkin to pay tribute to your best friend? This corgi jack-o'-lantern by Instagrammer @weatherbee_corgi is simple, amazing, and much cuter than your average "beware of dog" sign.
6. Drillbit Pumpkin
I love this mystical jack-o'-lantern by Instagram user @decoherent_blue. She used a drill to create a whimsical design of small holes along her pumpkin, and it looks beautiful with a glowing candle inside.
7. Creepy Textured Pumpkin
A true artist thinks outside the box... and that's definitely how @ozymandias on Instagram approached his pumpkin. Instead of cutting straight through, he peeled off the skin and carved a face into the side of his pumpkin. This one is going to look particularly creepy after a couple days sitting out on the front porch.
8. Pumpkin Pants
Turns out, you don't need to create a perfect design on your pumpkin for it to be positively adorable. Instagrammer @gabi_harvey created this one by hollowing out a pumpkin and only adding two small holes... oh, and the super cute baby helps, too.
9. Fortnite Pumpkin
Are you a house of Fortnite fans? Instagram user @queenking.ubiquitous created Fortnite character Tomato Man out of their pumpkin. They used a black permanent marker to fill in some of Tomato Man's features, but black acrylic paint also works!
10. Multicultural Appreciation Pumpkin
Ladies and gentlemen, you're looking at the one and only successful pumpkin I've carved. I'm American and my husband is Canadian, so naturally I carved a pumpkin to celebrate both countries represented in our household. I created a template on construction paper first, and it was a great practice round before cutting into the real thing.
11. Keep It Simple
I saved the best for last. Don't overthink your pumpkins this year! Whoever carved these pumpkins featured on LifeBuzz's Facebook page had the right idea. Two eyes, a smile, and done. I like their style.
This article was originally published on