Will your Jack-O-Lantern be scary, fun, silly or smiley? 

It's not too late to get your pumpkins out for Halloween night! No matter the design you choose, we have some great tips to help you keep the mess minimal and to make the most of your carving experience!

The Cleanout

Before you start, wash off any dirt from the outside of the pumpkin and let dry. Cut a large garbage bag open and lay it flat on your kitchen table. Add some newspaper to absorb moisture, then sit your pumpkin on top. Instead of cutting a lid in the top of your pumpkin, try cutting the bottom off, which will allow more room for cleaning out the flesh and seeds.

To clear out the insides, use an ice-cream scooper, serrated spoon, or a hand drill with a beater arm attached. Remember to thin out the flesh on the side your design will be on, so it will be easier to cut through, especially for the more intricate designs. The flesh on the design side should only be about 1 ¼-inch thick.

Tip: Save your seeds! Roasted pumpkin seeds make great snacks, learn how to roast them in your oven!

The Design

Look your pumpkin over carefully before choosing a design. Think about working in any bumps, indents, or other imperfections to your design. For inspirational ideas, check out these beginner and advanced patterns from HGTV.


Once you have chosen a pattern, use masking tape to keep the paper in place and a poker from a carving kit or a metal skewer to poke holes along the solid lines of your pattern. Remove the paper and cut along the dotted lines. To draw directly on your pumpkin, try a gel pen or a grease pencil from your local hardware store. These writing instruments will make clear marks on the pumpkin, but easily wipe away with a damp cloth. Or use a permanent sharpie for a smudge-proof experience.

Cut on a slight angle and if you accidently cut a piece out that you shouldn't, reattach it with a toothpick. When your carving is ready, sit the pumpkin over a light (if you cut the bottom off) or insert a battery tealight and replace the lid. Turn out the lights and admire your work!

Tip: To keep your Jack o'lantern looking great, wipe vegetable oil on cut surfaces and keep it out of direct sunlight.

For cleanup, roll all newspaper (even the pumpkin bits) up and toss in your organics container or simply roll up all the mess in the garbage bag and toss it out!