It’s almost Halloween! That means it’s time to grab your pumpkin and start carving! Here’s some nifty tips and tricks to get your pumpkin to be the geekiest on the block!
Tip #1 Choose your design first!
I always pick what I’m going to carve first. This will allow me to plan out my carving, timeframe, and needed materials way before I even pick my pumpkin. That way, I’m not scrambling at the last minute and end up doing an easy design that I don’t like because I ran out of time. When picking a design, make sure you can see how it would work on a pumpkin. I prefer to choose images and sketch them out myself in grey scale so I have a personalized pattern. By doing this, I’m able to plan out how I would cut the image onto a pumpkin and judge whether I have the skill to pull a particular pattern off. This is key; don’t choose something way beyond your skill set. It’s awesome to challenge yourself, but don’t try to do a Death Star pumpkin if it’s two hours before the kiddies come knocking and you’ve never carved anything but the classic triangle eyes and grin before.
Tip #2 Pick the Right Pumpkin
Once you’ve picked your pattern, it’s time to pick the right pumpkin! I prefer to do portraits or images from pictures, so I usually prefer pumpkins with at least semi-flat sides. This way, there’s less curve when I apply my pattern and less chance of proportions getting skewed. Similarly, don’t pick a small pumpkin if you want to do a super detailed image. The more detail your pattern has, the more you want to scale it up (small cuts don’t show up well, and small uncut portions don’t support well).
Tip #3 Choose the Right Tools
There are many tools you can use when carving your pumpkin. I prefer to use several different knives, a couple spoons, and, sometimes, a nail and hammer. Sculptor tools, screwdrivers, and dremels are also extremely useful for more complicated designs. For instance, when making small holes, I could use the screwdriver or hammer and nail to create the hole. Using a knife to create a hole doesn’t work well, so these tools are extremely useful. Also, when doing a complex design that requires layers, it’s useful to have at least one very sharp knife that you can use to cut through the pumpkin layer by layer.
Tip #4 Go Slowly!
I can’t say it enough: go slowly. Most mistakes are made in pumpkin carving (and life) when people try to move too quickly. By taking your time to plan out your pattern and cuts, you’re less likely to ruin your pumpkin. I prefer to start with the complex portions to carve, as they’re less likely to be ruined when I approach carving this way. By doing these portions first, I have the rest of the pumpkin to act as support and reduce the chances of pieces breaking off. Also, I won’t be as tired and will have the energy to spend the time on these sections that they need.
Tip #5 Test it!
I always test my carving before displaying it on my porch. This way, I can see if there are any areas that need to be fixed. When I first carved my Spike pumpkin, I discovered that I hadn’t cut deep enough into the pumpkin to get the coloring I wanted. This would have made me upset to discover on Halloween, so I’m glad that I tested the pumpkin first so I could carve that section a little deeper. And, though it probably goes without saying, test your pumpkin at night or in a dark room so you can get the true effect.
Tip #6 You Can Fix (Some) Mistakes
It is actually possible to fix some mistakes! Having a portion of a letter break off while you’re carving isn’t the end of the world. As I discovered last year when carving Gs into a family pumpkin (don’t carve Gs-they suck) superglue works on gourds. I had portions of the Gs break off and, slightly panicked, I reached for glue in a desperate attempt to fix a pumpkin I’d already spent three hours carving. Luckily, the superglue worked, and the pumpkin turned out great!
Pumpkin carving has been a rapidly evolving art-form for many years, and this year, with these tips, you can take the geeky pumpkin art world by storm! Have a Happy Halloween!