We painted our pumpkin black before carving to make the owl's light-orange etched body really pop. As a side benefit, coating a pumpkin with spray paint is also an effective way to camouflage rough patches. If you've found a slightly rough pumpkin that's otherwise ideal for carving (with stem firmly-attached, a flat bottom, and at least one flat side suitable for carving), try coating it with paint before carving it as usual. Just don't use this trick to cover up bruises or soft spots on your pumpkin -- those are a sign of rotting.
1. Start with a cleaned-out pumpkin that has been spray-painted black and allowed to dry completely. Tape your printed stencil to the pumpkin's surface with tape, smoothing the paper as best you can.
2. Use a pin tool to poke holes through the paper into the pumpkin's skin, following the stencil lines. Keep pin pricks close together, and remove the printed stencil after all lines have been transferred.
3. Etch areas on the stencil surrounded by dotted lines, using a gouge to remove the pumpkin's top layer. (Hint: Use short strokes in parallel tracks to resemble layers of bird feathers.) Be careful not to puncture through the pumpkin wall.
4. Carve areas on the stencil that are surrounded by solid lines with a serrated linoleum knife. Saw slowly and gently, following the pin pricks.
5. Pop out carved pieces by applying gentle pressure from inside the pumpkin. Add a flameless candle to the pumpkin's interior to illuminate the design.