Yes, you could make a real sugar skull for the Day of the Dead -- if you have a proper skull mold and 14+ hours of drying time! But we think our gorgeously creepy and free printable pumpkin carving stencil, with its intricate etching and lovely floral designs, makes an admirable substitute. Did we mention our pattern is free to download? Just click below!
If you think this sugar skull pumpkin stencil design pops against an orange gourd, try carving it on a dappled-green or vivid red pumpkin! But if you're seeking a more authentic look, select a skull-like white or gray gourd: Luminas and Jarrahdales are good choices.
How to Carve a Pumpkin:
1. Start by cleaning your pumpkin out from the bottom, not the top! Carve a large circle in the bottom of your pumpkin, ensuring the circle is wide enough for your hand and arm to fit comfortably through. Pry out the circle with your knife, and lop off the pulpy side, creating a level surface.
2. Reach through the opening in the bottom of your pumpkin to dig out the innards, reserving the seeds to toast later as a snack if desired. With a scraper tool or ice cream scoop (or your kids' hands), scrape the pumpkin's interior wall on the side you're intending to carve until it measures approximately 1" thick.
3. Smooth the printed sugar skull pattern against your pumpkin's exterior, taping it in place as you smooth it down. Jab along all stencil lines with a pin tool, outlining the design with closely spaced pin holes.
4. Carefully detach the skull pattern, and keep the page handy for reference. Find pattern areas located within dotted lines, and etch these areas by using a power etching tool or a gouge to chisel away the pumpkin's top layer, uncovering the light color rind below.
5. Find pattern areas located within solid lines, and carve these areas by using a specialty pumpkin-carving knife or skinny, serrated woodcutting knife to cut completely through the pumpkin wall. (Hint: If desired, you can use a power drill to bore holes in the circular shape pattern areas; just select a bit that best matches the width of the desired hole.)
6. Display your fancy pumpkin carving for all to see! Set your leveled pumpkin circle where you wish to display your sugar skull pumpkin, and rest a battery-operated candle on the circle. Place your carved pumpkin over the candle, and enjoy the beautifully-eerie glow.