26 Creative Pumpkin Carving Ideas for Cool Jack-o'-Lanterns

carved pumpkin skull and crossbones
Photo: Jason Donnelly

These creative pumpkin carving ideas and stencils will give this year's jack-o'-lanterns distinct character—and make your porch the star of the neighborhood on Halloween night.

01 of 26

Flame Pumpkins

pumpkin fire pit log frame
Blaine Moats

Your Halloween party will be lit this year when you carve an assortment of fiery pumpkins and arrange them in a heap, campfire-style. Our free pumpkin stencils let you easily recreate the look in your backyard.

02 of 26

Side-by-Side Pumpkin Ideas

black and white pumpkins
Jay Wilde

Anchored by tiny nails, a white web highlights the carved opening in a black pumpkin. For a fun pair of pumpkin carving ideas, display it with a contrasting white orb shouting "BOO!"

03 of 26

Ombre Pumpkins

painted pumpkins on steps
Jay Wilde

Create this stylish setup in a flash by decorating pumpkins with white and metallic spray paint. For a bit of candlelit glow, this easy pumpkin carving idea repeats simple shapes around the tops of the pumpkins. To carve the pumpkins, hollow out a variety of pumpkins in various sizes, shapes, and textures; spray pumpkins with black paint. Next, spray over the top of the black paint with silver and gold metallic paint, covering about one-half to two-thirds of each pumpkin.

04 of 26

Pumpkin Pileup

stacked pumpkins

Ready, set, stack! Colorful pumpkin ideas are creative and shine with personality, especially when you match the pumpkin face ideas to the color and shape of each gourd.

  1. Hollow out four pumpkins in various shapes, colors, and sizes.
  2. Transfer our free pumpkin stencils to the pumpkins and use a knife or carving tools to cut out all patterns except the eyebrows—use a gouging tool to add eyebrows.
  3. Stabilize the bottom pumpkin with rocks or sand.
  4. Stack the pumpkins from largest to smallest, leaving lids with stems off on all but the top pumpkin.
05 of 26

Emoji Pumpkin

carved pumpkin thumbs up symbol lit inside
Jason Donnelly

Trick-or-treaters will hit the "Like" button for this carved emoji pumpkin. Give all their costumes a thumbs up of appreciation with this easy pumpkin carving idea.

06 of 26

Pumpkin Birthday Party

carved pumpkins with party hats
Greg Scheidemann

These pumpkin ideas are ready to party! Download the free printable pumpkin carving stencils and carve out the smiling faces. Shape scrapbook paper into cones to make a variety of tall and short hats, then use tape to secure the paper in cone shapes and decorate with an assortment of patterned paper circles. Trim some of the hat edges with paper fringe for extra festive pumpkins. Finally, hot-glue the hats to the heads of the funny pumpkin faces.

07 of 26

Skull and Crossbones Pumpkin

carved pumpkin skull and crossbones
Jason Donnelly

Arrr, matey! Warn guests that they might have to walk the plank with this eerie skull-and-crossbones pumpkin. Etching certain areas of the skull (rather than puncturing all the way through the pumpkin walls) gives a white pumpkin additional texture and depth. Download the free pumpkin stencils and get started on this fearsome pirate flag motif.

08 of 26

Junk Food Jack O'Lanterns

pumpkin with mustache
Laura Moss 

These grinning pumpkin faces to carve are perfect for the junk food lover in your life. To create the laughing pumpkins, carve your favorite design. Add embellishments to the smiling faces by gluing on licorice, taffy, and cheese puff hair.

09 of 26

Plant in a Pumpkin

White Plant Pumpkin

This pumpkin carving idea is a creative idea for tabletop decorating. Clean out and carve any pumpkin face you like, then remove the top and tuck a potted plant inside to give it foliage hair. Be sure to pick a pumpkin that's the right size to allow the plant to spill over the top.

Editor's Tip: Try making a lasting pumpkin planter for your fall front porch.

10 of 26

Snowy Owl Pumpkin

Halloween Owl
Adam Albright

Mix up your repertoire of pumpkin face ideas with our tall, skinny pumpkin carving idea of a spooky owl pumpkin.

  1. Paint the pumpkin white to form the body.
  2. Transfer our free pumpkin templates for the eyes, beak, and chest feathers onto the pumpkin.
  3. Use a gouge to partially dig out the feathers into the rind, then trace and cut out the ear and wing patterns on cardstock.
  4. Secure them to the pumpkin with straight pins ($6, Joann).
11 of 26

Peek-a-BOO! Pumpkin

peek-a-boo pumpkin
Jay Wilde

Liven up your Halloween scene with an adorable pumpkin carving idea that's creative and embellished pumpkin. We're loving the silly face peeking out of this carved pumpkin.

To make this easy pumpkin carving:

  1. Cut along the top of your pumpkin to make a lid; set aside.
  2. Hollow out your pumpkin.
  3. Using our hand pattern, trace two hands onto black felt and cut out. Using crafts glue, attach the two hands to the pumpkin.
  4. Adhere large googly eyes in place using crafts glue.
12 of 26

Not-So-Scary Skeleton Pumpkin

skeleton pumpkin with flowers
Peter Krumhardt

A white Lumina pumpkin works perfectly for this skeleton pumpkin filled with fall flowers. Use this pumpkin carving idea for a doorstep decoration or festive fall centerpiece. To make it, cut out large circles for the eyes, a small triangle for the nose, and a line for the mouth that's just big enough for light to shine through. Small vertical teeth slits finish the skeleton grin.

13 of 26

Skeleton Key Pumpkins

pumpkins with keys
Adam Albright

Unlock the spirit of Halloween with these funky, old-fashioned skeleton key pumpkins. Transfer the free printable pumpkin carving stencils to your pumpkins and use a knife or carving tool to cut out the two smaller key designs. A gouging tool easily carves the large key design into your pumpkin.

14 of 26

"Knock on Wood" Pumpkin

Knock on Wood Pumpkin
Adam Albright

Make trick-or-treaters take a second look at this pumpkin carving idea, a creative design that looks like a spooky tree trunk. Download the free stencil and transfer it onto your pumpkin. Use a gouging tool to carve the words and wood grain; use a knife or carving tool to cut out the knots.

15 of 26

Mouse and Cheese Pumpkin

Mouse and Cheese Pumpkin
Greg Scheidemann 

This cheesy and easy pumpkin carving idea uses a drill as a carving tool and a few inexpensive props. Use 1/2- and 1-inch flat wood bits to cut various large holes in a white pumpkin (or regular pumpkin painted pale yellow). Then add plastic mice in and around the pumpkin for a Halloween display that'll make guests squeak in surprise!

16 of 26

Birdcage Pumpkin

Birdcage Pumpkin
Adam Albright 

Turn your pumpkin into a pretty birdcage this fall. To make it, transfer our free pumpkin template onto a white artificial pumpkin. Then, cut out the areas between the cage bars, including the doors, using a knife or carving tools.

Editor's Tip: Cut the opening on the back of the pumpkin and secure the lid with toothpicks after a candle is in place.

17 of 26

Haunted House Pumpkin

haunted house carved into pumpkin
Andy Lyons

Creating this spooky haunted mansion pumpkin only looks difficult! Transfer the free pumpkin carving stencils to the pumpkin and use a knife or carving tools to cut out. Paint the house black—that's it!

18 of 26

Pumpkins with Hair and Hats

Pumpkins with Hair and Hats
Laura Moss

This pile of painted pumpkin decorations can be made with items from around the house.

  1. Pick out three flat pumpkins and remove the stems.
  2. Carve a hole down the centers and insert a wooden dowel so that they stay stacked.
  3. Paint on facial features.
  4. Outfit one pumpkin with an old cap, braid yarn and tie with ribbon for another, and use a Halloween wig or craft fur for the third's "hair".
19 of 26

Classic Pumpkin Carving

Classic Pumpkin Carving
Jay Wilde

Your Halloween pumpkin decorations wouldn't be complete without a few traditional jack-o'-lanterns. So go back to basics with our classic pumpkin carving idea. To carve the pumpkin, download our free pumpkin stencil, and enlarge or reduce the size to fit your pumpkin.

20 of 26

Labrador Retriever Pumpkin Stencil

Labrador Retriever Pumpkin Stencil
Jay Wilde

Pay homage to your fur babies with this year's pumpkin decorations. We've highlighted America's favorite breed here, but we also have 23 other dog pumpkin stencils.

21 of 26

Creepy Ghost Pumpkin

carved ghost pumpkin
Peter Krumhardt

Grab a white gourd and carve this ghostly pumpkin face idea—no knives required! The trick to this pumpkin carving is to use a rubber mallet to tap out the large circles with a metal biscuit cutter. Then tap out smaller circles from those scrap pieces with an apple corer for the pupils and teeth. Attach the pupils and teeth with toothpicks and dribble some seeds out of its mouth for a final touch.

22 of 26

Bird Brain Pumpkin

pumpkin with artificial birds
Jay Wilde

This jack-o'-lantern is for the birds. Try this cute and easy pumpkin carving idea this Halloween. Transfer our free pumpkin pattern to the pumpkin of your choice and use a knife or carving tools to cut out. Cut the lid with a zigzag edge. Wind wire around the feet of the artificial birds ($28, Oriental Trading) and position them as desired, and poke the wire ends into the pumpkin to secure the birds in place.

23 of 26

Carved Pumpkin Houses

Carved Pumpkin Houses
Jay Wilde

Mice—or other tiny critters—might come trick-or-treating when you set up miniature haunted houses made from plump pumpkins as outdoor Halloween decorations. To make it, hollow out three pumpkins—one medium, one tall, and one fat and squat. Transfer the free patterns to the pumpkins and use a knife or carving tools to cut out.

Editor's Tip: Use different types of carving tools to accomplish the various sizes of cutouts for this design.

24 of 26

Carved Crow Pumpkin

Carved Crow Pumpkin
Greg Scheidemann

Create this eerie crow pumpkin carving idea to set out on Halloween night. The watchful painted bird is perched on the sill of a "window" carved into a bright orange pumpkin.

Editor's Tip: After completing the design, spray with varnish to set the paint so you can use it as an outdoor Halloween decoration.

25 of 26

Mr. Mummy Pumpkin

Mummy Pumpkin
Andy Lyons

Make this scary mummy pumpkin by carving oddly shaped slits into the surface of a green or white pumpkin. Then try this pumpkin face idea: Adding piercing black marble eyes will keep any trick-or-treater on their best behavior.

26 of 26

Metallic Bat Pumpkin

bat pumpkin décor
Adam Albright

A handful of gold screws from the hardware store is all it takes to create this unique Halloween pumpkin. To create, draw a bat shape with a washable marker. Fill in with screws until the shape is full. Use a damp towel to remove any marker that shows.

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