How to Carve a Pumpkin with a Stencil or Decorate a Pumpkin with String

Learn how to carve and decorate pumpkins, from traditional faces to fun string designs. Plus, download free pumpkin carving patterns and stencils. Get ready for some ghoulishly good Halloween family fun.

Pumpkin Carving Stencils

Pumpkin Carving Stencils

Flickering jack o’ lanterns are as essential to Halloween as turkey to Thanksgiving and cake to a birthday. While there’s no shame in freestyle etching a gap-toothed smile or spooky frown, a more elaborate carving will earn you major style points for minimal effort. Our free pumpkin carving stencils make it easy. Find detailed instructions below.

Bonus: Want to stand out from the crowd? Try using string to decorate your pumpkin. Read on to learn how.

How to Carve a Pumpkin with a Stencil

What you’ll need:

  • Pumpkins
  • Painter’s tape
  • Big spoon or ice cream scoop
  • Carving tools, including a mini saw, mini awl and scraper (available at any big-box store)
  • Pushpins
  • Putty knife or scraper (optional)
  • Paper plate (optional)
  • Candle, LED lighting kit, glow sticks, battery-operated candles or a string of holiday lights


  1. Cut a hole in the top of the pumpkin. Using a paper plate as a guide can help. Remember to angle the edge slightly to create a ledge for the lid when the pumpkin is empty. Scrape the pulp off the lid bottom.
  2. Scoop out the pulp with a spoon. Save the seeds for drying or roasting if you like. Find a recipe here.
  3. Optional: Use a scraper to shave down flesh from the interior walls for easier carving.
  4. Apply the template to the flattest side of the pumpkin. Hold in place with painter’s tape.
  5. Using pushpins, transfer the template outlines through the paper.
  6. Carve, following the dotted outlines of the design. Slow and steady is the way to go.
  7. Give the pumpkin a glow with a candle or other light.
  8. Enjoy bragging rights for your artistry!

Pro tip: While you can find free patterns at the bottom of this page, cookie cutters and coloring books can also be used as patterns for carving pumpkins.

How to Decorate a Pumpkin with String

What you’ll need:

  • Pumpkins
  • Embroidery string
  • Marker or template and tape
  • 2-inch flat-head nails
  • Hammer


1. Dot out a design freehand onto pumpkin with marker, spacing points ½-3/4in. apart. If using a template, tape it 1-2in. below stem.

2. Gently hammer the nails into marked dots. If using a template, follow the entire edge of the design, spacing nails ½-3/4in. apart. Drive nails about 1-in. into the pumpkin.

3. Tie end of embroidery string in a tight knot around a corner nail.

4. Begin weave: Wrap string around a nail, then bring it across to a nail opposite and wrap it counter-clockwise, from the bottom up. Continue wrapping nails several times until design is covered. Tie off and trim.

Easy ideas for string art: Photocopy a state map, print out an online image, or sketch a number, letter or other symbol.

Free Pumpkin Carving Stencils


The classic pumpkin face.

Get the Jack stencil

Cat Face

A feline twist on the classic pumpkin grin.

Get the cat face stencil


Make trick-or-treaters giggle.

Get the EEK! stencil

Flying Witch

Halloween wouldn't be complete without one!

Get the flying witch stencil

Galaxy of Stars

Cut out as many stars as fit your pumpkin.

Get the galaxy of stars stencil


Invite trick-or-treaters to your home with this friendly ghost.

Get the Casper stencil

Going Batty

Different-sized bats fly over the surface of your pumpkin, which looks equally enchanting from all sides.

Get the batty stencil


Creep along the fence with this spooky feline.

Get the cat stencil

Scaredy Cat

Say boo to this scaredy cat.

Get the scaredy cat stencil


A whiskered face.

Get the kitty stencil


What’s Halloween without a ghost?

Get the boo stencil

To download the pumpkin stencils, you will need the latest Adobe Acrobat® Reader installed on your computer. Install Adobe Acrobat Reader for free.

How to Carve a Pumpkin >

10 Tips for Perfect Jack-o'-Lanterns >

Pumpkin Recipes >

Pumpkin Seeds >

Halloween Recipes >