Nothing says October like a perfectly carved pumpkin, and with Halloween just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to carve. Before you get to carving, it’s important to know the basic steps to help you carve carefully, safely and successfully.

Even experienced pumpkin carvers are always looking for tips to help streamline their process, and our step-by-step pumpkin carving process is full of them. To get started, you’ll want to work together with your family to determine what you want your carved pumpkin to look like. Whether you want a simple jack-o-lantern or something more complicated, knowing what you’ll be carving in advance is key.

Once you know what you want carve, you can choose between using a stencil or going free-hand. The choice is yours, and the process will be smooth sailing with our pumpkin carving tips for beginners!

Choose Your Pumpkin Wisely
Pick a pumpkin with a flat bottom, and make sure it has no bruises or soft spots. You’ll also want a bigger pumpkin that isn’t misshapen or lopsided. Choosing a pumpkin that you can work with easily will go a long way to helping ease your process as you go.

Gather Your Gear
You can’t carve a pumpkin without a few basic materials. If you’re using a stencil, print it out and have it ready. You’ll also need a large and small serrated knife. If you’re drawing freehand, a sharpie or permanent marker will be a necessity. A large, metal kitchen spoon will make scooping the pumpkin pulp a breeze, and flame-less LED tea lights will finish your pumpkin off perfectly.

Cutting the Lid
Many people prefer to cut the lid of the pumpkin from the top, but we recommend cutting from the bottom. This will keep the sides of your pumpkin from collapsing as you move along. Cutting from the top is still acceptable, but if you do so, cut at an angle. Whatever you do, use your large, serrated knife carefully to cut a lid that you can easily place on and off as the days and weeks go by.

Scoop the Pulp
Scooping the insides out is a kid-friendly activity, and the more pulp they can scoop, the better. Removing as much of the lining as possible will be helpful when it’s time to cut the face, since it will prevent you from having to cut through a thick pumpkin wall.

Making Your Masterpiece
Now, it’s time to cut the face. You’ll want to use your stencil, taped to the front of your pumpkin, if that’s the route you’ve chosen to go. Using your small knife, you’ll want to cut holes along the lines of your stencil, going back afterward to connect the dots with your knife and make clean lines. If you’re going freehand, you can draw on your facial features with a sharpie, and cut along the lines neatly with your small, serrated knife.

Clean it Up and Light it Up
You’re almost finished! Smear petroleum jelly along the lines of your cuts to seal in moisture and help to preserve the shape and freshness of your pumpkin. Then, place your flame-less LED light inside, and voila! Your perfect pumpkin is ready to glow!