Monday, September 20, 2010

HOW TO: Create A Custom Pumpkin Carving Template

How fun would it be to have pumpkin carvings of your kids, yourself, or your favorite celebs! :) I thought it would be really fun to have my kids faces carved into pumpkins this year, so I figured out a way to create my own custom template! It was actually super easy, so I decided I should share the info so you too can create your own custom pumpkin carving template. Creating the template will be easy.. As for actually carving the pumpkin, well thats another story! It definitely does take some patience and dedication. ;)

Alright, lets get on with the tutorial. You will need some kind of photo editing software. I will be showing you how to do this using Paint.Net, because its free and anyone can download it (just google it)! :) However, if you have and are familiar with another kind of editing software, I am sure you can use that as well!

So here is what you will need to do: Bring in any photo or picture of your choice. Not all photos will work as easy, so you may have to try a few different pictures to get it how you want. :) I chose this one of my son, Bruce, because its a pretty clear shot of his face.
I then cropped it to a close up of his face, since that is all I want to show on the pumpkin. If your photo is already a close crop of the face, you wont need to do this. But if you are picking one face from a group photo, then of course this step will be necessary.

Next, go to the 'Adjustments' tab at the top and scroll down to 'Brightness/Contrast', and click on it.

The Brightness/Contrast box will pop up. From there you will want to bring the contrast all the way to 100. You may or may not want to up the brightness too. For this picture I didn't feel I needed to change the brightness at all. However you can just play around with it, until it looks best to you. Keeping in mind, the black parts of the photo will be what you are cutting out from your pumpkin!

After you have adjusted the brightness/contrast, your photo should be completely black and white and look something like this:

Now you will want to take the 'paint brush' and select the color white. You will want to white out ('paint' over) all the extra black parts of the photos that you don't want or need. Basically leaving your photo with only the face and hair:

You now have your template! Now this is IMPORTANT!! Make sure that when you save your template, you click 'SAVE AS' - this saves the photo as a completely new creation, so you don't ruin the original picture!! You also want to be sure to save it as a .jpg so it will print.

LASTLY, you will Print it out! And now you have a custom photo to use as a template for your pumpkin. Remember, the black parts will be what you carve out.

For those who have never used a template before here are some helpful instructions:
  • Prepare your pumpkin by:
    • Cut a hole in the top for the lid.  Make sure you angle the saw inwards so your lid sits on top of the pumpkin and doesn’t just fall through
    • Scoop out the seeds and strings with a spoon
    • Scrape some of the flesh from the inside so your pumpkin is about an inch thick all the way around (or at least wherever you’ll be carving). 
  • Print out the pattern.     
  • Trim off excess paper
  • Tape or use pins to affix the pattern to the pumpkin.
  • If your pumpkin is quite lumpy, dip the paper in water or vegetable oil (the oil will make printer ink run less, but makes the project quite slippery). 
    • Smooth the pattern onto the pumpkin, affix with pins or masking tape and let the paper dry. 
    • You can also make small cuts in the paper where it bunches so it lies flat on the pumpkin.  Add pins or tape to hold
  • Poke holes through the pattern with a nail, push pin or pumpkin poker.  Make the holes about 1/8th inch apart (or even closer for more complicated patterns).  This step can take quite awhile so be patient.  Just place the pumpkin in your lap and work away at it.
  • Remove the paper from the pumpkin.
  • Rub flour all over the part where you poked the holes so you can see them better.
  • Push a nail through the pumpkin skin where you want to start carving. 
    • Turn and push until it’s all the way into the pumpkin, then remove. 
    • Repeat anywhere you're going to need to start carving (eyes, nose, etc). 
    • You want to do all the pushing before you start carving because it take some pressure (once you start carving, the pumpkin becomes weaker and applying pressure may cause it to break)
  • Using your nail hole as a starting point, cut the design with your serrated knife or saw. 
    • start somewhere in the center of the design to keep from putting too much pressure on areas already carved
    • Use a sawing motion to cut out your design, using very light pressure… take your time and allow the sawing to do the work rather than applying pressure and forcing it.
  • When making curves, just slightly turn the saw.  When making sharp corners, remove the saw and re-insert it at an angle.
  • To remove pieces, push them out from the inside.  For larger pieces, you may want to cut them into smaller bits and remove them in sections.

Want to see how my custom pumpkins turned out? Check out the finished pumpkins HERE!! Plus, step by step tips! :)

If you happen to try this out, please do share the results with me! Leave a link in the comments or share your photo with me on facebook, twitter or Instagram. I think it would be so much fun to feature your photos on my blog! So share away, I am excited to see what custom creations you come up with!

Much Love & Hugs,
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  1. that is awesome! I never would have thought of that but it's a pretty cool idea.

  2. What a great idea. I saw this with tshirts but putting it on pumpkins is so much cooler...

  3. Great idea! Am going to have to try this out this year!

    Thanks for sharing.


  4. Youre very welcome! please post pics when you do, Id love to see how they turn out! :)

  5. Seriously a fun idea! I would love to do this with my kids! I am highlighting this at

  6. SQUEEEEEE :) Im very happy about this! YAY!! Thank you.

  7. What am amazing idea! I would love to see an end result.

    Thanks for linking with What little boys are made of.

  8. Maria you are so creative, love the feel and look of your blog, and I do love pictures. I am totally snap happy, and nowhere near as talented as you, so I am very happy that I found you, such great stuff on here. I would love for you to link this up to my **6 weeks 2 Spook** Party, its new and just for Halloween, so this would be perfect!!! Hope to see you, and can't wait to explore more of your blog. Your happy newest follower. Bella :)

  9. Kim- Thank you, I do plan on posting once we get around to buying pumpkins... or maybe I will buy one early just to show off! :)

    Bella- You are too sweet, thank you for all your kind words. Its comments like yours that really make my day! :) Im glad you found my blog too! hehe I will definitely check our yours too and link up to your party! Sounds like fun! YAY!

  10. I would love to try this! I usually just paint ours :)

  11. What a GREAT idea!!! Thanks for sharing this tutorial on Thrilling Thursday!

    ~Lori S.
    Thrilling Thursdays @Paisley Passions

  12. Right on! Thanks for breaking this down for us. Going to try this on a photo even though I can only carve very simple templates.

  13. This is such an awesome idea! I love photography and photo crafts, but never, did I ever, think of this! So creative! Thanks so much for the tutorial! I featured it on my friday favorites!

  14. So great! Im glad I could help inspire fabulous pumpkins this year!! :) If any of you create them, please post and let me know, Id love to see how others turn out!! :)

    Mommy2Luke2008- Thanks so much, thats awesome! Ill be sure to check that out!!

  15. Hi Isabel, or Maria, which is it??? lol, THANK YOU so much for linking up this and your wreath, I totally love them both. I am so excited with all the cool stuff on there already, and theres still a month or more of cool stuff to come yet. All these wonderful ideas will make my party a huge success. Thanks again, and CAN"T wait to see what else you come up with, halloween or not, just know it will be great. :)

  16. Bella- :) Its actually Maria-Isabel... I mostly go by Maria.. but on the internet I go by IsabelGridley. LOL idk why.. I kinda like Isabel Better. But either name is fine with me!! :)
    Youre so welcome, I was glad to link up!! BTW I just came across a blog that you may like.. and would give you lots of ideas for your halloween party! Check her out:

  17. Such a great idea to make a custom template. Thanks for the tutorial - I featured it here. So clever!

  18. Aimee, thank you so much, that totally rocks! :) I appreciate the feature!! :)

  19. Are you still interested in participating in Spooktacular? I would love to have you show off some of your stuff. If you are will email me at doodlesanddoilies (at) gmail (dot) com. I haven't been able to find your email.

  20. Hahaha I enjoyed browsing for these awesome Pumpkin Design Ideas. I hope it’s fine with you that I could pin them on my Pinterest board. I’m so sure my followers would be happy to see these interesting photos. Keep sharing! :D

  21. This is such a good idea, definitely something that I'd like to try out myself xxx


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