The best jack-o-lanterns are easy to pick out in a crowd. They’re eye-catching and look rather polished in a display of jack-o-lanterns. For this year’s pumpkin decorating contest, our daughter requested a unicorn jack-o-lantern. I’m pretty sure it took us a collective five or six hours to make, but it’s been epic. She took a full 45 seconds to react to seeing it for the first time! With that in mind, here’s a short and sweet list of our favorite tips and hacks for the best jack-o-lanterns.
Creating the Best Jack-O-Lanterns Every Year
Raw, natural talent goes a long way in crafting scenarios such as carving custom pumpkins. However, you can still create some of the best jack-o-lanterns even if you’re a relatively new pumpkin-carving artist. You just need a little inspiration and maybe a secret jack-o-lantern trick. Here are some great jack-o-lantern tips to try at home.
Search online to find inspiration.
Check out Pinterest, Google images, and any of your other favorite image databases. Find designs that you like and narrow it down to one final choice. You can find a pumpkin carving design that matches your family’s interests or your own personal favorites. The best jack-o-lantern designs are sure to show up online eventually, so use your imagination or look for inspiration.
Pay attention to pop culture and trends.
You might find that the latest kids’ movie provides the perfect inspiration for your annual jack-o-lantern. Other trends like birthday party themes, favorite characters, and popular games can also lead to epic pumpkins for fall decorations and Halloween parties. Don’t forget horror movies and other haunted themes. You can even dig deeper and reawaken throwback styles (like the Kool-Aid Man busting out of the pumpkin!) and other vintage themes for Halloween.
Print or create a template and attach to your jack-o-lantern.
Carving freehand is an amazing talent, but it may take some time to become comfortable enough to translate designs directly from your mind to the pumpkin. If you’re more of a beginner or amateur, start with a piece of paper that is appropriately sized for the pumpkin you’re going to carve. Use a pencil if you plan to draw the design by hand or print a design directly off the internet. Tape the template onto the front of the pumpkin. Line it up for the right orientation and double and triple check just to be extra sure.
Start from the bottom of the pumpkin.
Carving from the bottom first can help to keep the entire pumpkin’s shape and health intact. Carving from the bottom also helps to give your pumpkin a longer doorstep life, keeping it from drooping and visibly decomposing as long as possible. Scoop out the insides as needed and set aside the seeds to roast!
Carve carefully and slowly with the right tools.
Remember that you can always carve more, but you can’t put it back together once you cut through it. Use a professional carving kit rather than the cheapie dollar store or Walmart-special alternatives for noticeable results. You can also use other non-carving tools to bring dramatic effects to your jack-o-lanterns, like pottery-sculpting tools, ribbon sculpting tools, an Xacto knife, and clay hole cutters to make dots. Carving text and other intricate details into pumpkins can be tricky without very precise carving tools.
Up the ante with better carving skills like shaving details into the pumpkin skin.
Practice your art by carving intricate designs and using the shaving tool to add unique dimension to your pumpkin carving designs. You can carve extra flesh out of the pumpkin to show different thicknesses in the designs. This technique works especially well when carving teeth and other facial features into your designs. Dad pumpkin carvers we’ve spoken to have spent upwards of SIX HOURS on one pumpkin carving using this shaving technique, but the results are AMAZING, like the Philadelphia Eagles jack-o-lantern we saw at a trunk or treat.
You can carve your pumpkin first and then paint with shiny acrylic paint for as permanent of a fall pumpkin as possible. Bright colors will certainly make your pumpkin stand out, but you can also make a great statement with basics like black and white.
Enhance your pumpkin’s design with glitter or other add-ons.
Depending on your jack-o-lantern theme, you might find a use for clever and eye-catching craft accessories. Try glitter, sequins, fabric, or other fancy, flashy add-ons.
Incorporate slime into your carved creations.
Making a rich batch of glow-in-the-dark slime can truly give you your money’s worth around Halloween time. Incorporate glowing slime into your pumpkin design safely when using battery-operated jack-o-lantern lighting.
Consider multiple pumpkins for the carving.
You might find that your most epic jack-o-lantern design works best when you have several pumpkins at work. Try a snowman pumpkin carving or a pumpkin inside a pumpkin. This works well with the pregnant jack-o-lantern design idea or a big pumpkin eating a smaller one.
Feature the stem as part of the jack-o-lantern design.
You can make the stem into a pretty wicked nose, horn, or other appendage when you map out your design creatively before you begin carving. Consider how the stem can play into your jack-o-lantern’s overall look.
Incorporate the seeds into the jack-o-lantern design.
Some of the most amusing and best jack-o-lanterns have recycled the pumpkin seeds right back into the creation. Not all of these pumpkins are PG, mind you. Take the breast-pump(kin) with two holes carved and two real, actual breast pump bottles filled with pumpkin seeds, for example. Another ‘seedy’ favorite is the puking pumpkin that is barfing out its own seeds and pulp. That one’s perfect for your drunken adult Halloween festivities.
Choose your light wisely!
Instead of a candle or flameless candle, kick things up a notch. Look for a mood lamp or color-changing LED light that fits inside a pumpkin. You can even find portable battery-powered light bulbs and other unique jack-o-lantern light options. See #7 for my true recommendation here.
Make one of the best jack-o-lanterns a rockin’ pumpkin instead.
Snag a cylindrical, wireless Bluetooth speaker that puts out a lot of light AND connects with your phone for bonus ease of use and an extreme audio-visual experience. I highly recommend the Gemini Wireless Speaker and Mood Lamp. We grabbed this great item on an impulse buy hoping it would work for our needs, and it ended up being the perfect size for our pumpkin. I loved that it puts out an amazing 160 lumens and offers many LED colors as well as white light, rotating colors, or a light show that pulses to the beat of the music you choose.
Create a playlist of your favorite songs to complete the experience.
We used YouTube to create a playlist of our daughter’s favorite songs, but you can also choose a Pandora station or whatever else works for your needs. Make a fun pop song playlist for happy pumpkins or a creepy Halloween mix of spooky songs for a scary jack-o-lantern design. Last of all, for the best jack-o-lantern experience, give your stroller a workout and push your pumpkin pumping out the tunes along with you as your kids go trick-or-treating this year.
Epic Jack-O-Lanterns: Go Audio-Visual for a Better Pumpkin Carving
The best jack-o-lanterns today aren’t just carved pumpkins. The most creative additions can be a quick and easy unicorn jack-o-lantern that flashes brilliant rainbows of light while playing favorite kids’ songs at a high enough volume to attract attention and amusement. Like our family’s epic jack-o-lantern this year:
At the time of writing, only three Gemini speakers were in stock on Amazon. I did a little research and some similar models appear to be:
- SHAVA LED Bluetooth Speaker: Five color modes plus light flashes to the beat. (Current Amazon Coupon to save 5%)
- ELEPOWSTAR Bluetooth Music Speaker: Seven color changing modes and color change with the song. (Current Amazon Coupon to save 6%)
- POECES LED Bluetooth Speaker: Six color change modes
Don’t settle for the same old jack-o-lantern! Delight your kids year after year with an affordable color-changing Bluetooth speaker that fits inside your carving pumpkin. Here are my recommendations, but please check sizing before buying or get your pumpkin after you have the speaker in hand.
Become known for having the best jack-o-lanterns on your street come Halloween and trick-or-treat night. Feel free to share any other great jack-o-lantern tips or suggestions in our comments or on our Facebook page.