Undeniably, the most recognized symbol of fall is the pumpkin. Whether carved or cooked, this notable gourd is sure to show up everywhere this time of year. Take a look at everything you need to get your ghoul on and create one-of-a-kind Halloween décor.

Undeniably, the most recognized symbol of fall is the pumpkin. Whether carved or cooked, this notable gourd is sure to show up everywhere this time of year. Take a look at everything you need to get your ghoul on and create one-of-a-kind Halloween décor.


 


Carving 101


Pumpkins were recognized for their larger size and carving convenience when Halloween caught on in America in the late 1800s. Nowadays, Halloween is celebrated in many ways, with pumpkin carving at the forefront. 


Simply spooky:


Carving pumpkins freehand is the most traditional way of creating a jack-o’-lantern and is perfect for beginners. PumpkinCarving101.com recommends using a long, thin-bladed knife held at an angle to cut a large hole in the top of the pumpkin, ensuring it’s big enough to remove insides. After insides are clean, visualize your ideal face and get to work. Pop out cut pieces and illuminate with a white-colored candle for the best light.


 Downright ghoulish:


Creative pumpkins are a passion for Brad Miller of CarvingPumpkins.com. Brad advises carvers attempting a more challenging design to think in multiple layers. “Pumpkins have a special glow to them if you peel off the skin without cutting all the way through,” says Miller. This technique allows a shading effect not possible with cut-out designs. Let your imagination go and try your hand at more advanced carvings like scenes or monograms.


Top tips:


“Above all, be patient,” urges Miller. “Artistic results come from careful planning and execution.” Miller’s other tips include choosing smooth skin for easier carving, thinning the pumpkin from the inside to about 1” thick for sharper details, and cutting the initial hole in the bottom instead of the top, for a streamlined look.


Tool kit:


The pumpkin-carving list includes a large, sturdy spoon to remove the insides, a long, thin-bladed sharp kitchen knife, and a garbage bag for easy cleanup. For serious carvers, Miller recommends Speedball linoleum art cutting tools, which work great for skin shaving.


 


Painted pumpkins


 Painted pumpkins are increasingly taking the jack-o-’lantern world by storm. Painting the gourds adds loads of color to your Halloween landscape, eliminates the need for sharp tools and lasts longer than carved pumpkins. Beginners can join in on the fun, but like anything else, practice makes perfect.


Simply spooky:


Funny faces or traditional scarecrows are great places to start. “Think of your pumpkin as a blank canvas, anxiously waiting to be brought to life,” says Sandra Gregson, a Massachusetts artist and author of “Easy Pumpkin Painting.” Before painting your pumpkin, practice your design on paper with black acrylic paint. Once finished, Gregson recommends adding accessories like straw hats, bandanas and hay for hair.


Downright ghoulish:


The sky is the limit when it comes to elaborately painted pumpkins. Gregson urges painters to pay attention to trends and kids’ favorite characters or sports teams. Once an image is chosen, either paint freehand or transfer the design by tracing it onto tracing paper and then to graphite paper attached to your pumpkin.


Top tips:


Choose pumpkins that have long, sturdy stems, skins that are hard to puncture with a fingernail and a background color suitable for your artwork. “This will eliminate the need for a base coat,” says Gregson, who has been painting and selling pumpkins for years. Avoid cracking by bringing painted pumpkins inside when temperatures reach freezing.


Tool kit:


Gregson recommends using acrylic paints with good-quality paintbrushes that give the painter more control. Once paint has dried, spray with a sealer to lock in vibrant colors, but remember to avoid spray paint and sealers if you’re pregnant.


 


Pumpkins on display


From a single curly-stemmed pumpkin placed on porch steps to a creative cornucopia, nothing says autumn like this earthy orange fruit. Best of all, pumpkin displays allow you to show off your own style and creativity -- no experience necessary.


 Simply spooky: Pumpkins and other gourds are truly stand-alone decorations, making this display the easiest. Find a local farmers market or pumpkin patch and crawl through piles of unusual shapes, sizes and hues. Scour the attic or garage for an old wheelbarrow, basket or washtub. Arrange your autumnal jewels in a place that greets visitors near the front door.


Downright ghoulish:


 According to Donna Moramarco at Learn2Grow.com, creating a pumpkin totem pole can be fun and easy. Cut a hole in the top and bottom of several pumpkins and stack them to decide how high your totem pole will be. Leave 10 to 12 inches to be hammered into the ground and plan for the pole to end just inside the top of the highest pumpkin. Place a sturdy container with a hole in the bottom on the ground and hammer the dowel through the hole and into place. Fill the container with rocks or bricks and then carefully push each pumpkin onto the pole. For a special touch, conceal your container with hay or smaller pumpkins, or consider painting faces on each one.


Top tips:


Most important is getting as many hands as you can involved in these projects. Pumpkin displays are a family affair and will get everyone in the spirit of the season.


Tool kit:


Tools vary and are determined by individual projects. As far as what you’ll need for decorating with pumpkins, you’re only limited by your imagination. Dream up your own unique and creative way of paying homage to this iconic squash.