Best Pumpkin Carving Designs: Top 5 Jack-o’-Lanterns, According to Halloween Experts

Fall is soon approaching, and you know what that means — Halloween is nearly upon us! Millions of people across the U.S. will be celebrating by dressing up and trick-or-treating. But not only is Halloween a time for costumes and candy, it’s also for carving pumpkins! From witches, to cats, to zombies, there’s hundreds of different cut-outs to choose from. To help whittle it down, StudyFinds has put together a list of the best pumpkin carving designs.

How did Halloween start? Its ancient origins are traced to a Celtic pagan ceremony as far back as 500 B.C. According to Linus Owens, an associate professor of sociology at Middlebury College, the Celts lived in what is now Ireland. They celebrated New Year’s Day on Nov. 1, which they called Samhain. They believed that leading up to the transition to the new year, the door between the worlds of the living and the dead swung open. The souls of the recently dead, previously trapped on Earth, could now pass to the underworld. Since they thought spirits came out after dark, this supernatural activity reached its peak the night before, on Oct. 31. The Celts invented rituals to protect themselves during this turbulent time. They put on costumes and disguises to fool the spirits. They lit bonfires and stuck candles inside carved turnips – the first jack-o’-lanterns – to scare away any spirits looking for mischief. If all else failed, they carried a pocketful of treats to pay off wayward spirits and send them back on their way to the underworld.

The best part of Halloween for children is indulging all the candy they get from their neighbors. Kids might not be able to eat all their sweet treats in one night, but they won’t last long. Four in five children end up eating their entire candy haul within the first week! One in four won’t even make it to November 2. Forty-two percent of parents admit that their kids don’t think they get enough candy at the end of the night.

To get prepped for the holiday, go grab a pumpkin! StudyFinds has put together a list of the top five best pumpkin carving designs you should try. Did we miss one? Let us know in the comments below!

The List: Best Pumpkin Carving Designs, According to Experts

1. Cats

If there’s one animal that’s always associated with Halloween, it’s cats — especially the black cat. “This idea doesn’t require as much carving as the others,” writes Good Housekeeping. “Cut out almond-shaped eyes, spray paint your pumpkins and add cat ears that you can DIY using toothpicks.”

Cat pumpkin carving
Cat pumpkin carving (Photo by Maria Dryfhout on Shutterstock)

“If you’ve had enough of traditional pumpkin carving and you want some fresh ideas to decorate your house this Halloween, then this feline face design will definitely be right up your alley,” notes “However, this is one of the more realistic designs we have in store for you this Halloween, so you might want to brush up on your carving skills before you start working on this one, else you’ll probably end up with a ruined pumpkin and maybe just a bit frustrated.”

Not all cats need to be spooky, though. Try the Cute Cat Pumpkin design from House Beautiful. “If you’re not into the whole scariness of Halloween and you consider yourself a cat lover, opt for carving a cute cat pumpkin.”

2. Witches

Witches have been part of the Halloween lexicon for as long as we can remember. And what better way to celebrate than to carve them on a pumpkin! “Go for an out-of-the-box design with this witch’s legs stencil,” writes Woman’s Day. “Bonus points if you accompany the pumpkin with a broom!”

Witch pumpkin carving in the top right corner
Witch pumpkin carving in the top right corner (Photo by Ovchinnkov Vladimir on Shutterstock)

“Sweet and friendly with lush eyelashes that’ll make anyone jealous this witch pumpkin is ready to great trick-or treaters with a smile!” notes Country Living. “TO MAKE: Stack three white pumpkins. Carve a friendly face in the top most pumpkin. Paint on eyelashes with black acrylic paint and use pushpins to create pupils. Wrap a piece of black felt around the ‘neck’ and tie in place with ribbon. Top it all off with a witch hat.”

If you want to get creative, try this Artsy Witch Pumpkin design from Reader’s Digest. “I’ll get you, my pretty … and your little pumpkin too! This simple yet artsy witch will make a statement (and not only the one we just mentioned).”

3. Zombies

Zombies are a favorite Halloween costume, but it’s also a popular pumpkin-carving design. “‘Walking Dead’ fans rejoice—we’ve got the best pumpkin carving idea for you,” writes Better Homes and Gardens. “Create a creepy zombie hand with a lit background for a shaded and spooky design. Use a lumpy and bumpy pumpkin to complete the undead look.”

“Are you looking for cool pumpkin carvings that will make your lawn look like a spooky graveyard?,” asks Home BNC. “You’ll need two pumpkins; one will be slightly smaller than the other. On the larger bottom pumpkin, you’ll have the skeleton arm, which consists mostly of several vertical lines. The top pumpkin is a bit more complicated with the skeleton hand.”

Do you want to honor one of the best horror movies in “Night of the Walking Dead?” Try this design from This Old House. “Stoney M. of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, gave us a 3-for-1 when he entered this super-creative display. He carved a pair of hands and a zombie head into three separate gourds. ‘In the dark, this arrangement of three gourds looks like the zombie is raising from the grave,’ he said.”

4. Disney Characters

What’s a Halloween when you’re not dressed up as your favorite Disney character? They also make great pumpkin-carving designs, like Mickey Mouse. “While Studio DIY crafted this Mickey Mouse decor out of faux pumpkins, why not use the concept on real ones?” writes House Beautiful. “The tutorial includes printable stencils to make it easy.”

Mickey Mouse pumpkin
Mickey Mouse pumpkin (Photo by Louise Cochrane on Shutterstock)

And you obviously can’t have Mickey without Minnie! “If you’re missing Disney right about now, just bring your favorite character home with you! Minnie looks cute in pumpkin form, no?” says Delish.

It doesn’t stop at Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Give Snow White a go. “Family Disney guides you through the process of carving out little pumpkin portraits of your favorite Disney princesses!” notes “This Snow White version is absolutely adorable, but the website gives you instructions for making other princesses, too, if you prefer. This is a great option for little kids who aren’t so sure about this whole ‘scary holiday’ thing yet. They’ll get to participate without feeling uncomfortable.”

5. Owls

Cats aren’t the only animal associated with Halloween — owls are as well. And carving owls into a pumpkin is such a hoot! “This owl pumpkin is easy to make even if you don’t have a template!” writes Home BNC. “Carve in basic circles and a triangle to create the eyes and the nose. For the body, add several V’s fairly close together that resembles an owl’s feathered look. It is not necessary to fully carve out the wings because you want them to have a different color and texture than the rest of your pumpkin owl.”

Pumpkin carved like an owl
Pumpkin carved like an owl (Photo by Hansjörg Keller on Unsplash)

“With pumpkin seeds as eye decorations, there’s no need to ask who has the cutest pumpkin of them all,” notes Delish.

And if you want a sweet-looking owl, give this design a try. “This pumpkin design is anything but scary! The details of this stencil include leaves, flowers, and polka dots,” says Better Homes and Gardens. “Use a drill and traditional carving tools to bring this Halloween hoot owl to life.”

You might also be interested in:


Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.

Follow on Google News

About the Author

Matt Higgins

Matt Higgins worked in national and local news for 15 years. He started out as an overnight production assistant at Fox News Radio in 2007 and ended in 2021 as the Digital Managing Editor at CBS Philadelphia. Following his news career, he spent one year in the automotive industry as a Digital Platforms Content Specialist contractor with Subaru of America and is currently a freelance writer and editor for StudyFinds. Matt believes in facts, science and Philadelphia sports teams crushing his soul.

The contents of this website do not constitute advice and are provided for informational purposes only. See our full disclaimer