A Fail-Proof Jack-o’-Lantern Cutout

Use this classic stencil to help spruce up your home for Halloween.

This Halloween, keep it simple with this classic Jack-o’-Lantern cutout for your pumpkin. As the saying goes: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This cutout is perfect for even the most beginner carvers—so don’t be intimidated! Pumpkin carving is a great activity for the whole family—the little ones can scoop and the big ones can cut.

First thing’s first: Find the perfect pumpkin. Make an activity out of it and browse your local pumpkin patch (which is always fun for the kids), or keep it simple and scoop one up at your favorite grocery store. No matter where you buy, be sure to examine the stem before checking out, says Marc Evan of ManiacPumpkinCarvers.com. Because a pumpkin gets nutrients and moisture from the stem, a missing or brittle stem could indicate poor health.

After picking the best pumpkin, it is important to hold off on carving. Though it's tempted to get your tools out right away, carving your pumpkin too soon could cause premature rotting. Wait until the day before Halloween (or whenever else you plan to display your creation).

Once you're ready to get started, prep your work place with a sheet of plastic or take the whole project outside to minimize cleanup. Then cut a hole either in the back of the pumpkin (this helps preserve the pumpkin!) so you can scoop out the guts. Once the pumpkin is clear on the inside, it's ready for the jack-o’-lantern cutout. Simply place the stencil on the pumpkin and, using the sharpest knife in your house (either from your kitchen or a pumpkin carving set), start slicing away. When you’re all done place a small candle or string of lights inside the tummy of the pumpkin and—voila!—a glowing jack-o'-lantern for your stoop.

Jack-o-Lantern Pumpkin Stencil

Get the larger, printable version here.