Introduction: How to Carve: Wonder Woman
The following as an instructable on how I (and though very difficult how YOU could, too) carved my 2017 Pumpkin, Woman. I hope you all like it!
This Instructable will cover the techniques I use to carve the ultra detailed pumpkins I post every year. You can apply these techniques to any specific picture you like to get pumpkins similar to mine.
Remember, this is EXTREMELY challenging, but I always like to post an instructable to show people each year how I did it. I have embedded time-lapse videos of the ENTIRE process (except pattern drawing), so feel free to watch those. However the Instructable covers the details of how I go about doing what I do. Enjoy!
Step 1: Tools and Supplies
The only tools used are pictured.
Serrated pumpkin carving knives (from those kits you can buy ANYwhere around Halloween)
X-acto knife with various, interchangeable blades
Large spoon or pumpkin kit scoop to empty out the pumpkin innards
Ball point pen or fine-tipped Sharpie (Sharpies can get annoying as the wet pumpkin can make drawing a pain)
Light bulb(s) and free hanging plug and socket(s)
Paper (if you make a pattern first that is then traced onto the pumpkin)
Tracer projector (if you want assistance with direct image drawing on the pumpkin)
Clear packing tape
Step 2: Multi-depth Carving Technique
A few notes on multi-depth carving:
The layering is the key to the entire look of these pumpkins. In order to achieve a "shaded" look, as if in a photo or drawing, you have to know how the light works. Obviously, when all the pumpkin skin is left on, very little light makes its way through the pumpkin, so these areas will be dark. Shave off JUST the skin, and a little more light shows through, so this area will now be a bit brighter/lighter. There you go, two different shades from a pumpkin!
Go a step further and shave off the skin and some pumpkin flesh... now you have an even lighter color showing through. Go yet further than that, and carve ALL the pumpkin away... now you have the brightest shade of them all! The brief description above gets you 4 different shades, all with a very simple (but, I understand, hard to fine tune) technique. You can then take that idea and go far beyond just 4 basic depths. Doing so allows you to achieve results as you see in my pumpkins each year.
Step 3: Carving Techniques
Fine detail carving: Use the sharp-tipped X-acto blades for fine details: The sharp tipped X-acto blades are used to carve ALL details of the pumpkin. This blade allows for the most amount of control to achieve the fine details needed.
The blade is used to cut into the desired depth around the previously drawn lines. Once the detail is cut, the blade is then turned on its side and used to pop the previously cut piece out of pumpkin.
Planing with a flat blade: Use the flat-tipped X-acto knife to "plane" away pieces of the pumpkin. This is done at various depths, allowing more or less light through depending on if more or less pumpkin flesh is taken.
As mentioned in the previous step, the fine blades can be used to pop smaller pieces of finely carved detail out of the pumpkin. However, for larger areas it is much easier to use the larger, flat blade to plane pieces of pumpkin away. As a reminder, this should only be done AFTER you have carved the outlines of the pieces you tend to plane away using the fine tipped blades. If you don't carve around the outlines first, the pumpkin pieces will not be removed neatly and you will have a messy or ruined image.
"Sculpting": This is a newer technique I had to use this year due to the more organic shapes of Wonder Woman's face/upper torso (as opposed to her armor, tiara, etc.). To "sculpt" the more rounded areas I simply took one of the carving knives with a larger, more rounded blade tip and turned it sideways. I then used this rounded blade tip to scrape pumpkin away a little at a time; more pumpkin scraped away for lighter parts of the face/torso, less for the darker areas.
Step 4: Choose Your Image
Each year I try and choose a subject that interests me. I always try to go more challenging than the previous year as well. You should look for an image with strong lighting as this adds contrast. The more contrast to the image, the easier it tends to translate to the pumpkin. Having some really good highlights helps to add real punch to the finished product.
This year I chose Wonder Woman as my subject of choice. In this step you can see several images I considered. For the most part all have strong lighting and contrast, and the various poses she is in are dynamic and, to me, interesting.
I settled on the image of Wonder Woman straight on, deflecting a bullet with one of her gauntlets. I thought the central light of the bullet deflection would make a great focal point and allow for very good contrast with the rest of the image.
Image credits: DC Comics/Warner Brothers Studios, found via Google Search of Gal Gadot Wonder Woman
Step 5: Prepare Your Image for Pattern Drawing
Before worrying about the pattern itself frame your subject in a way that will be interesting in the final carve. The first image I found was a near full body shot. Trying to fit that onto a pumpkin would rob it of detail as everything would need to be carved smaller. I decided to frame her in a way that included her head/face and all of her iconic costume but nothing more.
A pumpkin becomes much easier to carve by first converting the image to black and white. This makes it much easier for your eye to catch the difference in light and dark areas and decide how best to make your pattern or draw the image directly onto the pumpkin.
Once the image is converted to black and white play with the contrast a bit and strike a good balance between light and dark. My first attempt blew out the lighting too much, while the second attempt was much better.
From here you can either develop your own pattern or use the image directly. I often draw a color coded pattern and work from that, though this year I decided to do a direct drawing on the pumpkin.
Step 6: Transfer Your Image to the Pumpkin.
This can be done multiple ways. You can draw a pattern, tape it to the pumpkin, then trace over it, leaving indentations in the pumpkin that can be traced over. This is the method I have used since 2009 up until this year.
Because of the immense detail and more organic shading needed for Wonder Woman I decided to do a direct drawing on the pumpkin. One way to aid you in this endeavor is to use a projector tracer, as pictured above. In two images you can see the projected image on the pumpkin. This image is not projected in enough fidelity to gain any detail out of, however it is a good way to get your basic outlines and shapes down, after which detail can be added free hand.
Step 7: Pattern/image Transfer Continued.
The pictures in this step simply depict my free hand addition of details using close ups of the image I chose.
Step 8: Hollow Out Your Pumpkin and Test Evenness of Illumination.
Hollow out the pumpkin as you normally would. Be careful not to scrape out too much of the flesh from the beginning.
You want to leave enough pumpkin flesh thickness so that, when illuminated, you have a nice, uniform light leak through the flesh and skin. If the pumpkin is too dark in some areas, gently scrape away a little extra flesh from the inside until the light leak is even.
Remember, you can always take more away, but you cannot put any back!!!
To get the type of illumination necessary candles will not do. I use 2 CFL bulbs on free hanging cords.
Step 9: Carving Time! the Tiara.
At this point we will now begin to employ the various techniques described in the first steps of this instructable. I generally try to carve top to bottom, left to right (I am right handed). This keeps my hand/arm from constantly resting or disturbing previous areas I have carved.
Wonder Woman's tiara requires mostly detail carving, using the fine-tipped X-acto knife blade for the majoruty. The "gleaming" portion is one of the only spots on the head that is carved all the way through to allow light to freely show.
Step 10: Carving Time! Wonder Woman's Face.
As described earlier in this instructable a new technique was employed this year. Because of the rounded curves of the face carving hard lines at different depths would have looked very unnatural.
Instead, a "sculpting" like technique is used where pumpkin flesh is scraped away incrementally and in smooth transitions from the lighter areas to the darker areas.
Step 11: Carving Time! the Gauntlet Deflection and Upper Torso.
At this point I had to make a decision; carve the gauntlet deflection now or wait until later in the process. Though the bright light is a tad annoying it was beneficial to see how this large, bright spot would play off the rest of the carving.
Once the bullet deflection is carved you can move onto the upper torso and arms. Again, organic shapes such as muscle, elbow, etc., require a more sculpted look/technique.
Step 12: Carving Time! That Iconic Armor!
A large bulk of the carve will now involve that awesome armor.
The armor will generally require a combination of both fine detail carving as well as planing techniques.
Again, as described previously, working from top left to lower right will help preserve the details of the armor as you move down the carving.
Step 13: Carving Time! Armor Continued.
Nothing new here, just continue working on the armor as before.
Step 14: Carving Time! the Lower Skirt.
It may seem weird to mention this but the lower skirt requires a a slightly different but oddly easy to perform technique. If you look closely at the skirt in photos it has an almost hammered metal appearance. This can be easily achieved by taking a larger, more rounded blade from the pumpkin Masters type carving tools.
You can then use this to sort of haphazardly jab at the pumpkin skin to remove irregular little spots and pieces of pumpkin skin, while leaving other irregularly shaped sections behind. Once lit this gives a surprisingly convincing appearance of that hammered metal look.
Step 15: Turn Off the Lights and Enjoy!
Self explanatory step!