Introduction: I... Am Optimus Prime: How To

Picture of I... Am Optimus Prime: How To

Following is my Instructable on how I carved (and, though extremely difficult, how YOU could carve) my 2013 pumpkin "I... am Optimus Prime!"

The only tools used are in the picture below.

Tools include:
Serrated pumpkin carving knives (from those kits you can by ANYwhere around Halloween)
X-acto knife with various 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)

Remember, this is EXTREMELY challenging, but I always like to post an instructable to show people each year how I did it.  Enjoy!

Step 1: Step 1: Choose an Image

Picture of Step 1: Choose an Image

My first step each year is always choosing an image that will make an awesome pumpkin.  Superheroes were my carving subjects of choice the past few years, but I wanted even more of a challenge this year.  What better than the one, the only Optimus Prime, with all his mechanical glory and signature flames!

Step 2: Step 2: Draw/color Code the Pattern

Picture of Step 2: Draw/color Code the Pattern

I essentially take the image chosen and begin drawing a rough outline of the pattern.  It is during the pattern drawing step that you must choose what detail stays and what goes.  As you can see from the original image there is no WAY every detail will make it in.  

You can be loose with your decisions, just make sure to retain large, general shapes and details that give the viewer an indication of what is what in the final pumpkin (i.e. I was sure to keep enough details to be able to tell what is Optimus' arm versus his leg in the background).  

When it comes to color coding, I use a tiered system of greys and white.  In the pattern drawing white areas are those areas where the pumpkin will be carved through, flesh and all.  Successively darker greys are then used to denote taking more or less pumpkin flseh and/or skin.  

Step 3: Step 3: Tape the Pattern to the Pumpkin

Picture of Step 3: Tape the Pattern to the Pumpkin

It is now time to tape the pattern to the pumpkin.  This part is tricky, as you need to "mold" the flat pattern around the round pumpkin. The best way to accomplish this is to cut the pattern at strategic points so the paper can be folded and spread in various directions to get the pattern as flat to the pumpkin as possible.  

Step 4: Step 4: Transfer the Pattern to the Pumpkin

Picture of Step 4: Transfer the Pattern to the Pumpkin

To transfer the pattern I employ a deceptively simple technique.  I simply use a ballpoint pen and trace over every line of the pattern.  Once finished I remove the pattern and the indentations of the pen can be seen relatively clearly on the surface of the pumpkin.  

Step 5: Step 5: Trace Over the Indentations

Picture of Step 5: Trace Over the Indentations

Now that the indentations have been made from tracing the pattern onto the pumpkin, I then use the same ballpoint pen to trace over the indentations to form the pattern image on the pumpkin itself.  

Step 6: Step 6: Carving Time!

Picture of Step 6: Carving Time!

All carving, even on a pumpkin as large as this one was, is done using an X-Acto knife and a few basic serrated carving knives. 

There are a couple of basic carving techniques that I use to accomplish all the results you see in this pumpkin.

1) Use the serrated knife to cut full thickness pieces: The serrated knives are ONLY used to cut all the way through the pumpkin to allow the maximum amount of light through.  

2) 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. 

3) 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.  

Step 7: Step 7: Always Check Your Work As You Go!

Picture of Step 7: Always Check Your Work As You Go!

Once key to a successful pumpkin is always checking your work as you go.  I did this often, lighting the pumpkin on the inside as Step 8 will show, to check the general look.  By checking your work as you go you can make adjustments to the final result so you end up with the best pumpkin possible!

Step 8: Step 8: Light Your Pumpkin!

Picture of Step 8: Light Your Pumpkin!

Plain old candles will just NOT be enough to light a pumpkin like this properly.  To light my pumpkins I simply use CFL bulbs (those curly-q light bulbs that have replaced old incandescents) attached to a socket and a click wheel switch.  You can either cut a hole in the back of the pumpkin, or simply stick the light in through the top hole.  I simply stuck two lights inside the hole on the top, then replaced the lid I made to hold the lights suspended in the air.  

Step 9: Step 9: Turn the Lights Off and Enjoy!

Picture of Step 9: Turn the Lights Off and Enjoy!

Step 10: More Pictures to Show the Pumpkin: )

Picture of More Pictures to Show the Pumpkin: )


prjoe86 (author)2013-11-01

I think this is an amazing instructable i love how you literally explain everything step by step, which is why i voted for you as a winner.

DoggieDoc83 (author)prjoe862013-11-01

Why thank you very much! If it doesn't include good instructions, I don't think it can make a good "Instructable", right? :D

pocadon (author)2016-10-21

Years and you're still getting compliments. Just the sketching is good but you take it to another level with the pumpkin. Intricately drawn, then expertly molded and carved. The way you shave it to allow out just enough light is amazing. great work

DoggieDoc83 (author)pocadon2016-11-11

It's always fun to come back every so often and see new comments!

ElijahH3 (author)2016-10-21

Wow! Just wow. So much work put into this. Voting for you.

seanbell157 (author)2015-10-10

You can put some painters tape on a piece of clear acetate then put it into the printer and print out your template. Simply remove tape from acetate and carefully place on the pumpkin.

Rachael K (author)2014-12-02

So cool! Your attention to detail is amazing.

Laynie (author)2013-11-03

So cool great job!!

vincent7520 (author)2013-10-31

???!!! …… congrats !!!…

One question though : are you human ?…

Anyway, people on Instructables (humans or not humans) are incredibly good !!!…

DoggieDoc83 (author)vincent75202013-11-01

Thank you... I think! And yes, I am human... I think: ).

vincent7520 (author)DoggieDoc832013-11-01


vincent7520 (author)DoggieDoc832013-11-01


transforming vintage (author)2013-10-31

awesome job! I love this! Best pumpkin ever

Thanks a lot!

Productionink74 (author)2013-10-31

All I can say is AWSOME thank for sharing

Thanks you, I am glad you enjoy it! I try to do an Instructable every year that I carve a pumpkin.

ionzenith (author)2013-11-01

truly amazing. Great work

DoggieDoc83 (author)ionzenith2013-11-01

Thanks: ).

swmech (author)2013-11-01

Shockingly good. WELL done!

DoggieDoc83 (author)swmech2013-11-01

Thank you very much!

twall2 (author)2013-11-01

Nicely done...2 questions...

a) have you ever considered using photoshop instead of sketching the work? By removing the saturation, upping the contrast, and running it through a "cutout" filet set to 3 levels you can get some really fantastic stencils in a very short period of time.

b) Why not use carbon transfer paper instead of etching in with a ballpoint and then retracing?

You've got a lot of skill, no doubt about that. But you could be doing this much faster :) Which of course means many more jack o lanterns!

Nice work

DoggieDoc83 (author)twall22013-11-01

a) You know, I have never considered that... in large part because I don't have photoshop and I don't know how to use it! I also simply enjoy the process of drawing the stencil and using my own brain to figure out how to make the pattern work on a pumpkin (not to say people who use photoshop aren't using their brain!) rather than letting the computer do it for me. Also, by upping contrast, etc., there are certain subtle details that are lost that I can choose to retain when doing the pattern myself.

b) I considered the carbon transfer paper this year, but I heard a lot of issues with possible smearing and whatnot. I will definitely be willing to give it a try... maybe do a trial run on a pumpkin before I go for the big yearly one.

Thanks for the compliments and suggestions!

FireFairy78 (author)2013-10-30

Oh my goodness, I'm kinda speechless...this pumpkin is INSANELY good!! I can't even begin to imagine the time it took :)

DoggieDoc83 (author)FireFairy782013-10-31

Thank you for the compliments! About 18 hours of carving time total, with about 8 hours of prep time (drawing the pattern, transferring to the pumpkin, etc.) just in case you really wanted to know ; ).

FireFairy78 (author)DoggieDoc832013-10-31

Lol, I actually did want to know ... that's longer than I expected. serious skill & dedication!!

TheMrCOOLguy2 (author)2013-10-31

Wish I could do that

robotluke123 (author)2013-10-30

How are you so good????

DoggieDoc83 (author)robotluke1232013-10-31

Thank you very much: )... lots of practice! Check out my other Instructables from past years if you haven't already: ).

ecsaul23 (author)2013-10-30

that is insane!! wicked good!

DoggieDoc83 (author)ecsaul232013-10-31

Thank you!

Tazmjm69 (author)2013-10-30

There just aren't words....incredible!!

DoggieDoc83 (author)Tazmjm692013-10-31

Thank you very much!

Dylanodom (author)2013-10-31

Best Pumpkin I've ever seen. I am a huge Transformers fan so this is double epic. Anyway, nice job and keep the epic pumpkins coming. I voted and I hope you win!

DoggieDoc83 (author)Dylanodom2013-10-31

Thank you so very much! I have been a huge fan as well, ans thought about doing him many different years... but this year I went for it. Thanks for the vote! I am glad you enjoy it: ).

explosivemaker (author)2013-10-30

+1 vote

profort (author)2013-10-30

I wish there was a way you could get paid for your art.

DoggieDoc83 (author)profort2013-10-30

It would be nice, wouldn't it??? Thanks!

profort (author)DoggieDoc832013-10-30

I believe that one should always be acknowledged for their good work.

TheEnthusiast (author)2013-10-29

Your pumpkin looks better than the poster! Well done!

why thank you very much, that is quite the compliment!

Dominic Bender (author)2013-10-30

It is almost a shame to do this with a pumpkin, i.e. something that will not last. Nevertheless, this is a masterpiece in my opinion. Thanks for sharing :).

It is always a little depressing throwing these guys out only a week or two after finishing them... but it is a fun yearly tradition, and they will live on in pictures: ).

palestinian-warrior (author)2013-10-30

awesome man
I love optimus prime lol
great job!

Thank you very much... I love Optimus Prime as well, obviously: ).

Orngrimm (author)2013-10-30

Wow. jsut WOW!
What can we say more to this piece of art?? Nothing.
Maybe just "perfect". :)

DoggieDoc83 (author)Orngrimm2013-10-30

Thanks so much for the compliments!

Mr. Noack (author)2013-10-30


DemolisionWolf (author)2013-10-30

This thing looks so good!

newb (author)2013-10-29

I do believe this is the most amazing pumpkin I have ever seen O.O

PeckLauros (author)2013-10-29


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