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.
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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!
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!
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!
Step 10: More pictures to show the pumpkin: )