Introduction: Casting Shadows W/ Carved Pumpkins (BONUS: Patterns Included!)

About: Where there's a will, there's a way! Never give up, never give in...BE the good you want to see in the world. :)

Carving pumpkins is an art all its own. It takes time, dedication, and patience. There are so many tips and tricks out there for making amazing, mind-blowing, or even just insane pumpkin designs...but there's not too many directions focused on casting shadows with carved pumpkins.

Casting shadows is when you use the back of the pumpkin (in addition to the front design) to add an additional element to the scene. By creating a design on the back also, you now have your lit-up front, and a shadow cast on the wall behind the pumpkin (from the back design). Though it sounds simple enough, there's actually important tips and tricks one must know to get the best results!

So let's dive into the art of casting shadows with my take on Jonah VS The Whale...


Step 1: What You'll Need

There aren't any special tools needed for carving the pumpkin. I prefer uncomplicated methods, so it's pretty basic.



Pumpkin carving kit

Two patterns: One the size of the face of the pumpkin, the other no more than a 4" x 4" square (as a bonus, I included the two patterns I made for this project)

Candle and lighter/matches

Sharp serrated knife

A pin or needle (like used in sewing)




Old rag/towel

Water and bleach and/or petroleum jelly

Metal spoon with a long handle

Paint and/or stencils

Step 2: Preparation

1. Cut the "lid" off.

TIP: Angle the knife inward so it creates a cone-shaped wedge. This will prevent your lid from falling off or falling in.

2. Remove the goop. I prefer a metal spoon with a long handle to the little plastic scraper they give you in the kit. The choice is yours. :) Also, you can save the seeds for later (here are some delicious seed recipes: ). You can also use the pumpkin goop for real, good-ol'-fashion, no-frills pumpkin pie (here's a sample recipe:

3. Wall thickness: When you are scraping the walls of the pumpkin (the inside), the area where the front design will go should be no more than 1" thick. The area where the back design will go (the area that will cast the shadow) should be around 1/2" thick. No need to try to get a ruler involved, just guesstimate. Too thin of walls will cause the pumpkin to dry up and get wrinkly. Too thick of walls will be too hard to carve and may lessen the amount of detail that can be seen when the pumpkin is lit.

TIP: If you plan to use a candle, make sure you have plenty of airflow inside your pumpkin, and that there's plenty of space between the top of the flame and the lid (if you choose to still use a lid). "Only you can prevent forest fires" (lol) this case, pumpkin or house fires. ;)

Optional Steps & TIPS:

If you want to preserve your pumpkin for up to a week longer (to lessen the rotting so your family and neighbors can actually SEE your labor-intensive pumpkin designs before they go bad), simply dunk your pumpkin in a tub of cold water mixed with a little (a very small amount--3 teaspoons or less) of unscented bleach. The bleach will keep mildew and mold from growing on the pumpkin for a longer period of time.

If you have a flimsy/soft pumpkin and want to carve intricate details, it's also a good practice to let your pumpkin sit in a tub of cold water overnight. This will firm up your pumpkin so it can handle the intricate details better. You can also soak it in cold water anytime it gets dry or wants to shrivel up.

Step 3: Let's Carve!

1. Cut your pattern out, leaving enough edge around it to work with.

2. Tape your pattern down. You may want to consider cutting slits in the paper where it bends so it sits nicely on the sphere of the pumpkin.

3. Using a pin or needle, poke along the lines of the pattern where you will cut out. Make holes every millimeter or so. In areas that a large amount will be cut out, I like to use a lot of little holes to "fill in" that area.

4. When you're finished, remove the pattern...but keep it next to you. It will be necessary to remembering which line of dots to cut out.

5. Once the carving is done, use the little saws from the carving kit (or a toothpick) to clean up the insides of the cut areas. This will make it so the light can be seen through even the most intricate details of your design. I like to test the design by putting my cell phone (with its flashlight on) inside the pumpkin and shining it out of the cut areas to make sure they're nice and clean.

Step 4: Stabilization

Anywhere that becomes weak from cutting (for example: the eyes on the face, etc) will need stabilization. The best way to accomplish this is to take a toothpick and cut it down to the correct size for the area you're in. Then shove it down into the spot you need the stabilization. Push it all the way in so no left over parts are sticking out.

Step 5: Creating the Cast Shadow

Here are important tips and tricks for creating the perfect cast shadow/wall projection:

1. Always use a mirror image of whatever design you want to project. (The pattern for the whale that is included with this 'ible is already mirrored for your convenience).

2. Always use a smaller pattern that is no more than a 4" x 4" square.

3. Place the pattern towards the top of the pumpkin's backside. DO NOT center it. (This will allow the design to be cast up on to the wall behind the pumpkin.)

4. Make sure the candle or light source you are using is lower than the back pattern/design.

Now carve the back pattern like you did in the beginning, utilizing these tips. :)

Step 6: Finishing Touches

1. Once you are satisfied with your carved pumpkin, and have cleaned up all the edges and open areas, add a light source to the middle. This can be a wax candle or a battery-operated LED candle. I find that tealight-sized candles work the best and provide the least threat of fire, etc. If you are worried about a fire hazard, make sure the tealight is in a glass tealight holder OR use a LED candle.

1A: OPTIONAL--before adding the light source, if you want to decorate your pumpkin with paint, that now and allow to dry.

2. To retain moisture in your carved pumpkin and, thus, make it last longer, simply add petroleum jelly to the raw, cut edges of the pumpkin. This will hold the moisture in for longer periods of time.

3. Position your finished piece to your liking. Remember: the further away from the wall, the bigger the projected image gets (but it also gets duller too, so keep that in mind when positioning).

THE END. Happy casting! Share your carved pumpkins below!

Step 7: FREE Patterns (to Download)

To use these patterns:

1. The white places in each pattern are to CUT OUT. Leave the black places on your pumpkin (leave this as pumpkin flesh).

2. Only use as much or as little detail as your specific pumpkin (shape, size, etc) allows. If you need to lessen the detail of the whale (for instance), then only use a few of the "cut" lines, and not the rest.

3. Make sure you leave pumpkin places (uncut areas) in-between cut areas so the entire design doesn't fall out of the pumpkin.

4. You can print the patterns and use them as-is (just make sure to adjust the size of each to accommodate your specific size of pumpkin and need). OR: you can put a piece of paper over the enlarged image on your computer screen and physically trace the "cut" lines on your paper. If you do the second approach, you will then be cutting out the lines you drew and not the white spaces of the paper.


Pumpkin Carving Contest 2016

Participated in the
Pumpkin Carving Contest 2016