How to Make a Pumpkin Carving Stencil (with Adhesive Vinyl)

Introduction: How to Make a Pumpkin Carving Stencil (with Adhesive Vinyl)

About: I help lead the member services team (front desk & accounts) at TechShop San Francisco!

I liked Halloween when I was a kid. I liked the ridiculous costumes, the themed parties, and sometimes even the childish tricks that came along with all those free fun sized treats. I pretty much enjoyed everything that had to do with the eve of All Saints' Day, with the exception of one thing. I hated pumpkin carving...but I don't hate it anymore.

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Step 1: Pumpkin Carving 1.0 - Paper Stencil & Misery

When I was young, I always wanted to carve the baddest, most impressive jack-o-lantern on the block. But I never did.

Every year at my neighbors annual pumpkin carving block party, I spent about 25 minutes attempting to carve a pumpkin and about 2 hours sulking in the darkest cobwebbed corner of the room contemplating my pumpkin carving failure.

Needless to say, I hated pumpkin carving. I hated everything about it, especially...
  1. trying to tape a flat, paper jack-o-lantern stencil onto a not so flat, sometimes slimy pumpkin
  2. spending what felt like an eternity, poking tiny holes through a paper stencil which, without failure, would render itself useless after tearing or ripping
  3. failing to carve an image that would, even remotely, resemble the image depicted on the orignal paper stencil

Step 2: Pumpkin Carving 2.0 - Vinyl Stencil & TechShop

But now I love pumpkin carving! How is this possible you might be asking yourself. Well, it's possible with TechShop.

TechShop is a DIY workshop space where you can find the tools, classes, and community to help you make, build, or create whatever you dream up. One of the classes offered at TechShop San Francisco is the CNC Vinyl Cutter SBU, the required safety and basic use course for the computer controlled vinyl cutter. In the class you learn how to create custom banners, signs, and stencils etc. out of adhesive backed vinyl.

Now that I have taken the CNC Vinyl Cutter SBU, I can create my very own pumpkin carving stencils!...and put my dark, miserable, pumpkin carving days of failure behind me.

Step 3: Designing Your Stencil - Vector Graphic

Now that you understand how an adhesive, machine cut custom stencil will bring an end to pumpkin carving misery, it's time to make a stencil for yourself.

The first step to creating a custom stencil can be the most challenging...deciding on a design. Do you want your jack-o-lantern to be scary? cute? scary and cute? Do you want your design to be an image? text? a combination of both? Regardless of what you choose, you'll need to your save your design as a vector graphic using a program like Adobe Illustrator or CorelDraw.

For my stencil, I simply imported a black and white image found online into Adobe Illustrator, and then used the live trace tool to turn the image into a vector graphic. Easy breezy.

Step 4: Using the Vinyl Cutter and FlexiStarter

Now that you have created and saved your vector graphic, it's time to cut out your design.

First, you'll need to get the vinyl cutting machine ready. This includes adjusting the blade height, loading the vinyl, setting the origin, and adjusting the cutting speed and blade pressure. Second, you'll need to adjust some settings in FlexiStarter, the software that controls the vinyl cutter. After setting up both the physical machine and your FlexiStarter preferences as per class instructions, just do it already, cut your stencil out!

Step 5: Adhering the Stencil to Your Pumpkin

The last and final step is to simply transfer your stencil to a pumpkin. Have you ever peeled a sticker and stuck it to something? Yeah, it's pretty much that easy. Happy pumpkin carving!

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