Skull Pumpkin




About: Warthog-faced buffoon.

Carve a spooky 3-D skull out of a pumpkin!

Step 1: Pumpkin Shopping, Permanent Marker

You'll need to hunt for your pumpkin in a place with weird-shaped pumpkins, which (as I mention in my Life-Size Skeleton instructable) probably isn't your local supermarket...

You need a pear shaped, head-sized gourd. It can be shaped like a pear or a lightbulb, as long as it's got a nice round chunk where one might keep one's brains, and a narrower area that might serve as a jawbone. Often a pear-shaped pumpkin will be a bit skewed to one side: these are especially good for our sinister purposes.

Pick up the candidates. Recite some Shakespearian Yorick-related verses. Think "skull." If at some point this process gives you either the willies or the creeps, then you've probably found the right pumpkin.

Take it home and rub your hands together, cackling, and bust out your permanent marker.

Draw out your shapes, using photos, toy skulls, or actual skulls if you have them laying around.

Step 2: The First Cut Is the Deepest

Cut along the jawbone, and around the entire pumpkin. You're defining the "line" where the neck meets the skull here.

Now, scoop out the brains.

It's impressive how skull-ish your creation can look immediately after this step!

Step 3: Think "Planes..."

As you carve your skull, keep in mind that you're trying to create the illusion of depth. Real skulls don't actually have "holes" all the way through for the eyes; they have almost conical indentations that hold the eyeballs.

In "2-D" pumpkin carving, you can just cut out a hole and you're done. But here in 3-D land, you want to finesse it a bit: make angled cuts into the eye as shown in the photo. You'll still end up with a hole for the eye, but the angled surfaces you've created help to set up the other parts of the skull.

Same idea with the jaw: thinking sculpturally, use shallow cuts (you can always go deeper later) which "imply" depth, because they look like they are "in front" of other features.

Barely scrape off the skin on the highest surface of the cheekbone, but dig all the way in underneath it. there is an almost triangular "hole" created by the middle of the jaw (see photo). Again, use reference materials to get the surfaces right.

Step 4: More Planing

Get all of the surfaces to their approximate depths. Again, remember that it's all illusion: you'd need a completely solid pumpkin to be truly accurate; you're stuck with one or two inches worth of depth.

Notice: the eye hole in this photo looks kind of odd. Leave it that way for now; the final shape of that hole is where most of it's personality lives, so it's really a "final touch."

Step 5: Start Smoothing

After you have your rough shapes, start smoothing them out: When you make two adjacent cuts, you get two smooth, flat planes, with a ridge or "facet" between them. If you slice that off, you get two smaller facets...

Do that first, then use the dull edge of your knife to press down the pointed edge. Pumpkin cooperates well with this; it smooths right out and looks nice and bony.

Now, do the eye. Slight variations in the shape of the eye really affect the skull's "attitude," so carve carefully. Shoot for either good symmetry, or extreme asymmetry; anything in between sends a muddled message.

Step 6: Finish, and Display!

Smooth him out, peel off as much orange as you want.

If you peel it all off, nobody can tell it's a pumpkin... if that's one of your goals, so be it. Otherwise, I suggest leaving a bit of skin, stem... it's a few notches more disturbing that way.

Make a stand with a CD/DVD spindle, some crumpled plastic bags, and some black duct tape.

Or dangle your skull from a wire.

Or, place it on top of your complete skeleton.

Candles don't do much for it really, but that conventional pumpkin technology works too.

I've had these decay in a few days, and last a year when dried properly...

Happy Carving!

Participated in the
The Instructables Book Contest



    • Beauty Tips Contest

      Beauty Tips Contest
    • Classroom Science Contest

      Classroom Science Contest
    • Backyard Contest

      Backyard Contest

    25 Discussions

    At first it was about a 7, but once you've practiced a bit it's a 4. The tough part is the anatomy: once you have the picture in your head it's not too bad.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    these look awsum definately gonna try next year... or maybey try with a big cooking apple p.s. what does it say in the orange writing on the second picture of the last step? i can read'extreme pumpkin' but not whats under it.

    4 replies

    "...a big cooking apple..."
    Actually, any fruit or vegetable that's solid has a bit of an advantage over a pumpkin, because you can get the relative depth closer to reality. A pear would work great because of the fact that it is... wait for it... pear-shaped. Of course it's not easy to find a pear the size of your head.

    "what does it say in the orange writing on the second picture of the last step?"
    ...I lifted that photo (of one of my skulls from a few years back) from, rather than digging it up on my machine: Pure laziness really. And I can't quite make out what it says either; maybe it's just a funky dental pixellation?


    Here in Scotland, the turnip is carved to make a traditional "tumshie" lantern. Hard work to carve, but long-lasting.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Very COOL ! Agree gotta light the eyes ! St0ney

    Yep. Maybe it would be scary enough to frighten away all of those freeloading trick-or-treaters, and I can keep all the candy for myself! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!


    11 years ago on Introduction

    For us in the tropics where is the carving a skull on a coconut video???? LOL


    11 years ago on Introduction

    After a bit of study, and some extrapolation, I determined that the orange text on the photo from "" says the following; EXTREME PUMPKINS .COM


    hey that's nothing, I've just finished carving a pentagram on the chest of a door-to-door salesman, now that IS fun