Bored of the standard repertoire of pumpkin carving? Fed up of ghoulish faces, zombies and comic book villains? Me too.
This year I decided to up my game and carve the most terrifying thing I could think of into a pumpkin.
What could be scarier than a dangerous misogynist psychopath in charge of the largest economy in the world?
That's right – I carved Donald Trump's stupid squashy face into... well.. a squash.
Read on to find out how to make your own, so you can set it on the countertop and watch it rot.
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Step 1: Get Yo' Shit Together
Ready to start? You've got to assemble some supplies before you can carve your own presidential candidate pumpkin. Here are a few things you'll need:
- Pumpkin (well, duh.)
- Hideous picture of Donald Trump's ugly face (not hard to come by)
- Clear tape
- Pins (probably a thimble too)
- A craft knife, ideally with interchangeable blades
- Tea light/candle and matches
- About 3 or 4 hours of free time
- Sense of disillusionment with global politics
Step 2: Pick a Pumpkin and Prepare
The easiest pumpkins to carve are those with a smooth and reasonably flat face. It also helps to find one you think was bad in a previous life, one that really deserves the karmic justice of being turned into an effigy of Donald Trump. The size is up to you – larger pumpkins make carving the detail easier, but smaller pumpkins often give a more impressive effect when they're finished. I'd say the one I used here was roughly basket-ball sized.
Once you've chosen your pumpkin, it's time to prepare it for carving. I came across a great tip on Pinterest: when cutting the lid, rather than going for a complete circle, cut a wedge shape down the back too. This makes it much easier to get your candle in and out without burning your hands, and it gives you better access for scraping out the pumpkin guts.
As for the gut-scraping/disembowelling, I find that keeping a photo of Trump nearby puts me in the right frame of mind for removing the insides; whatever works for you. Use an ice cream scoop or a large spoon to remove as much of the squishy, stringy stuff as possible. Try to make the pumpkin as gutless as the man it will come to represent.
Don't worry too much about the thickness of the pumpkin walls, just try and make it all relatively even and scrape away enough material so that things aren't too soggy. Test your Trumpkin with a pin in an inconspicuous location – it will be really helpful for later if the pin can go all the way through to the inside while you're still holding it. That way, you can prick right through without having to stop and prise your pin out after every hole you make. I'd say my pumpkin walls were maybe an inch or so thick.
Step 3: Process and Print
PICKING A PICTURE
Now it's time to select your picture. Do an image search for Trump and choose your favourite expression – maybe it's the doughnut-mouth gawp, or perhaps the don't-ask-about-my-tax-return sneer. Either way, make sure it's suitably grotesque and maniacal – ask yourself, would this ward off trick or treaters? Look for a picture that's as high contrast as you can get, although that's a tall order for a man with a face like living blancmange.
MAKING A STENCIL
Now we're going to edit the image to make a stencil for our carving. Most decent photo-editing software will work, we're not doing anything too advanced. You can use Photoshop if you have it or, if not, there are plenty of free online picture editors. I used one called Pixlr. One benefit of this widget is that you can open an image directly from a URL, so you don't need to sully your hard drive by downloading pictures of Trump's face.
First things first, get rid of the background; we're going to be focusing on the gory details and we don't want to be distracted. Next, desaturate the image so it's all 50 shades of Trump. I mean grey. I mean... ew. Just make it black and white, okay? Eugh.
What we're aiming to do eventually is reduce the image to three colours; black, white and one shade of grey. A good place to start is by upping the contrast – this makes the bright bits more white and the dark bits more black (like a politician's soul), helping make the main features stand out more and cutting down on shading. Next you can try fiddling with the levels. This is by no means an exact science and what levels work best depends on the particular image you're using. But some general pointers: if everything looks too dark, move the left hand arrow of the "output levels" bar further towards the middle, and if everything looks too bright, move the right hand arrow towards the middle. Just mess around with the bit that looks like a graph until it looks like you've got large areas of uniform colour. You can also go back and up the contrast again, in between fiddling with the levels. You can try posterising (which automatically reduces the number of colours in the image) to 3 levels, but this sometimes obliterates the detail, so use your judgement. I often find it easier to posterise the picture to 4 or 5 levels, then take one of the pen tools and draw over the main shapes in black white and grey, so I can decide the exact shape of my stencil.
Things to keep in mind: make sure all the black areas are connected – you don't want any that are totally surrounded by white, and ideally not totally surrounded by grey either. That's because the white areas are where you're going to cut all the way through the pumpkin and the black areas are going to be left as they are. You can't have a floating piece of pumpkin in the middle of a section that's totally cut out. Look out for parts that are thin next to each other and other fine details that might be difficult to carve. Pumpkin flesh is quite squishy, so it's easier to cut out small shapes in the middle of black areas than it is to cut around a long slim bit of pumpkin that has to stand by itself.
If you've chosen a picture like mine, where the outline of the face isn't that distinct (and how could it be? Donald Trump's face is pretty amorphous), you can add a white... halo? Nope, that's totally the wrong word. Regardless, cut that last so the inside has as much stability as possible while you're carving the small details.
Print out in several different sizes of your stencil so you can see which looks best on your pumpkin.
Step 4: Prick That Prick!
So you've got your pumpkin and you've got your stencil, how do you transfer the pattern to the surface you're going to carve? Once you've picked the size and positioning for your decapitated Trump demon, place it on your pumpkin and cover it with clear tape. You might need to do a little scrunching – basically putting a couple of pleats in the image to bend it to the curved surface. You can try and make the pleats mainly in areas of the pattern that aren't so detailed or essential. As you can see from the pictures, I did a little scrunching around Trump's hair and his chin.
Now take your pin and start to PRICK THAT PRICK. IN THE FACE. *ahem* Punch out the outline of each section. Now is a good time to use any voodoo incantation you know. I find it works best to go from the middle outwards – and that's not just because I couldn't resist sticking pins in the eyes first. The tape holds the image in place and stops the paper disintegrating before you transfer the pattern, but the juice can still cause the ink to run and make it harder to see the lines. So do the small details first and work outwards.You should be left with a nightmarish weeping ghost image of Trump made out of tiny pricks. Like the one he has.
Step 5: Cut Out That C**t! (sorry Mum)
Remember those other sizes of Trump you printed earlier? Well they weren't just to throw darts at. Get 'em out in front of you as a reference because it's going to be a bit hard to tell which bits you're meant to cut now. We're going to start with the white parts, so it helps if you get a ballpoint pen or marker and just scribble over all the areas that were white on your pattern, then compare your pumpkin to your reference image to check you've got it right.
Now start cutting out. Remember, the white parts are cut all the way through so you're taking a chunk out of the pumpkin. You can use your craft knife for this, but for the finest details I often just use a pin. If you re-prick the outline so that your pinholes are as close together as it's possible to get them, then gently wiggling your pin when it's in one of these holes should tear the pumpkin flesh just enough to connect it to the next. If you repeat this process, bit by bit you can precisely cut out the shape. It's especially helpful for curves, which I find can be a bit challenging with a blade. Plus, as a bonus, it feels way more sadistic.
Once you've cut out the white parts, you can stick a candle in your Trumpumpkin and check your progress. It won't quite look like him yet – most of the magic happens with the shading in the next step. But it's useful to see if you need to tidy up any of your cuts.
Step 6: Throw Some Shade
The final bit of detail you're going to add to your Trumpumpkin is shading. This is the part that will really make him come to life – and make you wonder what compelled you to create such a monster. The shading happens in all the areas of your pattern that were coloured grey. Go ahead and mark it on with a pen, using you references images to help, just like you did the in previous step. You're going to remove the pumpkin skin from these bits rather than cutting all the way through.
A good way to accurately peel off the skin is to score the outline of the area first, cutting vertically a few millimetres deep with your craft knife, then use your knife horizontally to slice off the top layer of skin. This way, even if you slice a little beyond the outline, you'll only remove the skin within the lines you've scored. Leave the pumpkin flesh underneath in tact, like you're performing a horrible surgery – perhaps harvesting skin to sell on the black market to an anonymous billionaire who wants to make himself a new scrotum out of Trump-face. You don't need to shave off that much – the majority of the light is blocked out by the top few millimetres of the tough, pitted outer skin. And I hear most the nerve endings are close to the surface.
Step 7: Light It Up (like It's Dynamite) and Scare the Neighbours
Congratulations! Your Trumpkin is done! You've created something truly monstrous. Turn off the lights, put a candle or two inside and shudder at the eerie glowing spectre that haunts the US presidential election. See how life-like it looks – if it's still a bit dark then you have a couple of options, either add some more candles or scrape away a bit more flesh in your shaded areas.
Once you're satisfied with it, set the pumpkin somewhere it can cast a disdainful eye over the world and strike fear into the hearts of all that behold it.
Now, the fun part: watch him slowly decompose.