So I was inspired by the Bas Relief pumpkin instructible last year to make a passable Frankenstein pumpkin. I decided this year to try it again using some lessons I learned, only I had a rumble in my tummy for BRAAAAINS.
Step 1: Tools
Gather your supplies:
Xacto Knife Handle
Xacto Keyhole Saw Blades
Xacto Router Assortment (scraping/digging)
Large Nail (yes really)
I think it's about $5 for the Pumpkin and about $40 for the knife set. I bought the knives about 3 years ago and I'm still on the same blades.
If you are reading this, but are just going to end up carving a 2 dimension pumpkin (light and dark), the Keyhole Saw Blades are awesome and beat the grocery store kit saws hands down.
Step 2: Zombies Shmombies/Mummies Smummies
First on the docket was to find a good stencil from which I would have a good starting point. I think I searched "Mummy Stencil" in a search engine's image search and got the first picture. Turns out it's a stencil someone created from the 1932 "The Mummy" movie. Not knowing about the movie, I thought "why would someone name this Zombie picture as a Mummy?" Either way I had my starting stencil and a plan.
The first thing I did was a very technical process where I opened the picture in paint and replaced most of the black with grey. My wife would be upset if I used all the black ink just to print a zombie's background in black. How would she print coupons?
For those of you who don't know, it's just open the picture in Paint, then click grey, then click the paint bucket, then click anything you want to be grey, then save the file.
I also drew a line through the center of his face where the transition from the lighted side to the darker side would be. More on that later.
Step 3: Elevation Lines
The next step is drawing on the stencil to really identify where the high and low points on the pumpkin should be. The tricky part of this is that where you plan to have the lightest parts of the carving is the deepest places you will carve. It's kind of like drawing elevation lines on a map.
Photographers will try to light their subjects so that the point of the forehead and cheek on the lit side are almost white and the other side of the face is in relative shadow. That's what I planned for on my carving. I put a circle for the high points of the cheek and forehead and also identified the parts of the shadow side of the face that would be light to provide contrast against the black.
When planning, plan for 3 colors.
1. White where the light is the brightest: Cheeks, Forehead, Chin, and back light
2. Black where there is no light, or where you need to delineate: Eye Sockets, Dimple area for the dark side, shadows ordinarily cast by noses, chins etc.
3. Some gradient in between
I added teeth and attempted to have a spot where the lower mandible is showing to make what started out as a mummy into a zombie.
Step 4: Poke, Poke, Poke
I'm skipping the step of how to cut the top of the pumpkin off and take out the insides. (wait, I guess that is the whole step)
In order to transfer my design onto the pumpkin, I used small nails to hold the picture on tight. I tried to pick points on the picture that would hold the center of the face tightly. That's the part that really needs to retain it's scale and size.
Using another nail I poked into the pumpkin along the lines of my drawing and design. You don't have to poke it in far, just enough to leave a mark.
Step 5: Wait for It, Wait for It....
The mistake I made on my first bas relief style pumpkin last year was to just cut giant holes where the lightest part of my pumpkin would be. This washed out much of the detail I was trying to achieve. I decided to start slow and work my way to the light.
I started by shaving out the halo and revealing the zombie's silhouette which gave me a frame of reference for his face. Also as a reference, I always had my sketch nearby.
After that, using the diamond shaped Xacto Router blade I carved carefully around where the main contours are and around where the pumpkin skin would be staying. Where I planned to leave the skin on the pumpkin, I made sure to carve outside the lines. It's always easy to take a little more off.
Step 6: Dig, Dig, Dig
My idea is to obscure the source of the light so that even when bright, the pumpkin flesh would seem to be glowing. The way I accomplished this was to dig down into the pumpkin and then dig from there under a part of the pumpkin that would not be exposed. Kind of like a tunnel for the light.
I dug the light tunnels around the neck, ears, cheeks and forehead of the zombie with the routing tools. Pretty much anywhere there would be light. Where I wanted less light, but still light none the less, I used the long nail to poke rows of holes through it. Once again this was not a straight in approach, but at such an angle so that when looking at the pumpkin straight on the holes wouldn't be seen.
This when the flashlights come in. I could have saved myself a half an hour by dimming the lights and digging through the pumpkin quickly to get to light. Turns out my pumpkin was pretty thick and needed much deeper holes than I thought. Turning out the lights also let me quickly expose the back lighting which is when I thought to do the starburst pattern.
Pumpkins tend to dry out and shrink a little after you carve them. This will make the holes you carved bigger and send out more light. If you decide yours is a shade too dark, it might be time well spent to wait and see what it looks like tomorrow.
Step 7: Finish Him!
Now that I had the lighting done, it was necessary to try and tease out some detail from my zombie. This is where the keyhole saw really earns itself shaving off wedges and gouging out bigger holes for the eyes. It's also pretty good at dragging out those little pieces of pumpkin stuck in the small holes for the teeth and eyes.
It's time to find out that it's not going to turn out as fancy pants as you planned and make some on the fly changes and additions. I'm sure if I worked for another couple hours, I could have added in some of the jagged details and speckles I intended. I don't think it would have been worth the effort though.
The real final step is to take 50 pictures with the low light setting and hope a couple of them turn out well enough to make an instructable.