How to Attach a Stencil to Your Halloween Pumpkin

Pumpkin carving
Christopher Kimmel / Getty Images

Once you've selected your Halloween pumpkin and pumpkin stencil, it's time to attach the stencil to the pumpkin temporarily so that the pumpkin is easy to paint or carve. There are a couple different methods you can use to transfer your stencil image to your pumpkin. You can cut out your stencil ahead of time and draw it onto the pumpkin by tracing it, or use the method of poking holes into the stencil design and pumpkin to transfer the image. There's no one right way to do it but these suggestions will make the job a bit easier. 

Suggested Tools and Materials

  • Fresh, clean pumpkin (interior as well as exterior if carving)
  • Masking, packing, or scotch tape 
  • Pumpkin poking tool, or pushpin
  • Pumpkin carving tools
  • Stencil design
  • Scissors
  • X-acto blade
  • Black sharpie marker
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Flour, baking soda, or cornstarch

Attaching the Stencil to the Pumpkin

  • Wash the pumpkin or wipe it with a damp cloth to remove any dust and dirt. Let it air dry, or use a paper towel to dry it completely. Thoroughly clean out the inside if you are carving the pumpkin.
  • Your Halloween stencil should be made from something flexible that will bend around the curve of a pumpkin. If you print out your stencil from your printer you should be fine, as any paper or thin card stock that will go through a computer printer should curve around a pumpkin. 
  • If you are planning to cut out your stencil design and draw it onto your pumpkin you will want to use a little heavier card stock, but even so, you still want it to have some flexibility so don't make it too thick; an empty cereal box will do the job. Bought stencils are generally made from thin plastic that will bend sufficiently.
  • If it is a large stencil design on paper leave enough space around it so you can make cuts of about 1-2" from the edges of the paper at intervals of about two inches. This will help the design curve around the form of the pumpkin.
  • Cut a few short lengths of masking tape to have ready. You want the tape to hold the stencil in place long enough to transfer your stencil but not damage the pumpkin when you pull it off. Position your stencil, then hold it with one hand (or get someone else to hold it) and at the minimum, put some tape on each corner. You may find you want to put tape on all sides as well. The key is to put enough tape on so the stencil does not move. 

Transferring the Stencil Design to the Pumpkin

  • Because of the uneven and curved nature of a pumpkin, the stencil isn't going to sit flush against every bit. Use your one free hand to flatten a small piece of a stencil at a time, and work your way around the design, poking holes every quarter inch or so with your poking tool, or push pin. You can also use an X-acto blade to trace and cut through the design, scoring the pumpkin in the process.
  • If drawing rather than poking, consider marking the outline of the stencil with a waterproof marker such as a Black Sharpie on the pumpkin rather than painting the entire design through the stencil. Or, if you're going to carve it, scoring a line into the pumpkin skin with something with a point, for instance, the X-acto knife, makes it a bit easier. Don't stress about painting or cutting "outside the lines" a little; if you don't tell anyone they'll never know!
  • Once you have finished poking holes about one-quarter inch apart all around your design, remove the template and rub the pumpkin with flour, baking soda, or cornstarch. This will help make the dots and design more visible and easier to carve.


    • Don't be tempted to reach for strong, permanent glues such as superglue. You don't want to the stencil permanently stuck to the pumpkin!
    • Instead of taping down the stencil, get someone else to hold it until you've marked the stencil design on the pumpkin. If you're dexterous, you could probably hold it with one hand while you use the other to mark the pumpkin.
    • You can fix any broken areas during carving with a toothpick connecting the broken piece to the rest of the pumpkin.
    • Clean off any unwanted pen marks with rubbing alcohol.
    • If carving the pumpkin, work from the center of the design out, starting with the smallest sections first. If a section is too big, you can also work on it in sections.