1. Choose a picture

The first step to creating your design is selecting the right picture of your pet. When selecting a photograph to use as your design, be aware that there are certain criteria the picture should meet to ensure that your design will be easy to carve.

First of all, you'll want to find a picture of your pet that does not include a distracting background. To this effect, it will probably be best to use a cropped picture of her face. The picture should also feature well-defined shapes, meaning that features of your pet can be easily identified. Note how in the picture to the right, pronounced lines define this dog's facial features and separate her snout, mouth, and ears from one another.

You will also want to pick a picture that fits your skill-level, meaning that you don't want to have to cut out a very complex image if you've never carved a pumpkin before. A well-lit picture that uses minimal shading is generally easier to use than one which does not; however, more subtle and nuanced lighting will result in a more intricate design.

2. Edit the image

To make your turn your picture into a stencil, you'll need to perform a few simple edits. Use a photo editor, such as pixlr.com to de-saturate the image, creating a black and white version of the image that emphasizes the shape and lighting of your picture. In pixlr, this can be performed in three simple steps.

Simply upload your picture and select the “Hue & Saturation” menu from the adjustment section of the navigation bar at the top of the page (or open the screen by pressing Ctrl + U). Then move the middle bar labeled “Saturation” all the way to the left so that the Saturation is -100.

Once you have a simple black-and-white version of your picture, it's time to adjust the contrast and brightness. In pixlr’s editor, you can find this menu in the Adjustment menu, just above the “Hue & Saturation” option. Adjust these settings such that the contrast is at 100% and adjust the brightness as needed. Your adjustments should give you an image with a recognizable outline of your pet.

Lastly, you can use any painting or editing software to smooth out the edges to remove intricacies in the picture that may be too difficult to carve. Alternatively, you can just choose to cut a line along the general shape of the picture while carving. When your image is ready, print your picture by clicking on “File” and then selecting the “Print…” option.

3. Print and Cut

Now that you have the perfect stencil of your pet, print the picture out and prepare to attach it to your hollow pumpkin (this will require you cut the top off your pumpkin and scrape out the seeds and filling). If you've never carved a pumpkin before, there should be tools available that make the process a breeze available at your local grocery store.

First, you'll want to pin the four corners of your stencil to the pumpkin in a way that makes the paper wrap taught around the pumpkin, so that it is flat against the surface. Once your image is set on the pumpkin, you'll want to create an outline of your image by punching through the paper with a series of small punctures. Once you've made enough small holes along the dark portions of the image, you can remove the piece of paper. If your image looks like a connect-the-dots activity you'd find in a children's activity book, then you're ready to cut.

Carefully cut along the dotted lines with a pumpkin saw or a carving knife while making sure that you don't cut out parts you need to make your image complete. Sometimes, you must cut creatively to ensure that pumpkin pieces needed to create certain shapes in your picture do not fall away.

If you have a piece of pumpkin that represents your pups nose or eyes that is separated from the rest of the pumpkin, you will need to keep it attached to the rest of the pumpkin while still creating a space that allows light to penetrate and illuminate your design. You can achieve this by leaving a bridge of pumpkin that will connect the floating shape to the end of the design.

Alternatively, you can scrape away the pumpkin skin on a piece that you may have normally removed. Scraping away only the skin of the pumpkin will create a shading effect on your pumpkin's design, as it will only let some of the light penetrate the area.

4. Light and Enjoy!

Once your design is carved, place a candle in the center of your pumpkin and put the top of the pumpkin top back onto the pumpkin to see your final design. The light should illuminate the pattern you've removed and create a cool image of your pet. Periodically doing this while carving your pumpkin can also help you determine where to make your cuts and which parts of the pumpkin need to be skinned or removed.

To get an idea of what your final product will look like, check out the patterns cut below. We hope that your jack-o’-lantern turns out great and that you and your pet have a very happy Howl-o-ween!