1. Choose a picture
The first step in making your design is choosing the perfect picture of your pet to make into a jack-o-lantern. To do this, you're going to want to find a picture that has well-defined shapes. You will also want to zoom in on your pet's face so that you don't have to cut out a strange background that doesn't contribute to the cool fiery image of your pet.
You will want to pick a picture that fits your skill-level. You don't want to have to cut out a very complex image if you've never carved a pumpkin before. In these instances, it might be best to find a well lit picture that doesn't have as much shadow and uses minimal shading. However, the more subtle and nuanced the lighting the more intricate your design will be.
2. Edit the image
To make your picture an ideal stencil, you'll need to perform a few simple edits to understand where to cut the pumpkin. If you have Photoshop or another image editing software, this process should be quick and simple. First, you will need to de-saturate the image to create a black and white version of the image that emphasizes the shape and lighting of your picture.
Once you have a simple black-and-white version of your picture, it's time to adjust the contrast and brightness. Adjust these settings such that the contrast is at 100% and the brightness is somewhere around -60%. This should give you an image with a recognizable outline of a simplified version of your image.
Lastly, use any painting or editing software to smooth out the edges. It's likely your current adjusted image has a lot of splotches of shading that will be difficult to cut. Rather than just try to cut it out, which could prove extremely difficult, simply smooth out these edges. So the black parts have definite edges that you cut along. You might also want to create a negative of your image if by this point your image is mostly black. This will switch the black spots and white spots to make a more printer-friendly cut out.
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 are tools available that make the process a breeze that you can find at your local grocery store. First, you'll want to pin the four corners to the pumpkin in a way that makes the paper wrap around the pumpkin as flat against the surface as possible.
Once your image is set on the pumpkin, you'll want to outline the darkest parts 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, 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, if you have a piece of pumpkin completely floating in a section that will become a hole, you will need to keep it attached to the rest of the pumpkin. You can achieve this by only scraping away the pumpkin skin on the connecting pieces. This will create a shading effect on your pumpkin's design that will look cool and keep your design intact.
4. Light and Enjoy!
Place a candle in the center of your pumpkin and put the top of the pumpkin back on to see your final design. The light should illuminate the pattern you've removed and create a cool image of your pet. 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 happy Howl-o-ween!