I researched pumpkin carving for you and here's what I came up with!
First, a terrific video that shows you the basic process and all the best tools!
Then, the best tips I found come from David LaRochelle, the pumpkin carving master! More here in its entirety!
Tips and tricks from a pumpkin carving master
Tracy Mumford October 26, 2015 3:14 p.m.
Carving tips from pumpkin master David LaRochelle. 1) Pick the right pumpkin Give any pumpkin you pick a complete inspection, and check for any soft spots — you don't want a pumpkin that's already started to spoil. In your hunt, avoid the ridges. Some pumpkins have deep ridges which are fun to look at, but a pain to carve. Go for a pumpkin with a smooth surface instead. If you have a design in mind already, get the pumpkin to match: Do you need a tall skinny one? Short and round? Big as your head? Scout accordingly. 2) Hollow it out and thin the shell Carving pumpkins requires some dirty work: You have to get all the seeds and strings out first. LaRochelle recommends using a special scraping tool: A spoon with a serrated edge. "It will clean out a pumpkin quicker and better than your spoon from your kitchen drawer." Once the pumpkin guts are out, thinning the shell is key.
"Sometimes you'll get pumpkins with really thick shells and it can be difficult to carve any design all the way through that," LaRochelle said. "I scrape the pumpkin shell to anywhere between 3/4 and one inch thick." 3) Draw your design in advance and transfer it There's nothing wrong with freehand pumpkin carving. If you're feeling inspired, have at it! But if you're looking for a little more detail, LaRochelle recommends drawing your design out first on tracing paper. You can then transfer the design using a pin to prick small holes through the paper into the pumpkin, following the lines. Take the tracing paper off, and the outline of your design should marked on the pumpkin. 4) Think outside the triangle face "Don't be afraid to think creatively," LaRochelle said. "Usually we think of pumpkins as having a face design on them, and that's fine, but you can go beyond that with symbols. Think of bats, snakes, the moon, stars, or even scenes — like a graveyard or a spooky forest." You can go even farther and leave Halloween behind altogether. "It could even be a rabbit or a puppy." 5) Consider shaving instead of carving You can create interesting designs without cutting all the way through the pumpkin. Scraping away just enough of the outer shell to let the light glow through opens up new design possibilities. The ideal tool for scraping the pumpkin shell are linoleum block cutters, LaRochelle said. The cutters have "v"-shaped blades and are available at art supply stores. 6) Be patient LaRochelle estimates that his pumpkins take between two and four hours to carve. One elaborate design of a coiled snake took more than eight hours. "I'll never do that again," LaRochelle said. 7) Don't try to make your pumpkin perfect It's easy to get hung up on the details, but LaRochelle said he encourages people not to worry about the perfect carving. "The lopsidedness of a design can give it more character." 8) Light it up "I use anywhere between 4 to 8 votive candles per pumpkin," LaRochelle said. "That really makes it glow nice and brightly." An alternative to candles is Christmas lights, especially the ones that blink, he said. (Anyone lighting candles this Halloween should remember to be safe and supervise children around open flames.)