How to Create Your Own Pumpkin Stencil

When you're looking to carve that truly unique pumpkin!
Total time: 20 minutes 

There are plenty of great places online to find a variety of Halloween pumpkin stencils for carving, like Pinterest or Zombiepumpkins.com.

But what if you really, really have to have your favorite character from a show or comic—or something else that you just can't find premade? That's what this pumpkin stencil guide is for!

We'll walk you through the easiest way to convert an image into a usable pumpkin stencil to create that extra special jack-o-lantern this Halloween. So go find that perfect image to convert into a pencil stencil and follow along.

Notes: We'll be using Adobe Photoshop and InDesign for this, but you can do this with other image-editing software, as well.

The guide will be in two parts essentially:

  1. In the first series of steps, we'll show you the basic way to convert a simple image like a logo or large shape.
  2. Next, we'll move on to a more advanced pumpkin stencil, showing you strategies to conceptualize the pumpkin into a finished jack-o-lantern to help create the stencil.

Skip to the advanced part of the pumpkin stencil guide.

Adobe PhotoshopAdobe Photoshop ×1
Adobe InDesignAdobe InDesign ×1

Howchoo is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission at no cost to you.

2 pumpkin stencils

Before we get started, here are the finished stencils that I'll be using to carve my own Halloween pumpkins this year!

  • The Howchoo logo
  • A Kitsune fox face

Open your desired image in Photoshop for editing.

Howchoo logo background selected Photoshop
  • Select the Magic Wand Tool in the left-hand toolbar.
    Magic Wand tool Photoshop
  • Click your image to auto-select it.

If your image is more complex than what's pictured below, then you'll have to use the Quick Selection Tool to make smaller adjustments. (See the advanced version of the guide below for more information)

Painted howchoo h

What you're doing in this step is shading the part of the stencil that will cut out, which should be your image. If you need to go back and select only a piece, then I recommend seeing our advanced guide below.

  • Select the Brush Tool in the left-hand toolbar.
    Brush Tool Photoshop
  • Choose a color for your brush from the choices on the right. (I usually use a dark gray for this.)
  • Enlarge your brush size in the top toolbar to make the coloring faster.
  • Click and drag throughout your selected image to color it in. (Don't worry about painting in the lines. The brush will only color what you've selected.)
Image background selected
  • Select the Magic Wand Tool in the left-hand toolbar.
    Magic Wand tool Photoshop
  • Click your background to auto-select it.

If your background is more complex than what's pictured below, then you'll have to use the Quick Selection Tool to make smaller adjustments. (See the advanced version of the guide below for more information)

howchoo logo background erased

Instead of painting the background white, you'll actually erase the background itself.

  • Select the Magic Eraser Tool in the left-hand toolbar.
    Magic Eraser Tool
  • Click the background of your image to have it "magically" erased.

Use the Background Eraser Tool to select individual elements of your background, if the magic eraser did not erase it all.

export PNG photoshop
  • Go to File > Export > Export as...
  • In the window that appears, choose PNG as the format in the top right.
  • Adjust any other desired settings like height and width. (I recommend keeping the file fairly large to avoid any blurring as you put onto a page.)
  • Click Export.
  • Choose a location for the file.
  • Click Save.

The next couple of steps can be done in both Adobe InDesign and Microsoft Word.

howchoo logo placed in Indesign

If you're using InDesign:

  • Open a new document, making it the size of a piece of paper. (8.5x11 inches) You can resize the InDesign page later if needed.
  • Create a rectangular frame and place your image into it.
  • Adjust your frame fitting as necessary.

See our guide on placing images in InDesign, if you're unfamiliar with this.

If you're using Word:

  • Copy and paste the image into a new document.

Or

  • Go to Insert > Picture > Picture from file...
howchoo logo enlarged InDesign

How much or little you enlarge the stencil will affect the difficulty of the carve, as well as the size of the pumpkin you need to buy.

If you're using InDesign:

  • Turn on Auto-size frame fitting.
  • Click and drag the image's frame until it reaches the desired size.

If you need further help on this step, see our guide on resizing images in InDesign.

Save as PDF Pumpkin Stencil
  • Go to File > Export.
  • Change the "Format" to Adobe PDF (Print).
  • Click Save.
howchoo logo pumpkin stencil

Print out your brand new pumpkin stencil in either Microsoft Word or Adobe Acrobat.

You're ready to carve!

Continue below to the advanced section of our guide, if the above steps will not suffice for your pumpkin stencil design.

Kitsune 3D printed mask
  • Open your desired image in Photoshop.

As soon as I saw this Japanese Kitsune 3D printed mask when I made my 10 Awesome Halloween 3D printed masks guide, I knew I had to make this into a pumpkin!

Selection tool Photoshop

As opposed to the ease of selecting the Howchoo image above, this one did not select perfectly with just the Magic Wand Tool.

  • Select the Magic Wand Tool in the left-hand toolbar.
    Magic Wand tool Photoshop
  • Click your background to auto-select it.

Now, you'll need to adjust the selection.

  • Right-click the Magic Wand Tool.
  • Select the Quick Selection Tool.
  • Click the areas of the image's background that did not get selected.
  • Hold Option and click the areas of the image's background that you need to deselect.

This step may take a little time. Repeat the above as necessary, until just your image's background is selected.

erase background photoshop
  • Select the Magic Eraser Tool in the left-hand toolbar.
    Magic Eraser Tool
  • Click the background of your image to have it "magically" erased.

Again, just like you did when selecting the background, you'll need to adjust if the whole thing does not get erased (like mine above).

  • Right-click the Magic Eraser Tool in the left-hand toolbar.
  • Select the Background Eraser Tool.
  • Adjust the size of the eraser in the top toolbar. (Make it bigger to erase more quickly.)
  • Click and drag the eraser across the background of the image to erase it. (Don't worry about it erasing the image itself. If you selected the background properly in the previous step, it should not affect the actual image.)
Kitsune grayscale Photoshop

You'll want to convert it to grayscale so that you can more easily envision it as a pumpkin stencil.

  • Go to Image > Mode > Grayscale.

Now, you'll need to see the way your image will be carved into a pumpkin.

  • What are the major design elements in your image? (Eyes, ears, nose, text, etc.)
  • Picture those elements removed from a pumpkin with light shining through them. Does the image of that make sense?

Remember that you'll be cutting away certain pieces, so make sure it holds together. For example, in the image above, I can't just cut out the entire outline of the face because then there will simply be a giant hole in the pumpkin.

selection tool photoshop grayscale
  • Select the Magic Wand Tool in the left-hand toolbar.
    Magic Wand tool Photoshop
  • Click the pieces of your image to auto-select them.

You're almost certainly going to have to adjust the selections.

  • Right-click the Magic Wand Tool.
  • Select Quick Selection Tool.
  • Click the areas of the cut-away pieces that did not get selected.
  • Hold option and click the areas of the image's background that you need to deselect.
  • You may need to adjust the size of the selector in the top toolbar for those tiny areas.

This will definitely take the most time out of all the steps. Do take the time and get this right, however. It's important because it most affects the final look of your jack-o-lantern. (This took me 20 minutes.)

Stroke around selection Photoshop

Think of a stroke in Adobe as an outline for something. Creating an outline around the selections will help give you that nice black border on your pumpkin stencil for you to follow when carving the pumpkin.

  • Go to Edit > Stroke.
  • Change the stroke width to around 5px.
  • Change the color of the stroke to black.
  • Click OK.
kitsune pumpkin stencil photoshop

You want to use the Brush Tool to paint the inside of each selection (what will be cut away) either gray or a color that makes sense to you.

  • Select the Brush Tool in the left-hand toolbar.
    Brush Tool Photoshop
  • Choose a color for your brush from the choices on the right. (I usually use a dark gray for this.)
  • Enlarge your brush size in the top toolbar to make the coloring faster.
  • Click and drag throughout your selections to color it in. (Don't worry about painting in the lines. The brush will only color what you've selected.)
Kitsune pumpkin template photoshop
  • Now, you're going to carefully select everything that's left. (See Step 17.)
  • Use the Brush Tool to paint everything off-white. (See Step 19.)

The reason you're not erasing the background, as I did with the Howchoo logo, is because you want to be able to envision the original image just a bit when you go to place the stencil on the pumpkin. It gives you one last chance to make any final adjustments that you might want.

Kitsune Pumpkin Stencil Printed

Repeat steps 7-12 to save and print your new design!

If you do design your own Halloween pumpkin stencil this year, make sure to tag us on Facebook so we can see your awesome design!