65 Creative Pumpkin Contest Ideas [Carving & No Carve]

Get ready to celebrate this Halloween with my pumpkin contest ideas! This contest is not only for Halloween but is also popular in many countries for Thanksgiving and harvest festivals. This fun and creative activity is perfect for individuals, families, or even workplaces looking to get into the spooky spirit. 

One of the most exciting ways to showcase your pumpkin decorating skills or creativity is through a pumpkin contest. It involves carving or decorating pumpkins in unique and creative ways, competing against others to see who can create the most impressive pumpkin design. 

Whether you are hosting a Halloween contest or just looking for some fall-themed fun, these 65 pumpkin contest ideas are sure to spark your imagination and make your event one to remember.

pumpkin contest ideas

What Is a Pumpkin Contest?

What is the name of the pumpkin contest? In the USA, a pumpkin contest is named the “Punkin Chunkin Contest.” This contest is held in the autumn, particularly in early November, as a means to dispose of surplus pumpkins from Halloween.

Celebrating Halloween and showing off your artistic skills is a fun and exciting way. In some countries, it is also a popular activity during harvest festivals. It is a “Pumpkin Decorating Contest” where individuals or teams create unique and creative designs on pumpkins. Participants can choose to either carve or not carve their pumpkins. 

What is a pumpkin carving contest?

The pumpkin carving contest involves using various carving tools to create intricate designs and patterns on the pumpkin’s surface. A well-carved pumpkin can be impressive as it showcases the participant’s mastery of the carving tools and creativity. However, this can be challenging, time-consuming, and requires a certain level of skill.

What is a no-carve pumpkin contest?

A no-carve pumpkin contest allows participants to create designs on a pumpkin without using any carving tools. This type of contest is perfect for young children or individuals who prefer not to carve their pumpkins. There are several no-carve techniques, such as painting, taping, drawing, or gluing various materials on the pumpkin to create a unique design. 

One must adhere to certain rules and guidelines to participate in a pumpkin contest. These rules ensure that the contest remains fair and enjoyable for all participants. Some of the rules may include the use of specific tools, the duration of the competition, the number of participants per team, and the contest theme.

Total 65 Creative Pumpkin Contest Ideas [Carving & No Carve]

Hopefully, you have a basic knowledge of the differences between pumpkin carving and the no-carve pumpkin contest. So, let’s show some creativity with these 65 pumpkin decorating contest ideas, including both carving and no-carve techniques. 

35 Pumpkin Carving Contest Ideas

Here are some pumpkin carving ideas to get you started. But first, you need some carving tools such as a pumpkin carving knife, scraper, small serrated knife, and no-slip gloves. Now, let’s dive into the ideas!

#1. Classic Jack-o-Lantern

The Evergreen Classic: The quintessential carving defines Halloween—the Classic Jack-o-Lantern. This concept is straightforward: triangle eyes, a jagged mouth, and maybe a goofy or scary expression to boot.

Simply hollow out your pumpkin and sketch your face with a marker. Use a carving knife to carefully cut out the eyes, nose, and mouth. For added flair, place a candle or LED light inside to make your creation come alive in the dark.

Check out the below video content on 100 Pumpkin Jack o lantern Ideas.

#2. Pumpkin Portraits

Frame Your Favorites: For those who want to go beyond the ordinary, pumpkin portraits offer a way to celebrate someone you admire. Whether it’s a celebrity or a family member, it’s a unique take on carving.

First, print a stencil of the face you’re carving. Attach it to your pumpkin. Use poking tools to outline the design, and then proceed to carve. Accuracy is key here, so take your time.

#3. Haunted House

Haunted Vibes: Create a spooky scenery straight out of a horror movie. It’s like your pumpkin is a haunted house with windows, doors, and perhaps a few eerie figures lurking about.

Sketch the design before you start carving. Think doors, windows, and perhaps even a creepy tree. Cut these elements out meticulously. If you’re feeling extra, use smaller gourds to represent figures or ghosts.

#4. Pet Parade

For Pet Lovers: Why should humans have all the fun? Dedicate a pumpkin to your furry friend.

Select a flattering photo of your pet and convert it into a stencil. Attach the stencil to the pumpkin and carve around it. It’s a lovely way to include the entire family in the festivities.

#5. Emoji Pumpkins

Modern Twist: Emojis are a staple in digital communication. Why not bring them into the real world this fall season?

Choose your favorite emoji and carve its likeness onto a pumpkin. Use paint for colors that can’t be carved, like eyes or blushing cheeks.

#6. Creepy Crawly

For the Bug Lovers: Make your pumpkin home for a spider or centipede design, giving people the chills as they pass by.

Start by carving out a basic shape of the bug. For added realism, carve little holes for the “eyes” and use twigs for legs.

#7. Snowman Pumpkin

Christmas Vibes: Who says pumpkins are just for Halloween? Give your pumpkin a Christmas makeover by turning it into a snowman.

Stack two or three pumpkins on top of each other and carve a joyful snowman face into the top one. Add a scarf and a hat to complete the look.

#8. Astrological Signs

Cosmic Connection: Show off your astrological sign with pride by carving it into a pumpkin.

First, print the symbol of your zodiac sign. Then, use it as a stencil to carve the design onto the pumpkin.

#9. Treasure Map

X Marks the Spot: Make your pumpkin a treasure map complete with X’s dashes and maybe even a small compass.

Sketch a simplified map with landmarks and an ‘X’ to mark the treasure. Carve along the lines and use paint to add details like water and trees.

#10. Movie Scenes

Cinematic Flair: Choose an iconic scene from your favorite movie and carve it out.

You’ll need to sketch out the scene on the pumpkin’s surface. This one might require more advanced carving skills, but the end result will be worth it.

#11. Geometric Patterns

For the Minimalists: Simplicity often yields stunning results. Geometric shapes offer a clean, modern vibe.

Pick a geometric pattern, like chevrons or hexagons, and use tape to outline your design before carving.

#12. Sports Mania

Game On: Show some team spirit by carving the logo of your favorite sports team onto a pumpkin.

Print out the team logo and use it as a stencil. Depending on the complexity, this may require some detailed carving.

#13. Fairytale Castles

Once Upon a Time: Transform your pumpkin into a fairytale castle with towers, windows, and perhaps even a dragon.

Carve the castle’s outline, including intricate details like windows, doors, and turrets.

#14. Nature Scenes

Outdoor Enthusiasts: Celebrate nature by carving a scene of mountains, lakes, or even a silhouette of your favorite animal.

Use a photo or drawing as a reference, and carve out the basic shapes. Add smaller details like trees or waves to complete the look.

#15. Ship in a Bottle

Nautical Vibes: Consider this a ship in a bottle, but make it Halloween.

Carve the shape of a ship into one side of the pumpkin and waves into the other. For an extra touch, insert a small toy ship inside.

#16. Mythical Creatures

Fantasy Fun: Let your imagination fly: Unicorns, dragons, or phoenixes.

Sketch the outline of the mythical creature before you start carving. Add details like scales, feathers, or a horn to make it come alive.

#17. Cartoon Characters

Childhood Nostalgia: Recreate your favorite childhood cartoon characters on a pumpkin to take a trip down memory lane.

Use a stencil or freehand your favorite character onto the pumpkin. Carve and hollow out the design, and consider using some paint for specific details like eyes or clothing.

#18. Floral Designs

Blooming Marvel: If you’re a fan of floral patterns, this one’s for you.

Sketch a simple floral design or pattern onto your pumpkin. Delicately carve out the petals, leaves, and vines. The more intricate, the better!

#19. Optical Illusions

Mind-Bending: Create designs that trick the eye and create a buzz among contest-goers.

Plan and sketch your optical illusion carefully. The key is in the carving; carefully cut out pieces so that, when lit, the illusion comes to life.

#20. Abstract Art

Artistic Flare: A pumpkin is your canvas for those who prefer abstract expression.

There is no need for a stencil here; carve flowing lines, random patterns, and unexpected shapes to create a one-of-a-kind masterpiece.

#21. Clock Face

Timely Idea: Turn your pumpkin into a functional or decorative clock face.

Carve out the numbers and clock hands. For a functional piece, insert a real clock mechanism.

#22. Under the Sea

Oceanic Vibes: Think mermaids, sea turtles, or coral reefs.

Choose your favorite sea creature or element and carve it onto your pumpkin. Consider using shades of blue paint to give it an underwater feel.

#23. Out-of-this-World

Galactic Visions: Shoot for the stars with celestial bodies or even a rocket ship.

Carve out celestial bodies like stars, moons, and maybe even a planet or two. To illuminate, use a blue or purple light inside.

#24. Steampunk Style

Vintage Futurism: Combine elements of the Victorian era with futuristic concepts.

Think gears, clocks, and goggles. Carve these elements into your pumpkin, and use metallic paint for the finishing touches.

#25. Musical Notes

For the Music Lovers: From musical notes to instruments, the choice is yours.

Carve out your chosen musical elements and consider adding actual mini-instruments for a 3D effect.

#26. Tribal Patterns

Ancient Art: Create stunning designs based on tribal art or hieroglyphics.

Sketch your design with a marker before carving. Keep lines clean and well-defined for maximum impact.

#27. Pop Culture Phrases

In the Now: Think trending hashtags or popular sayings.

Choose a short and snappy phrase, and carve the letters carefully. Make sure to use a stencil for uniformity.

#28. Puzzle Pieces

Brainy Fun: Create a pumpkin that looks like a completed puzzle.

Draw puzzle pieces that interlock over the surface of your pumpkin and carve them out.

#29. City Skyline

Urban Aesthetics: Capture the essence of a city skyline with famous landmarks.

Choose a city and carve its most iconic buildings and structures.

#30. Food Items

Yummy Designs: Anything from a slice of pizza to a cupcake.

Carve the outline of your favorite food item, and use paint to add details like toppings or icing.

#31. Your Own Face

Personal Touch: Why not immortalize yourself in pumpkin form?

Take a close-up photo of your face and convert it to a stencil. Carefully carve around the stencil, paying close attention to details.

#32. Pumpkin Piñata

Fiesta Fun: This pumpkin idea is perfect for a fall fiesta or Halloween party.

Cut off the top of your pumpkin and remove the insides. Paint or decorate the outside as desired. Then, fill with candy and small toys and cover with tissue paper to create a piñata effect. Hang it up and let guests take turns breaking it open!

#33. Pumpkin Lanterns

Candlelit Charm: Create a cozy atmosphere with pumpkin lanterns.

Choose several small pumpkins and carve out simple designs, like stars or hearts, all over the surface. Hollow out the inside and place a tea light candle inside each one for a warm and inviting glow. Place them throughout your home or along a walkway outside.

#34. Popcorn Tub

Movie Night Magic: For movie lovers, create a pumpkin resembling a classic popcorn tub.

Choose a larger pumpkin and carve out the shape of a tub with handles on each side. Then, carefully paint it to resemble a red and white striped container. Fill with real or fake popcorn for added effect.

#35. Witch House

Spooky Scene: Create a Halloween-themed diorama by carving a witch house into your pumpkin.

Start by carving out the shape of a house on one side of the pumpkin. Then, use paint or other materials to add details like windows and doors. To complete the scene, add small figurines of witches, cauldrons, and other spooky elements inside the pumpkin.

30 No Carve Pumpkin Contest

Here are some creative and unique ideas for a no-carve pumpkin decorating contest. These ideas are for kids and adults who want to participate in a pumpkin decorating contest but are uncomfortable with carving.

#1. Decoupage Pumpkins

Artistic Yet Simple: Perfect for those who love scrapbooking.

Cut out images or patterns from magazines or colored paper and glue them onto the pumpkin using Mod Podge. Seal with another layer of Mod Podge.

#2. Glitter Galore

Sparkly Standout: If you want to make a statement, nothing says “Look at me!” like glitter.

Paint sections of your pumpkin with glue and sprinkle different colors of glitter over the glue. Shake off the excess.

#3. Chalkboard Paint

Interactive Fun: This idea allows you to change your design as you wish.

Cover your pumpkin in chalkboard paint and let it dry. Once dry, use chalk to draw your designs.

#4. Buttoned-Up Pumpkin

Quirky and Cute: Perfect for craft enthusiasts who have a thing for buttons.

Simply glue an assortment of buttons onto the pumpkin. You can either cover the entire pumpkin or create fun shapes or letters.

#5. Mummy Pumpkin

Halloween Classic: This design incorporates a Halloween favorite — the mummy.

Wrap your pumpkin in strips of white cloth or gauze, leaving some space for “eyes” made from small, black buttons.

#6. Felt Shapes

Child-Friendly: Ideal for kids or anyone fond of a more tactile experience.

Cut out shapes from colored felt and attach them to the pumpkin with glue to create your desired pattern or picture.

#7. Lace Elegance

Sophisticated Style: For an elegant, intricate design without the fuss of carving.

Wrap a piece of lace fabric around your pumpkin and secure it with glue or a decorative ribbon.

#8. Silhouette

Chic and Simple: Pick a silhouette that speaks to you, whether it’s a cat, a witch, or even your own profile.

Cut the silhouette shape out of black paper and glue it onto a painted or unpainted pumpkin.

#9. Washi Tape

Trendy Patterns: An excellent choice for those who love crafting with washi tape.

Use washi tape to create various designs on your pumpkin, like stripes, zigzags, or even intricate mosaics.

#10. Pom-Pom Polka Dots

Playful Flair: Add a whimsical touch to your pumpkin.

Simply glue pom-poms all over your pumpkin. The more colors, the better!

#11. Googly-Eyed Monster

Kid-Friendly Fun: Turn your pumpkin into a goofy monster with as many eyes as you’d like.

Paint your pumpkin in a vibrant color and glue on a bunch of googly eyes. Feel free to add a felt mouth and teeth for extra character.

#12. Sequin Glamour

Glitz and Glam: Perfect for those who want to add some sparkle without the mess of glitter.

Design a pattern or random design using sequins and pin or glue them onto your pumpkin.

#13. Nature’s Best

Earthy Vibes: Use natural elements like leaves, twigs, or even small stones.

Collect your natural elements and adhere them to your pumpkin using a strong glue. Try to cover as much of the pumpkin’s surface as possible for a lush effect.

#14. The Gifted Pumpkin

Holiday Crossover: Make your pumpkin look like a wrapped gift for a twist on holiday decorating.

Paint your pumpkin in festive colors, then tie a bow around it or paint on ribbon and bow designs.

#15. Color Block

Modern Aesthetic: A sleek and modern design that is incredibly simple.

Use painter’s tape to mark off sections on your pumpkin. Paint each section a different color. Remove the tape when dry.

#16. Tissue Paper Overlay

Artistic Appeal: For a stained glass effect, apply colored tissue paper.

Cut tissue paper into shapes and adhere them to the pumpkin using Mod Podge. Layer the pieces for a unique visual effect.

#17. Stickers or Stencils

Quick and Easy: Use stickers or stencils for a fast and simple design.

Place stickers on your pumpkin or use stencils and spray paint to create shapes or phrases.

#18. Yarn Wrapped

Cozy Vibe: Wrap your pumpkin in colorful yarn for a cozy, textural look.

Start at the stem and wrap yarn around your pumpkin, securing as you go with small glue dots.

#19. Candy Corn Ombre

Sweet Touch: The perfect pumpkin for candy corn lovers.

Paint the top third of the pumpkin white, the middle yellow, and the bottom orange. While the paint is still wet, blend slightly for an ombre effect.

#20. Disco Fever

Retro Groove: Add some fun and funkiness to your pumpkin decorating with a disco theme.

Use shiny materials like aluminum foil or metallic paint for a flashy look. Glue on small mirrors or sequins for that disco ball feel.

#21. Pumpkin Picasso

Unleash the Artist: The Pumpkin Picasso idea is for the artist in you. It’s your pumpkin canvas to paint whatever you like—an autumn landscape, a Halloween scene, or an abstract design.

Simply get acrylic paints and brushes, and let your creativity flow. To make the colors pop, apply a white primer beforehand. Seal your design with a clear spray to make it last.

#22. The Countdown Pumpkin

New Year Vibes: Who says pumpkins are just for Halloween? This is your countdown pumpkin for the New Year.

Paint your pumpkin in a glitzy gold or silver. Use stencils or freehand numbers to countdown to the New Year. You can even attach small clock hands to make it interactive.

#23. Cactus Pumpkin

Pumpkin Dessert: For a unique twist on traditional pumpkin decorating.

Take green paint and cover your pumpkin entirely. Then, use toothpicks or small twigs to create the “spines.” Top it off with a small flower made from colored paper.

#24. Air Balloon

Up, Up, and Away: This whimsical pumpkin idea is perfect for those who love adventure.

Use paint or markers to create an air balloon design on your pumpkin. Then, add a small basket made from cardboard and attached with string or wire. You can even add a tiny toy figure inside the basket as the “passenger.” 

#25. Pumpkin Planter

Green Thumb: Turn your pumpkin into a unique planter for your fall flowers or succulents.

Cut off the top of your pumpkin and remove the insides. Paint or decorate the outside as desired. Then, fill it with soil and plant your favorite greenery inside.

#26. Face of Branding

Personalized Touch: Use a pumpkin as a canvas to display your brand or business logo.

Paint the pumpkin in your chosen colors and then use stencils or freehand painting to create your logo. You can also add other branding elements, like slogans or social media handles.

#27. Cone of Pumpkin

Pumpkin Cone: A fun twist on the classic Christmas tree.

Stack small pumpkins of different sizes to create a cone shape. Decorate with festive ribbons, ornaments, and lights for a unique holiday display. You can also add a star or angel topper for the finishing touch.

#28. Burger Buddies

Grill Masters: For all the burger lovers out there, this one’s for you.

Carve a pumpkin to look like a giant hamburger. Use paint or different colored pumpkin pieces to create layers of bun, patty, cheese, and toppings. Bonus points for adding details like sesame seeds or lettuce leaves!

#29. Fruit Friends

Healthy Treats: This creative idea turns your pumpkin into a friendly fruit.

Paint or decorate the pumpkin to look like your favorite fruit. You can even add in real fruit pieces for an interactive element. Bonus points for adding a stem and leaf!

#30. Mud Musketeers

Muddy Fun: This one is perfect for kids or those who don’t mind getting dirty.

Cover your pumpkin in brown paint to create a muddy look. Then, add toy figures playing in the mud with small sticks and leaves as props. You can even add some splashes of “mud” (aka chocolate sauce) for extra fun.  

FAQs on Pumpkin Decorating Contest Ideas

What pumpkins are best for carving? 

When selecting the ideal pumpkin for carving, many options exist. While technically, you can carve almost any type of pumpkin, gourd, or squash. The key is choosing easy ones to work with, especially if you’re planning a carving activity with your kids.

Which pumpkin is best for carving? The best Halloween carving pumpkin is referred to as a ‘field pumpkin.‘ These pumpkins are easily distinguishable by their robust, dark green stems that often curl like hooks. This stem serves a dual purpose, offering a distinctive aesthetic and a practical handle for maneuvering during carving.

While field pumpkins are relatively straightforward to grow at home, many people opt to purchase them due to their widespread availability in local markets.

Within the category of field pumpkins, you’ll discover various options tailored to specific carving preferences. For instance, if you plan to carve a medium-sized pumpkin, ‘Autumn Gold’ is an excellent choice. For large-scale projects, such as elaborate designs or multiple carvings, ‘Gold Rush’ is preferred.

If your carving ambitions involve creating tall, imposing designs, ‘Captain Jack’ is known for its elongated shape and suitability. For those seeking an elegant departure from the traditional orange, ‘Lumina’ pumpkins offer a beautiful canvas for white pumpkin carving projects.

Furthermore, if you have intricate, elongated designs in mind, consider using the ‘Wolf’ pumpkin variety, which boasts a long handle for added convenience and creativity.

How long will a carved pumpkin last?

Generally, a carved pumpkin will last for about three to five days if kept in ideal conditions. To keep your pumpkin fresh and vibrant for as long as possible, cut off the top with a sharp knife and remove all of the interior “guts,” including seeds, strings, and membranes.

Once you’ve thoroughly removed the insides of your pumpkin, rinse it out with water to get rid of any remaining debris. Then, dry the inside with paper towels before placing a lit candle or light source inside.

When storing your pumpkin, keep it in a cool, shaded location until it is ready for display. This will help prevent premature wilting and rotting from excessive heat or sunlight exposure.

Once you’ve carved your pumpkin and placed it on display, misting the interior daily with a mixture of water and lemon juice can help prolong its lifespan. Alternatively, you can also use petroleum jelly on the cut edges to prevent them from drying out.

Another option is to carve your pumpkin closer to Halloween or your special event so it stays fresh for longer.

When should you carve a pumpkin?

There’s no exact timeframe for when to carve a pumpkin, but typically, the best time is 3 to 4 days before Halloween or your special event. This ensures that your pumpkin will look fresh and vibrant on display.

However, if you plan to use your pumpkin as a planter or for decorative purposes without carving it, you can keep it for 1-2 weeks before displaying it.

It’s always best to plan ahead and consider your desired outcome when deciding on the perfect time to carve your pumpkin. If you want a long-lasting display, opt for carving closer to your event date or using non-carved techniques for decorating.

Do Muslims carve pumpkins?

No, carving pumpkins is not allowed in Islam. Worshiping anything other than God is strictly prohibited, and carving pumpkins or any other object for decorative purposes can be seen as a form of idolatry.

Furthermore, Halloween is not a religious holiday in Islam, and many Muslims choose not to partake in its celebrations. 

How do you decorate small pumpkins?

Decorating small pumpkins can be as fun and creative as decorating larger ones. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Paint your pumpkins with acrylic, puffy, or spray paint for a colorful and unique design.
  • Use stickers, glitter, or rhinestones to add sparkle and shine to your pumpkin.
  • Wrap your pumpkin in strips of colorful fabric or ribbon for a fun and textured look. You can also use washi tape for a temporary and easily removable decoration.
  • Create a pumpkin character by adding facial features with markers, googly eyes, or small accessories like hats or glasses.
  • Use natural materials like leaves, twigs, and pinecones to create a seasonal-themed design for your pumpkin. You can attach them using glue or toothpicks. 

The possibilities are endless when decorating small pumpkins, so let your creativity run wild!

How do you win a pumpkin contest?

While there’s no surefire way to win a pumpkin decorating contest, here are a few tips that can increase your chances:

  • Plan and prepare in advance. Take the time to brainstorm ideas, gather materials, and practice your carving or decorating techniques.
  • Pay attention to detail. Make sure your pumpkin is clean and free of blemishes before starting. Use tools like stencils or tracing paper to create precise designs.
  • Incorporate unique elements. Think outside the box and use unconventional materials or techniques in your design.
  • Add a personal touch. Whether it’s a punny phrase, a nod to pop culture, or a special tribute, adding something that reflects your personality can make your pumpkin stand out.
  • Take good photos. If the contest allows for online submissions, take high-quality photos that showcase your pumpkin’s details and overall appearance.

Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the process of creating your pumpkin masterpiece! 

How do you host a pumpkin carving contest?

Hosting a pumpkin carving contest can be a fun and engaging way to celebrate Halloween with friends, family, or your community. Here are some steps to help you plan and organize a successful event:

  1. Decide on the date, time, and location for the contest. Consider factors like weather, availability of space, and convenience for participants.
  2. Set specific rules and categories for the contest, such as best overall design, scariest pumpkin, or most creative use of materials.
  3. Create a budget and gather supplies like pumpkins, carving tools, decorations, and prizes.
  4. Advertise the event through social media, flyers, or word of mouth. You can also contact local schools or community organizations to spread the word.
  5. Give participants pumpkins and tools if needed on the event day, and allow time for carving and decorating. Consider playing music, setting up a photo booth, or offering refreshments to create a festive atmosphere.
  6. Once all entries are completed, have judges or attendees vote on their favorite pumpkins in each category.
  7. Award prizes to the winners and showcase the pumpkins for everyone to admire.


Now, you have a detailed list of 65 unique and creative ideas for decorating your pumpkins. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced crafter, there is something on this list for everyone. So get your pumpkins ready and let your creativity run wild! Remember to have fun and make it your own.

Julia Nancy
Julia Nancy

I have vast experience arranging online voting contests for hundreds of clients worldwide in the last 8 years. I also helped countless clients to win their online competitions. Here, on royalvotes.com, I am just sharing knowledge from my experiences. If you need any help regarding the online contest, email me at julia@royalvotes.com