How to Create a Pumpkin Carving Stencil in Photoshop

By Eric Z Goodnight on October 26th, 2010

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Sick of the same boring Jack O’Lantern faces? For something different this year, fire up Photoshop and make your own custom stencils out of Photographs or nearly any kind of image.

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Virtually any image can work with this technique, although higher quality is better. Fine details are also hard to carve, so keep in mind you want to stay simple as possible.

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ctrl shift U will desaturate your image and turn it into grayscale.

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Press ctrl L to open your levels. Adjust the sliders as shown or use these values (148, 1.91, 185).

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You want to increase your contrast until your image looks roughly like this. You want heavy blacks, minimal grays, and stark whites.

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Go to Image > Adjustments >  Threshold.

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Adjust your threshold based on how your image looks. This value may not work perfectly for you, so experiment with it. You’ll gain and lose detail depending on your image.

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Your image should lose all of its shades of gray. Grab your paintbrush and paint black over the parts of the image you don’t want.

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The ghostly head of Bill is all that remains!

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Look closely on your image and make sure that no parts of it are too thin are floating freely. You’ll have to paint these in with your mouse. Erase the small bits that you don’t want to have to carve, while you’re at it.

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Ctrl i will invert the colors on your image. You can print the white on black image, but this saves ink, if you are so inclined.

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Print your stencil and use transfer paper to copy it to your pumpkin or cut it out of your page with an X-acto knife, then stencil it on directly. Lifehacker has already done a fun article on tools to do just that.

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Happy Halloween!

Original image of Bill Gates by Kees de Vos, available under Creative Commons license via Wikipedia. Pumpkin2600ppx by Fastily, available under Creative Commons license via Wikipedia.

Eric Z Goodnight is an Illustrator and Stetson-wearing wild man. During the day, he manages IT and product development for screenprinted apparel manufacturing; by night he creates geek art posters, writes JavaScript, and records weekly podcasts about comics.

  • Published 10/26/10
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