Searching for pumpkin carving templates online will yield great results. But you can create a template from any photo you want. It works best starting with a high-contrast photo. See the steps below!
Find a photo and bring it into Photoshop. I added a little space on top to add the top of her head later.
Boost the contrast by adjusting the levels. Notice how close the triangles are in the middle of the histogram.
Use the magic wand tool to select a darker color — in this case: the red. Then go to the top menu and choose Select -> Similar. This will select all the red on the page. Add a new layer on top and fill that selection with black.
Do the same with a lighter tone — in this case: yellow. Fill it with white. Do the same with any other values. Make the darker ones black, and the lighter ones white. Also, I’ve drawn in the top of her head here.
Now that we have a black and white image, we need to make it carvable. The template needs anchor points. For example, you can’t carve the eye out, or it will just fall out. A circle around the edge of the image anchors the top of the head, her arm, and the shield. The more anchor points you have, the stronger it will be.
I’ve duplicated her hair to make another anchor point. It’s sloppy but we can fill it in later.
Using the same levels technique on the hair, I’ve filled the darks with black and the lights with white.
Lastly, I used a heavier brush to cheat some of the lines thicker and to connect more anchor points. Look at the hair on the bottom left, her arm, and her eye got connected to the nose. There are a lot of thin wispy details still that we’ll just ignore when we go to carve it.
I chose to reverse the image. The black areas are what will be cut out.
Size the final template to the size of your pumpkin. Thick masking tape worked well to tape the template on. Blue painters tape doesn’t stick very well. I started with the face and worked out from the middle. Leave the large areas for last because they provide a lot of support while you’re cutting. Also, it helps to try and thin out the inside of the pumpkin with a large spoon where you will be carving.
For tools, I used the little orange pumpkin tools that come in any kit. I also had a selection of sharp kitchen knives for straighter lines. And a power drill with a small bit is great for making starter holes for the pumpkin carving saw or just for tiny details. Plus, it doesn’t shake or wiggle the pumpkin as you cut.