Carving A Kick-Ass Gaming Jack-O-Lantern

For many people, Halloween just isn’t Halloween without a good ol’ jack-o-lantern. While most of us are content with carving three triangles and a bucktoothed grin out of our pumpkins, some take it a step further and create veritable works of art. Best still is when those masterpieces are designed by gamers.

One such enthusiast is Informationator — his Reddit name — who has been carving gaming jack-o-lanterns since 2006. While he had to skip two years due to personal and professional obligations, he nonetheless has six pumpkins under his belt and manages to outdo himself every year.

Check out his work, below, and note the progression in both his pumpkin carvings and photography.

Informationator’s jack-o-lantern carving is born from a passion for art and gaming. “I love artistic stuff, and I love video games,” he told Game Front. “Halloween is fun and all, but dressing up, candy, parties… that doesn’t do it for me. But producing a work of art, even if it’s just temporary, is something I enjoy. So being able to immortalize that through photography is fun for me; it’s a way to take a lot of my interests and do something cool with them. It’s a way to share something you enjoy with other people in the spirit of the season.”

Informationator’s first pumpkin, a tribute to Halo, was a “simple” two-tone design — there are the lit areas where the pumpkin is carved all the way through, and the dark areas where it isn’t. But from then on, he began to experiment with tri-tone — i.e. carving just the skin off in places to allow for the pumpkin interior’s translucency to serve as a third tone.

“Every year was a little bit more of a learning process,” he said, explaining how even the way you photograph the pumpkin is important. “You put all this work into making the pumpkin look awesome, and then if you don’t know how to photograph, you end up with something that looks like that…” he added, pointing out his 1-Up pumpkin from 2008. “It’s like… Ugh.”

“There’s such a contrast between the light and everything else that the only way you can get a proper photo is through HDR.”

As he showed me his Super Mario pumpkin, he said, “This is the year where things started to come together, from the carving to the photography.”

While getting the photography right requires equipment and software that few of us have ready access to, the actual carving requires no special tools. Informationator uses a kitchen knife to open the pumpkin’s top, a spoon to scoop out the innards, and an X-Acto knife to carve.

It all starts with a stencil, which entails greater forethought than you’d expect. As Informationator’s designs grew in complexity over the years, more planning became involved. “I probably spent about 10 hours on [the Mega Man] stencil,” he said. Even if you work from a base image, such as a screenshot or piece of concept art, converting a gradient image into a tri-tone stencil requires stylistic decision-making about how those tones will be represented on the pumpkin. If you don’t plan adequately, when it comes to carving, you may find that you need a piece of pumpkin to defy the laws of physics and hover in place, disconnected from the rest of the squash.

Once the stencil is completed and printed out, Informationator tapes it to the pumpkin, which is hollowed out by this point. Then, he pokes holes through the stencil, following the lines, leaving himself a roadmap to follow. He removes the stencil and sets it aside as a reference, then gets to carving.

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