Shinall said a pumpkin should be imagined like a canvas.
"Depending on what you want to do on the pumpkin itself, the size will play the most important factor," he said. "I usually stick to the 15 to 30 pound range. Beyond that, into the 40 to 50, can be too big. The smaller ones are usually harder because of the size and there's not much to clean out."
In designing the picture to be carved, Shinall will often freehand an idea onto a sheet of paper, tape that to the side of the pumpkin and create a stencil by taking a sharp, pointed object, such as a toothpick, and poking the design into the canvas.
"You can do anything," Shinall said. "People think of the triangle eyes and square teeth, but you can get really detailed with them.
"I've had some good ones and some that I had to throw out. You can do funny ones, ones with letters or faces. [The most unique one] I've done is probably one that integrated flames like fire in the carving itself. I had a ghost or goblin with flames coming off the eyes or mouth. Some of the sharp points and curves from the flames themselves [were so detailed that] when you put a candle inside it, it looks like it's a glow of the flame."
Lettering on pumpkins may provide an obstacle for some. Bubble or block letters can be carved, but Shinall urges caution as one cut could result in a whole letter or word being disconnected.
"I use a filet knife to get the flex and curvature of the letters," Shinall said. "Imagine letters on a stencil sheet like in elementary school. The letters had spaces inside [each one] so it won't fall apart. It's just a matter of cutting out the right pieces."
The creative decorating process may sound difficult, but Shinall says there are different things to use to make it easy from the various blades to tracing a picture instead of drawing it freehand.
Once a pumpkin is carved, various organisms such as bacteria, molds and insects can crawl inside and speed up the decaying process. To preserve the pumpkin and prevent early rotting, Shinall suggests rubbing petroleum jelly on the inside. Applying a cleaning solution containing bleach also may help.
Another suggestion includes a lemon juice and water spritzer applied to the inside and outside, which helps protect against the elements. Finally, cover the carved creation in plastic. Simply wrap the orange orb in clear plastic wrap.
For those looking for a simpler decorating method, pumpkin painting has grown in popularity in recent years. Acrylic paints work well on the pumpkin's surface, and this option allows for a more kid-friendly approach to the Halloween tradition.