Make a lantern for tea lights

by Rhiannon James

When summer finally arrives, there’s nothing more delicious than sitting outside as darkness falls. Perhaps it’s because the heat feels excitingly exotic; or maybe it’s the overheard murmurs and music that tell you other people are enjoying it too or perhaps it’s just that everything seems in sync under the stars. Whatever it is, candlelight is an essential part of the magic, and for that, you need lanterns.

This is a really inexpensive, easy way to make tea light lanterns that look lovely both by day and by night.

Things you’ll need

1. Glass jam jars – the wider ones probably have the best shape for lanterns

2. 35gsm handmade paper – this type of paper has a nice texture and the weight is low enough to allow candlelight to shine through. We used Lokta handmade paper but there are many other options available in art shops and online.

3. Tape measure

4. Ruler

5. Scissors

6. Pencil

7. A selection of acrylic paints (cheap ones are fine)

8. Artist’s paint brush

9. Small dish for colour mixing

10. Jar of water

11. A pen with permanent waterproof ink (if you want to use ink as well as paint to create your design)

12. PVA glue

13. Tea lights


1. Before you start, measure the height (between the curves at the bottom and top) and circumference of your jam jar and work out a design to paint on to the paper that you’ll be wrapping around it. We drew a cow parsley motif in a midcentury modern-type style but if you don’t want to sketch something by hand, then you can just choose a simple design of the right size from wrapping paper, fabric or a book. Alternatively, there are pretty handmade papers available that are decorated with leaves and petals and you can stick these directly on to the jar.

2. Once you’ve decided on a design, you can start making the lantern. Use the measurements you already have to mark and cut out a strip of paper to wrap around the jam jar. Then, if you’re using a repeating motif, work out the spacing and mark it very lightly on the paper with a pencil.

3. Place the paper over the motif and trace it as many times as necessary with a pencil.

4. Then take your acrylic paints, mix the colours you want to use and apply them to the paper (if you’re drawing in certain details in ink, make sure the paint isn’t so thick that you can’t see the pencil lines you’ve made).

5. Wait for the paint to dry – if you want to speed this process up you can blow hot air on to the paper with a hairdryer.

6. Then, if you want to, you can use permanent ink to draw in details or highlight particular elements. The ink must be waterproof though or it will run when you put glue on to the paper.

7. Once the ink is fully dry, you can put PVA glue on to the back of the strip of paper. Try to spread it over the surface rather than brush it in and be particularly careful in the areas where you have added paint and ink. Then stick the strip on to the jam jar and leave it to dry overnight.

8. If you want to leave the lantern outside, add a layer of PVA glue to the outer surface of the paper once you’ve stuck it to the jar (the glue is transparent when it’s dry). Put a tea light inside and you’re done!

The finished lantern and another wrapped with handmade paper




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