Introduction: How to Make Clay Lanterns

Picture of How to Make Clay Lanterns

I am not sure if that is the best name to describe this, but it is basically a cup made from air-dry clay in which you can place a tealight or small candle.  I made an impression on the sides of the cup and then poked small holes in the clay allowing the light to pass through.  I saw something similar done with a tin can and really liked how it looked.  The candle light through the holes is subtle and the design impressed onto the clay looks nice even in daylight.

Step 1: What You Will Need:

Picture of What You Will Need:
  • clay -any kind* or colour (I used La Doll Premier Lightweight Stone Clay)
  • clay rolling and cutting tools and a mat to work on
  • stamp, stencils or anything else you want to make an impression (Sculptey has texture making sheets and wheels)
  • cling wrap (to protect mat)
  • bottle the size and shape you want for your lantern
  • sandpaper
  • needle

*check that the clay is not flammable (Crayola air-dry clay is and it warns against using it for making candle holders)

Step 2: Roll Out the Clay

Picture of Roll Out the Clay
  • Take a hunk of clay and roll it out to about 0.5cm(1/4 in) thickness.
  • Cut the top and bottom edges in a straight line with the desired height (in my case I made it about 9cm(3.5in)).
  • Check that it is long enough by loosely wrapping it around the bottle and trim the edge.

Step 3: Make an Impression

Picture of Make an Impression

I used a Christmas ornament to make an impression on the clay, stamps work nicely for this too.  Or if you have a steady hand you can draw something yourself.  Try to add even pressure and don't push too hard that it goes through to the other side.  I made the cup large enough that I could make two impressions of the dove.

Step 4: Poke Holes

Picture of Poke Holes

With a needle or something with a pointy end (I actually used a seam ripper) poke holes all the way through the clay along the pattern you made with the impression.  Space them roughly 2mm apart and make sure the needle enters the clay vertically, not at an angle.  I also used a stencil to add more holes since some areas looked a bit bare.

Step 5: Make a Cup

Picture of Make a Cup
  • Loosely wrap the clay around the bottle and connect the two ends together.  With the clay I used I just wet the clay and blended the edges together.
  • To make the bottom, roll out some more clay to about the same thickness as the sides.  Place the cylinder piece on top and trim around the edges. 
  • Connect the bottom piece by blending the edges of clay together.
  • Allow to dry

Step 6: Sand and Finish

Picture of Sand and Finish

Once the clay has dried you can sand it to smooth out the edges at the rim as well as along the seams. 

Drop a tealight in and our done!


fonzuzu (author)2011-08-24

Hers'e the one I made, sorry it took a while to post.I know it's abit messy but I made these lines on it with the pencil, I 'm sure if you do it properly it will be really cute.

ChrysN (author)fonzuzu2011-08-24

That looks great! Thanks for sharing.

zposner (author)2016-12-10

Good idea to check to make sure it isn't flammable. I wouldn't have thought about that.

Betherga (author)2015-12-15

Love this idea!! I will make one and post the photo!! Great idea and tips!


Mareene (author)2015-11-26

Thanks for this instructable! It's really nice looking and easy to do.
I made one too but I'm not that pleased with the result. The holes are too big... I'll try another one with smaller holes! ^.^

AddienSpeed (author)2014-09-18

where did u buy the white clay? i almost made it but the clay color is brown... :(

ChrysN (author)AddienSpeed2014-09-18

I bought the clay at Michaels. You can also find it on Amazon ( You can always make it with the brown clay and paint it. Or just leave it brown, it may look nice too.

nisha_m (author)2012-10-31

how long does the clay take to dry?

ChrysN (author)nisha_m2012-10-31

The clay I used air dries over night.

Master Beorn (author)2011-12-02

You might try dimpling the bottom a touch and installing a small electric light as well. This also works VERY well with porcelain.

tjesse (author)2011-09-27

A pounce wheel could speed things up. Check out my watermelon frog instructable for an example. This project would make a great mother's day gift!

ChrysN (author)tjesse2011-09-27

Thanks for the tip, that would be really helpful!

mstyle183 (author)2011-09-26

Good luck!! it looks great

ChrysN (author)mstyle1832011-09-26


LifeWarrior (author)2011-08-21

Very sharp use of stenciling, I've never been good at clay sculpting, but I'm always fascinated by the artistry of it, it's cool to see an actual technique in action. Great 'ible, Thanks

ChrysN (author)LifeWarrior2011-08-21

Thank you!

ZoDo (author)2011-08-19

As always, I am ipressed by your work. You have my vote.

ChrysN (author)ZoDo2011-08-19

Thank you!

kasengut (author)2011-08-17

You can make the base a little bigger with a rim, into which the cylinder can fit, - and don't connect the base and the cylinder. That way you can place the tealight on the base and cover with the cylinder, - you don't have to drop the light in !
Nice work !

ChrysN (author)kasengut2011-08-17

Great idea, it is a bit awkward putting the candle in, thanks!

fonzuzu (author)2011-08-13

this is soo cute i made it but i took a sided pencil and rolled it over the clays to make these even stripes that look really cute and i drew a tree . thax sooo much for posting post more thing like this from clay plz

ChrysN (author)fonzuzu2011-08-13

Cool, I'd love to see the one you made.

friendorphobia (author)2011-08-11

You did a great job sanding the rough spots. It's hard to do - I tend to push to hard in one area, sanding it too much and making it uneven. An easy way to sand the top to make it even would be to turn it upside down onto the sandpaper and sand it with a circular motion, trying to keep it perpendicular. Love this project!

ChrysN (author)friendorphobia2011-08-12

Cool, thanks for the tip!

sunshiine (author)2011-08-09

Thanks for sharing! AND congrats on beaing a featured author!

ChrysN (author)sunshiine2011-08-09

Thank you!

sunshiine (author)ChrysN2011-08-09

You are welcome!

penelope nicholls (author)2011-08-07

Love this creative idea. Do you oil the bottle first, so the clay won't stick to it ?

ChrysN (author)penelope nicholls2011-08-07

I put some cling wrap around the bottle and only wrapped the clay loosely around it but oil would probably work better.

xavec (author)2011-08-07

I love this so much - will definitely have to make one at some point!

splazem (author)2011-08-05

Wow, amazing (yet again)! Keep up the good work!

porcupinemamma (author)2011-08-04

Beautiful! A child could do this, and a battery operated tea light could be substituted for a real candle

ChrysN (author)porcupinemamma2011-08-04

Yes, it would be a fun activity to do with children. Thanks!

CatTrampoline (author)2011-08-04

I really like this. Pretty and useful. It would also make an attractive pencil holder if you didn't need a lantern.

Infinite Crafts (author)2011-08-04

This is really cute, I think little mini ones of these might look really good as part of a natural themed wedding. One or two on each table.

jessyratfink (author)2011-08-03

Such a good idea! I think I might make one of these to hold a tiny metal bowl for an additional oil burner. :)

About This Instructable




Bio: I like sewing and crafts,and trying new things. I'm vegetarian and always looking for new recipes. My cat's name is Mirko and ... More »
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