This project grew out of a master plan to create a creepy Voodoo-inspired altar display for our yearly Halloween party. There are lots of these types of DIY candles all over the internet made from both t.p. rolls and PVC, but I wasn't finding exactly the look I was going for. Most importantly, the tops of the candles didn't look great, plus I wanted them to have a more aged look.
These candles require 2 layers of glue gun drips, a bit of easy clay sculpting for the tops and some spray painting finesse to create a "sooty", grimy bottom. Here is my take on creepy drip candle props for Halloween. Enjoy!
Step 1: Supplies!
The only thing I'll warn on this is that depending on the size & amount of drip/thickness you want, you'll be going through a LOT of glue sticks! Roughly 1.5 sticks per candle, give or take depending on the size. Buying them in bulk is recommended.
- Silpat or other type of high-heat-resistant, non-stick silicone surface
- Glue gun (40W)
- Matte or satin spray paint in the candle color of your choice
- Matte spray paint in black
- Paper towel and t.p. rolls
- Battery-powered LED tealights (the ones with the flames sticking up)
- Plastilina or similar soft, non-hardening modeling clay
Step 2: Prepare the Tubes
Plug in your glue gun so it's ready to go for the next step. Using scissors, cut paper towel and t.p. tubes to varying lengths, leaving one side angled and the other straight.
Cutting the tubes to varying sizes and angle degree keep the candles looking more believable, especially if you have a bunch arranged in a display. Along with single candles I try and plan groupings of 2 or 3 which will be stuck together (see step #6).
Step 3: Glue Layer #1
Take the silpat mat and lay it down on your work surface for the hot glue step. Keeping the glue gun close against the tube, run it from the bottom up and/or top-down (you'll get varying results this way, which is good). Create wax "pools" at the bottom, thick drips and thin ones. I also run a couple lines of glue along the top edge of the tubes to give the clay tops something to grab onto. Treat it as a sculpture. Be random in your spacing between drips and where they begin & end. Look at images of real beeswax drip candles for inspiration!
There will be glue strings.. After some practice, I've found that if you trail the glue string along the drip you just made, up and down until it breaks off, it'll blend into the place where the glue is still hot. Otherwise, just pull off and cut where necessary after the glue has cooled. See this great PVC instructable on additional dab/drip techniques.
Step 4: Spray Paint Undercoat
An undercoat of spray paint is done so that when the 2nd round of glue is applied you have areas pretty well covered underneath. Using a matte or satin spray paint in the base candle color, begin spraying evenly and thoroughly, turning the candle around and getting underneath the drips, nooks & crannies. Here I'm using Rust-Oleum Painter's Touch 2x Ultra Cover Paint+Primer in Satin/Ivory Silk. It's overkill but it's what I had on hand and it covers real well. Allow to dry thoroughly (refer to paint can info. for wait times).
Step 5: Sculpt the Top of the Candle
For the tops of the candles I use a soft, non-drying plastilina clay and poke a hole in the center allowing the "flame" of the tealight to poke through from underneath. Soft clay is great because it is easy to blend into the surrounding drips, is super easy to work with, and provides a little stickiness to hold the tealight in place when you're ready to display.
Take a 1" or so ball of clay and work it to a pancake shape that's a bit larger than the top of the candle and about 1/8" thick. This will serve as a pliable hot glue support for the top of the candle and define the inner shape around the wick. Take a pencil and poke a hole in the center, large enough for the tealight wick to fit through. Position the hole in the center of the tube top and mold the clay around the edges, smearing/blending it into the "wax" along the top and down the drips. Sculpt high walls and wells around the wick, burn holes, etc.
After you have the top sculpted how you want, re-insert the pencil into the hole to make sure the tealight flame will still fit through.
Step 6: Glue Layer #2
This 2nd/final layer of glue covers the clay and provides more dimension to the candles. Before you do this step, if you want to plan groupings of candles, arrange them together first to create the look of them melting over one another.
To begin, I start from the center hole and run the glue across and over the edge. Continue around the top of the candle until it is covered with glue. Work quickly and all the glue will melt together cleanly.
At this stage be generous with your drips! Create mini-waterfalls of drips from one candle to the next (if in a grouping) and add to the pools at the bottom. To create a suspended drip, I unplug the glue gun and wait until it cools a bit before I apply.
After all the glue is applied and cooled, test the center hole to make sure the tealight still fits through easily but snug.
Allow to cool thoroughly before the next step, then pull off any unwanted glue strings. I'm not super picky about little mistakes since the paint job masks any strings & bloopers nicely.
Note: if the center hole becomes too small or misshapen during gluing and the glue has already dried, simply insert the nozzle of the glue gun into the hole to re-melt and widen the hole slightly. If the hole becomes too large, either pinch the clay around the whole to thin it out slightly and close it up a bit or add a touch more, then apply a little glue over the clay to harden.
Step 7: Final Coat of Paint and Soot/aged Look
Using your base candle-colored spray paint, take care to cover the 2nd round of glue and any exposed clay thoroughly, just as you did in the 1st glue coat. A couple coats might be necessary to really saturate the entire piece.
After the paint dries, it is time to apply the "sooty"/dirty base color. Here I'm using Rust-Oleum Flat Protective Enamel in black. Personally, I like the satin finish of the base color contrasting the matte color.
Holding the can a little farther away from the candle bottom, spray a light mist to create an ombre-type look. Then, this is a bit tricky.. Hold the sprayer/button down just enough so the paint comes out splattery. Do this sparingly along the bottom of the candle to provide a little texture. I also take the candle color and do the same splatter treatment near the top to help blend the colors a bit more.
Tip: Get the spray stream flowing how you like away from the candle first, then bring it in slowly. Otherwise, you might get a solid, unwanted blast right on the candle on the first spray.
Step 8: Create Supports for the Tealights
This is a bit contrived, but it works for me.. Taking some spare tube cardboard, cut it length-wise and roll fold it 2x to create a rigid triangle-shape tube. Affix the tealight to the top using a rolled piece of duct tape and insert the tealight in the tube and up through the center hole. Mark where the edge of the candle bottom meets the support, remove and cut.
Seal the measured/cut cardboard support shut with a piece of duct tape.
Turn the tealight on and re-insert with the newly-cut support. The tealight may stick a little to the underside of the clay top, which is an added bonus in keeping the tealight in place in your display. If it does stick and won't drop out, just push the flame down with your finger and pop it out when you want to turn the tealight off.
Step 9: All Done! Turn Em on and Turn Out the Lights!
These do take patience, but I think the final look is real effective. I'll add a couple more color combinations when those are finished.
Happy Halloween! Would love to see your creations and how you display them!