Step 1: Bill of Materials
1. One 48 oz pinch-grip square plastic food container (I used a salsa container). Other container sizes and shapes will work too, I just use what I happened to have on hand.
2. Some olive oil (for removing glue residue from the food container).
3. Masking tape.
4. 220 grit sand paper.
5. Acrylic gesso.
6. Acrylic paint (I used some prussian blue and some titanium white).
7. Acrylic matte medium (alternatively, a couple tablespoons of white glue mixed with a couple drops of dish soap would work too, as explained below).
8. A couple paint brushes.
9. One wire coat hanger.
10. a pocket knife.
11. pliers with integrated wire cutter.
12. a rubber band.
13. a 4" glow stick.
14. a dust mask (for sanding).
Step 2: Step 1: Prep the Container
Once the label residue is off, clean the container again thoroughly with soap and water, and let dry completely.
Step 3: Prepping the Surface
Once your windows are masked, lightly sand the exposed surfaces with very fine sand paper (I used 220 grit; I experimented with 150 grit but found it left too much of a 'grain' in the plastic). Wear a dust mask; you don't want to inhale the plastic particulates.
I drilled the holes where the lantern handle would go at this stage (since the next stage is painting, and I didn't want to screw up the paint job when i went to drill the holes). I just used a pocket knife; a punch or awl or nail would also do the trick. I put the point of the blade against the plastic and twisted it back and forth until I (slowly) drilled a hole through the plastic.
Step 4: Prime and Paint
Step 5: Frosting the Lantern Windows
To frost the windows, you have a couple options. I painted the windows with an acrylic matte medium, which goes on smoothly and dries to a nice translucent look.
If you don't have an acrylic matte medium laying around, you can mix a couple tablespoons of white glue (Elmer's, Mod Podge, or similar) with a few drops of liquid dish soap. I read about this technique somewhere on the Internet (thanks, Internet!) and tried it on plastic water bottle; it basically created the same frosted look. The big downside to this approach is that it is even less waterproof than the acrylic medium, which isn't very waterproof.
Step 6: The Lantern Handle
Feed the handle ends through the holes in the lantern. Using your needle-nose pliers, crimp the ends around to form a loop (this is harder to explain than to show; see the accompanying pictures). I put "washers" on the handle so that it would not rub off the paint too badly (I used bits of electrical tape for this), but that step is probably optional.
Step 7: The Light
There are other ways to do this (e.g., using some mounting putty to stick the glue stick to the bottom of the lantern), but this way worked for me.
Step 8: That's It!
Have a happy and safe Halloween!