Introduction: Sparkleball (no-melt) for the Holidays!

Picture of Sparkleball (no-melt) for the Holidays!

A sparkleball is a magical ornament handmade from plastic cups and mini-lights; usually displayed at Christmas or holiday time.

You'll need 50 soft 9 oz. solo-style plastic cups, a hole-puncher, a drill with a 1/2" bit, a string of mini-lights (100-150), and 200 small zip-ties or your choice of connectors like wire. (recycled clean cups will work perfectly as will an old string of mini-lights.)

NOTE: The "no-melt" refers to the old school method of melting the cups with a soldering iron. This INSTRUCTABLE has been so popular, even though there are new techniques in making sparkleballs, I've just left it the way it was first written.

Step 1: Drill the Cup Bottoms

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Drill the cup bottoms of all 50 plastic cups. You can stack and drill 2-3 at a time. The holes should be about 1/2" or large enough to insert one or two mini lights.

Step 2: Punch Holes

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With a hole-puncher (the kind for punching holes in paper), punch 4 holes evenly spaced around the top of all 50 cups. Place the holes just under the raised lip. Each hole should have a hole directly opposite, but just eyeball the placement.

Step 3: Layer One

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Arrange 12 cups in a circle. Attach each cup to the cups adjoining, using a zip-tie through the holes. Do not tighten the zip-ties until all the cups are connected. Then tighten one by one, making sure the ring of cups stays flat.

Step 4: Layer Two

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There are 9 cups in Layer Two. Place one cup on top of Layer One. Connect it to the cup it sits on.. Do not tighten zip-tie all the way. Now add second cup. Attach it to cup it sits on top of. When all 9 cups are situated on top of Layer One, forming Layer Two-- then connect each cup to those on either side. Every cup in Layer Two will be attached at three points. When all zip-ties are in place, tighten and trim.

Step 5: Layer Three

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There are 4 cups in Layer Three. Fit the 4 cups into the space left at the top of the sparkleball-half. Once they fit neatly, then start attaching the 4 cups to each other and to the cups in Layer Two. The last 4 cups will be attached at 4 points. Punch new holes, if the holes don't align. Tighten zip-ties and trim. Half the ball is done! Time for the lights.

Step 6: Inserting Lights

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To insert lights: start at the prong end of the cord. Insert the two lights closest to the prong into a cup at the outside rim. (The plug will then hang out when you put the two halves together.)

Put 1 or 2 lights in each cup. Work your way around the ball half, zigzaging from outer cups to inner cups and back. You want to end up on the outer rim, at the cup next to one you started with.

Work slowly. It's important NOT to skip a cup or miss a light. If you crack a cup, that's ok.

Step 7: Build Second Half

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Set aside the completed half. Build the second half just like you did the first. (Steps 3 - 5) Same formula for the 3 layers: 12 - 9 - 4.

Step 8: Finishing the Lights

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On the second half, insert lights starting from the opposite end of the cord (the plug end.) Start with any cup but make sure you finish at the outer rim. (But if you plan to hang more than ball at once, make sure the plug end hangs out between the cups, as well.)

The last lights will be the hardest to insert as you juggle the two halves. Some people use two strands of mini-lights, connecting them once the two halves are threaded with lights.

Step 9: Join the Halves

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Press the two halves together, making them fit snugly. Line up holes and attach loosely with zip-ties, all the way around. Finally, tighten zip-ties and trim.

Step 10: Make a Hanger

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Make a hanger for your sparkleball. I use a bit of chain and two "s" hooks. Choose the top of your sparkleball. (Will you want the electrical cord hanging out on top or at the bottom?) Punch holes between two cups. Insert an "s" hook into the hole and close. Add chain and second "s" hook.

You can also use zip-tie loops, clear fishing line, wire coat hangers, or ribbon to hang sparkleballs.

Step 11: OPTIONAL: Beads? Glitter?

Picture of OPTIONAL:  Beads?  Glitter?

My friend Erika likes to string plastic beads on the zip-ties, as she threads them between cups. Her sparkleballs look as pretty unlit, as lit. You can also dip cup rims in glue, then glitter, or use dollops of glitter-glue between the cups.

Step 12: OPTIONAL: Chasing Lights

Picture of OPTIONAL:  Chasing Lights

Multi-function, "chasing" lights turn sparkleballs into mini-ufo's. The blinking, pulsating, rhythm-changing light sequences have to be seen to be believed. If you do use chasing lights, you'll need to insert 2 or 3 lights into each cup bottom. Experiment with drill and hole sizes and lights BEFORE you begin building your sparkleball.

Step 13: Plug in and Enjoy!

Picture of Plug in and Enjoy!

To see more sparkleball-making ideas and photos from around the world, check out


Scotticus (author)2015-01-18

I started one, but turns out I'd bought 12oz cups so the sphere was going to big for me, so I left as half sphere and put it against wall, added some rays. viola. looks like with minor mod it could be eye of sauron for Halloween.

jeanniel1 (author)Scotticus 2015-12-22

Whoa - super cool!

I think you could decorate it for any holiday. Very versatile!

Sg573 (author)2015-10-13

Help! I thought this would be a simple project but it isn't coming together (literally). I am using the 9 oz cups but 12 of them will not make the first ring. It seems that I need to add at least 2 more cups. I can force the cups together but it pulls the staples out somewhere else. To me the cups seem too rigid. Any idea what I am doing wrong?

jeanniel1 (author)Sg5732015-12-22

It could be the angle of your cups' sides - the more wide they are, the fewer you'd need.

MarlenL1 (author)Sg5732015-10-27

look for a youtube video

Much more instructional than this

sparkleball_lady (author)Sg5732015-10-13

Hey Sg573!

A couple of thoughts. 1. There are 9 oz cups that are not the right shape for a basic sparkleball. If I knew your brand or saw a photo I could say for sure. But if 12 doesn't make a nice circle, good chance it's the wrong shaped cup. 2. BUT you can try a different formula for your cup. Check out my instructable for "Hot Glue Sparkleball." That one's made with 9 oz hard cups, but the shape may be similar to your cups. The formula is 14-11-6-1. 3. And if all else fails, try the "Any Cup" Sparkleball method on, which shows you how to turn any cup into a sphere. This may be more trouble than you wanted, but there IS a solution. Good luck! S.L.

allgaul (author)2015-12-20

These are great! I am going to give them a try. I priced some lighted spheres and they are either @15-$20 and get terrible reviews or over $45 for one! This is a great alternative and look amazing. Thanks for the instructible!

sparkleball_lady (author)allgaul2015-12-20

Hey allgaul, Glad you like it. There's nothing commercial to match a sparkleball. Check out my other Instructables so you can choose the sparkleball you'd like most to make. There are several different techniques.

DIY-Guy (author)2015-12-15

A stapler may be used instead of the hole-punch and zip tie method.
These are beautiful!
Thanks to the author for writing this.

ShelleyM6 (author)DIY-Guy2015-12-15

I stapled mine as well. Had to purchase a heavy duty plier stapler to make it work right. For added effect, I used a string of 16 function multi colored lights. So, it changes colors and patterns and speeds. Fun project!

Love motion lights in sparkleballs! The best!

sparkleball_lady (author)DIY-Guy2015-12-15

Thanks, DIY-Guy. You're right. I made a new tute showing the stapler method. But I love the idea that there are lots of ways to do it. Truly DIY!

YaënD (author)2015-12-15

magic !

RigoC (author)2015-12-15

Looks awesome

SophiesFoodieFiles (author)2015-11-28

These are looking so pretty & amazing! Waw!!! festive too, indeed! :)

Kryptonite (author)2008-11-27

I believe that you could make one of these out of plastic clear shot glasses, so you get a really small one. Could you? regards, Kryptonite

Dear K, I've made a mini-ball out of condiment cups (like you get ketchup in at hamburger places.) But a man in Australia built a really beautiful smaller ball made out of red shot glasses. Not sure how he did it but you can see photos of his mini and mine at []. Alex

koda1 (author)sparkleball_lady2008-11-30

Where do you get the ties from? Can you buy them separately? Thank you.

satoko68 (author)koda12015-01-13

Also available in dollar stores in their hardware section, making this even cheaper to make! I could likely buy ALL the things I need to make this at the dollar store including LEDs, cups, etc. You can also buy bulk glitter & pure pigments online for far cheaper than in the craft stores. Try TKB or even Alibaba. I'm envisioning this using plain, clear glass cups with metal beads & all sorts of other goodies!

sparkleball_lady (author)koda12008-11-30

Koda, You can buy them at any hardware store or Home Depot. My husband introduced me to them, and they come in very handy for a variety of uses. I can't live without them now.

one coudl use thimbles too

Hey Yeah, that dude in Australia did what I'm thinking about, which is good cause I live in aus too so I can probably get all the stuff. Thanks for the reply, Kryptonite

Well, Aussie Kryptonite, if you do make a shot-glass sparkleball, I'd love to see how you do it. So I hope you post it here and let me know. The one Rob made is one of the prettiest ever. I know he used like 100 cups, but the trick is always making the ball come out round and it's harder when the cups have straight sides. . .

Rightio then! I may or may not make this, I'm a bit busy with school at the moment. Although, for the good instructable, nice attitude and quick replies I'll give you a 4.5/5. Thanks for posting! Kryptonite

Ward_Nox (author)2014-12-12

2 suggestions

one use a string of solar powered/activated lights then you don't hve to wory about them turning on and off and it keeps your power bill down

Two use spray adhesive and spray crystal glitter on it then hit it with a layer of either spray paint or matte clear coat it will keep the glitter from comming off on your hands

satoko68 (author)Ward_Nox2015-01-13

Just a thought....matte clear coat would affect the reflection of light off the sparkles. Why not just use an acrylic spray clear coat?

catspooh (author)2014-12-31

For round shape start with a Styrofoam ball about 4-6 inches. I have made smaller globes this way and hot glued them to Styrofoam ball in circles. For outside globes I like the idea of zip ties best or staples. Lights can be mini lights pushed through melted 1/2" holes in bottem of plastic glasses, you can even use portable lights that come in small sets with battery pkg. attached. If you can get a larger Styrofoam ball you could eliminate the 12, 09, 04 layers and just hot glue them to the ball and maybe staple them to each other for more security.

satoko68 (author)catspooh2015-01-13

Those are all great ideas that I'll keep in mind when I make this myself. I'm imagining one of these as a gorgeous light fixture suspended from the ceiling.....the possibilities with these are endless!

bonnie.burdick1 (author)2015-01-11

I made two over the weekend useing Led lights turned out nice

swinner (author)2014-12-17

took about an hour and cost about $20 in materials. but it was fun and my 6 year old was able to help.

MegaBrightLight (author)2014-12-14

Very pretty... is this likely to blow up...being plastic

We still have my grandma's from the 60's and it works well! Never had any problems with melting or other damage, even with the old style bulbs in it.

unlikely to blow up unless you use explosive s

kirkb150 (author)2014-12-13

I've wanted to make one of these for 30 years. Half way done. Using white 50 light LED strand that cost $5. Making another with multi-color strand next.

emilyvanleemput (author)2014-12-11

So so so pretty!!

jcannizzo (author)2014-12-10

I'd love to see a green sparkle all from cut wine bottles. I bet that would beautiful.

Raitis (author)2014-12-10

Nice one! I think I may try to make a glass one eventually.

markn5 (author)2014-11-18

MY grandma made me one of these 20 years ago (it still works, never had to replace a bulb). It never gets hot, and I have never had a problem with it. Using todays LED bulb will produce even less heat. As always you need to make sure that your set up is safe. I can only say that mine has never been hot or affected the cups at all.

lotta.skogberg made it! (author)2014-10-07

Hello from Finland!
This is an amazing idea! Just got my 11.8oz cup ball made.102 cups the ball contains. Stapled instead of using zip-ties. I am going to hang it as an bedroom lamp from the ceiling, with a led light bulb inside the ball. A led light bulb does not get hot in use so it is safe. :) Thanks again for this brilliant idea! Looking forward for x-mas to make even more balls to give away maybe even as gifts :) Loving it!!

ErwinM (author)2014-08-30

May i ask if this is safe? Will it not melt the cup if lights are on for hours? Thanks!

reltorro (author)2014-05-18

I have a question. Once one half is completed, do you start the other half with nine on top of the first half, or a whole new twelve? Is it 4-9-12-12-9-4 or 4-9-12-9-4?

Hi! You make both halves exactly the same. first layer=12, second=9, third=4. Then when you put it together, you put the two layers of 12 against each other. Make sense?

wlillis (author)2014-01-30

Informative tutorial to make your celebrations more enjoyable and special.

prachilele (author)2013-10-09

thank u so much 4 such a beautiful tutorial :) i loved it.

My pleasure!

monkeymays (author)2013-04-27

Great project for Christmas, and ever so pretty! My mom made me one in the late 80's and I had that thing for years. She used the multi-funtion light set but after several years use eventually only one color of lights were left working.
She used hot glue to secure hers, but I sure like the one pictured that had beads strung in with the zip ties.
Thanks for the great tut!

FrozenStar (author)2010-12-10

Pretty cool concept.
It would be awesome if you hooked some of these up into a sequencer so they could flash in a pattern.

GroggDog (author)2010-12-11

I don't recomment this for people where it's cold in the winter lol. Tried this last year and after the christmas when I were going to take in back in it collapsed and all the cups cracked and all. If you wan't to do this where's cold then wait untill the summer or something

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