Introduction: DIY Chinese Lantern

Chinese Lanterns are a fun form of entertainment for all ages. Previously used for communication in wars by Ancient Chinese armies, these miniature hot air balloons later became popular with children during festivities. By following the steps below, you will be able to construct your own lantern that will be ready to release into the air for a special event or just for fun!


    • (biodegradable) tissue paper
    • cardstock
    • wire
    • candle wax
    • cotton fabric
    • fire retardant spray
    • adhesive (glue or tape works)
    • utility knife
    • scissors

    Step 1: Preparing the Tissue Paper

    In order for your lantern to not catch fire (because that would be not safe and not fun), hang your tissue paper on a clothing line and lightly and evenly spray it with fire retardant spray. Pay extra care to the tissue paper attached by clothes pins because it is very delicate. Spraying too much fire retardant on it would weigh it down and may even tear your paper.

    Step 2: Making the Panels

    When sketching out your template on cardstock, measure out a height of 16.75" with two key widths: 5.5" and 1.5". Measure the smallest width at the bottom of your template. Then, measure the 16.75" width 10" from the bottom. The top half should not be a perfect, straight line and should, in fact, have a slight curve.

    Exact measurements for the curve aren't necessary; this is an opportunity to personalize the shape of your lantern.

    Once your template is complete, fold a sheet of tissue paper in half as the template only represent half of a single panel of tissue paper. Line the 16.75" edge of the template at the edge of the folded paper After cutting the outline of the template out of the paper and unfolding the tissue paper, you have successfully finished one panel of your lantern.

    Cut out three more panels as you just did with the first with your template.

    Step 3: Gluing (or Taping) the Panels Together

    Now that all your panels are cut out, You need to glue together every edge of every panel to form a bulbous lantern shape. Taping is also a valid method if you are in a rush (I chose to tape for this very reason).

    NOTE: Do not use hot glue. The glue could melt because of the lantern's fire source, ruining your lantern.

    The easiest way to do this without ripping the tissue paper and without getting glue where you don't want it goes as follows:

    Place two panels of tissue paper directly on top of each other much like a tasteless sandwich. Be sure to only glue one side of your "sandwich" together. Save the other ends for the rest of the panels.

    After gluing panel one and two together, fold two (your top panel) back onto itself in half as shown in the pictures above. Then, lay panel three flat down onto your first two panels. Glue the free edge of panel two with one edge of panel three. Fold panel three as you did panel two and lay down panel four.

    Once panel four is glued to panel three, take the free edge of panel one and glue it to the free edge of panel four. Now all of the body panels are secured together and your lantern is starting to take shape.

    Step 4: Making the Base

    You lantern will need a base to help the lantern keep its shape and also to house the fire source. For the base, use wire. Again, there is a choice between gluing and taping the wire along the bottom of the lantern.

    TIP: Wrap the wire around twice (or even thrice) to ensure a sturdy and structured base.

    Now that the hooped base is finished, it's time to make glue two pieces of wire to make an X shape in the center of the hoop. This will support the fire source.

    To make the fire source, you will need a 1"x8" strip of cotton fabric, wax, and boiling water.

    First, take your fabric and tie a knot at the very center, and then set it aside for later. Now you'll need to boil water -- enough water to cover the bottom of a small pan. Once the water is ready, pour it into a separate bowl, put chunks of candle wax in, and stir. Let the wax completely mix into the boiling water.

    Next, dip the knot into the water-wax mixture, lift it out, and let the wax harden. To manually add more wax, you can fill then empty the bowl with cold water. Wax chunks will build up on the sides that you can peel off and stick to the fabric, Finally, using more wire/glue, secure the fire source to the wire X.

    Step 5: The Final Step

    Carefully light the fire source. Make a wish (optional). And let your lantern fly up into the sky.

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