Recycled Bottle Lanterns

Introduction: Recycled Bottle Lanterns

About: Drew Charter School believes that making is an essential part of education.

The weather is changing, the nights are getting longer, and Halloween approaches. What does that mean? It's the perfect time of year to begin making lanterns to light up the dark evenings! In this Instructable, we'll be showing you how to stretch your creative muscles and use materials you most likely already have around the house to make lanterns from recycled bottles.

For our Drew students, the end of our 1st quarter is here, and for our quarterly make night, we are making lanterns! Follow along here or on our youtube video, and make lanterns together with us! These lanterns will be used for our drive through lantern event in November!


  • A clear or transparent plastic or glass bottle or jar. You can use any size container that you have and different sizes and thicknesses of containers will produce different light effects. Play around with what you have available and what effects you want to create! The only limitation is to make sure your bottle has an opening at least 1” (2.5cm) wide to allow you to place the light inside.
  • Opaque tape like masking tape, painters tape, or duck tape.
  • paper
  • clear tape
  • Scissors
  • LED light
  • Coin cell battery (I’m using a 2032)
  • A small piece of cardboard or thick paper


  • String
  • Craft knife
  • Battery powered lights if you don't have access to LEDs and coin cell batteries.

Step 1: Plan Your Design

Before getting started on any design project, you’ll want to plan out what you’ll be doing, and starting by sketching out what you plan to make is a great starting point. Your drawing doesn’t need to be super complex, even a rough drawing will help you plan and iterate on your ideas.

Step 2: Remove Labels From Your Bottle

If the label on your bottle will interfere with your design, you’ll want to remove it from the bottle before getting started. How you do this will vary depending on the type of bottle and label you have.

Step 3: Cut Your Design Out of Tape

Begin building your design by cutting and layering pieces of tape to create shapes. Here I'm building hills and a high rise building for my lantern with tape. Consider how your forms will block light or let it through. Adhere these pieces to your lantern.

Step 4: Cut Shapes Out of Paper and Attach With Tape

If you don't have masking tape or you want to experiment with different ways of blocking the light, you can also cut shapes that block the light for your lantern out of thick paper. Attach these to your lantern with clear tape.

Step 5: Make Small Details With a Craft Knife or Hole Punch

If you want to add smaller details to your lantern, you can use a craft knife or hole punch to create smaller details. Cut out your design with the craft knife into the tape. Using a cutting mat or scrap cardboard underneath your work will protect your work surface.

Be careful and ask an adult to help you with this step!

Step 6: Assemble Your Light Kit

Start assembling your light kit by cutting a 1" by 2" strip of thick scrap paper or chipboard. Take your LED, and place it around the battery with the long arm (positive) touching the shiny side of the battery (positive). This creates a simple circuit with the positive arms of the battery touching the positive side of the battery, and the corresponding negative sides in contact, too.

Fold your paper strip in half. Place it around the battery. Secure your light by wrapping it in tape.

If you don't have access to these materials, any battery powered light that fits in your bottle will also work.

If you are a Drew student, light kits are available for pickup at the school.

Step 7: Add the Light to Your Bottle

The last step of creating a lantern is to add your light kit into your lantern. You can do this several ways, the easiest is dropping the light into the bottle, and letting the light sit at the bottom of the lantern. You can also experiment with taping or gluing your light in the lid to place it in the top, or using string to suspend it in the middle. Experiment with what works for you!

Step 8: Show Off Your Work!

The best part of making a project is showing it off! Find a place to display your lantern, and wait until the sun sets. Admire your creation!

For Drew students, you can bring your lantern to the drive-through lantern parade this November. Details to come soon!

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