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Crafty Ideas for Dazzling Handmade Paper Lanterns

Linda is a seasoned writer and bedrooms authority. She loves sharing design trends, decor ideas, and useful tips with her readers.


Add a soft glow to gatherings of family and friends with handmade paper lanterns. These handcrafted creations provide an interesting layer of lighting and decoration to indoor and outdoor festivities alike. Imagine an evening cookout illuminated by a whimsical string of paper lanterns. Inside the home, hanging lanterns add warm, flattering light to a casual dinner or impromptu cocktail party.

Make decorative and functional paper lanterns that suit your personal style. Go with a minimal look or create an elaborate design to coordinate with your home’s decor or special party theme. Pick up the necessary supplies from the local craft store and have fun making any of these handmade lanterns for all to enjoy.

History of Paper Lanterns

The original paper lanterns came from China and Japan around 230 BC. They were made from silk or paper and designed with bamboo and other types of wood frames. Centuries ago, the lanterns were lit with wax candles to create a beautiful glimmer light source.

Asian paper lanterns were cultural images of legends, nature and spirits. They also highlight the Chinese New Year. There are many different shapes of the Chinese zodiac animals, flowers and popular icons. Paper lanterns often manifest joy, good luck, long life and prevent evil. The festival lasts about 23 days that begins the lunar month at the end of January and into February that changes dates each year.

Luminarias from the Latin culture first appeared within the 16th century. The lanterns were used to lead the way to the Catholic midnight mass on Christmas Eve of Las Posadas, which Spanish translates to the shelters of the inn. The celebration originated in Spain and started on December 16 and ended nine days later on December 24. The holiday tradition is common in the southwest region of the US and also in Mexico.

Simple Chinese Lanterns

These easy-to-make lanterns introduce the children to an ancient cultural tradition known as the Lunar New Year. Hanging lanterns central to the celebration decorate villages and cities in China and southeast Asia. Get the family involved in making these colorful paper lanterns to hang throughout the house from late January through mid February.

Fold a sheet of construction paper in half and cut strips along the length of the paper taking care not to cut through to the end. Unfold it and create a cylindrical shape by taping the ends together. Staple a construction paper handle to the lantern.

Make a tabletop version by eliminating the handle and placing an LED tea light inside each lantern. Group the lanterns on any surface to create a romantic centerpiece. To add a touch of glam, decorate the lanterns with glue and a dusting of super-fine glitter.

These holiday Chinese lanterns are easy to make with colorful construction paper.

These holiday Chinese lanterns are easy to make with colorful construction paper.

Painted Lanterns

Use a round, white paper lantern purchased from an import store as the basis for this painted handmade lantern project. To stabilize the lantern, place it in a large bowl or pot. Use a child’s watercolor set and a soft artist’s brush to paint a custom design right on the paper lantern.

Rotate the bowl to avoid touching the lantern during painting. Let it dry, flip the lantern over and paint the other half. Purchase a paper lantern cord kit, insert a low wattage light bulb and sit back and admire your hanging lantern artwork.

These pre-made paper lanterns from import stores are beautiful designs painted with acrylic craft paint.

These pre-made paper lanterns from import stores are beautiful designs painted with acrylic craft paint.

Exotic Floral Paper Lights

Throw a bohemian-themed party replete with exotic floral lanterns made from inexpensive round paper lanterns. Determine your color scheme and purchase coordinating shades of tissue paper. Cut the tissue paper into large half-round petals and overlap them onto the round paper lantern. Use craft glue, double-sided tape or a cold glue gun and run it along the straight petal edges.

Proceed to cover the entire lantern surface with the delicate tissue petals to create an exotic lighting effect. Affix LED tealights inside with floral wire. Hang the oversize lotus flower lanterns in a staggered grouping over a table for an eye-catching display.

Cut the large tissue petals and glue or tape them onto a traditional round paper lantern.

Cut the large tissue petals and glue or tape them onto a traditional round paper lantern.

Luminary Paper Bags

These handmade lanterns offer a new twist to paper bag luminarias that typically line walkways during the Christmas holiday. Use small brown or white paper bags and place sand in the bottom for so they don't blow away. You can also hang the paper luminarias to create delicate lanterns among the trees. Gently fold the top edge of each bag down one inch to create an inverted cuff. Draw a design on the side of the bag using a decorative stencil and carefully cut out the shape with a craft knife.

Insert a small grommet on each side of the bag approximately 1/2 inch from the top. Create a handle with fine gauge wire. Loop each end through the grommets and secure by twisting the wire onto the handle. Put a tealight in each bag and place them along the sidewalk or hang them inside or outdoors.

© 2019 Linda Chechar

Start a Conversation!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on January 16, 2020:

Umesh Chandra, I'm glad you enjoyed the crafty paper lanterns!

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on January 15, 2020:

Good ideas for making paper lanterns. Thanks.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on December 13, 2019:

Rebecca, the paper lanterns are for really any holidays and celebrations!

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on December 13, 2019:

These are so cool! Good for all holidays or anytime fora festive atmosphere.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on December 13, 2019:

Liz, I made paper lanterns for a new year celebration last year. The glow is fun for a sparkling gathering!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on December 13, 2019:

Lora, I live in Arizona and we have many Christmas luminaries in Sedona that are absolutely beautiful!

Liz Westwood from UK on December 13, 2019:

These take me back many years. Great idea for the festive season.

Lora Hollings on December 13, 2019:

These are beautiful especially for the holidays! A wonderful way for a family to have fun together creating something festive and that will add some glow to the season! Thanks for sharing.

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