Festive paper lanterns using the simplest of supplies, colored paper, are so simple to make, and with gorgeous results, especially if you choose the right paper and colors that really pop! I made around forty or so Chinese-style paper lanterns for a community event, and I really didn't know exactly where they would hang or how I'd use them on-site, so I figured one can never go wrong with lots of brilliant color, and I just kept making lanterns, in different sizes and colors until I had run out of all the giant sheets of paper I had purchased. Check out the lanterns in progress on my living room floor here.
My creative process is really almost always just something that happens, and that is part of the fun! I hadn't even thought of using metallic gold contact paper, I just happened to spy a roll in one of the kitchen cabinets I was poking into, and in the end the gold really gave the lanterns a fabulous elegant touch.
The lanterns were hung a string that spanned four columns in a room that is usually used as a lunch room in my boy's school, and it just worked out that the tables were set up under the string, so that i was able to place lanterns over each table. The effect was really fantastic, and clusters of three large lanterns over each very oblong table worked scalewise, and color wise. I was very fortunate that the person who bought the tableclothes choose a really bright, almost neon red, which really worked with the bright colors I had chosen.
- heavy brightly colored paper, I used really giant sheets (the largest sheet size used in offset printing) that were printed in a color on one side, and white on the other
- metallic gold contact paper
- double sided tape
- a ruler and craft knife, and a rotary cutter works great for some of the cutting
- a large needle and string for hanging lanterns without handles
- basic tutorial for chines paper lanterns
How To: Things To Consider
- Depending on your needs, you may want to calculate exactly how many lanterns you'll need, and how to group lanterns of different sizes. If you can plan ahead, I would suggest making a few lanterns in different sizes and see how they look. I'd go with larger rather than smaller for the hanging lanterns for the best effect and the most time efficient effort as large lanterns take almost the same time to make as small lanterns.
- Lanterns can be hung or used as centerpieces, though if you want them to stand on a table you'll either need to make them somewhat small, or use really heavy paper. The big lanterns that I made would be a tad too wobbly to be used as a centerpieces, though that could be elieviated by cutting wider strips, or stabilizing the whole thing with a cylinder of heavy paper (whose diameter is the same as the top and bottom of the lantern) affixed to the inside of the lantern.
- Affixing strips of gold contact paper and colored paper after the lanterns were assembled took time that could have been cut short by applying the strips before cutting the lanterns, if possible.
How To: Cutting and Assembling Paper Lanterns
- I made four lanterns from my large sheets by folding the sheets in half length-wise, and then in half width-wise.
- I then used a ruler and a rotary cutter to trim off all the edges so I'd have four flat sheets of the same size. (Cutting through four layers of this paper with just my standard x-acto knife would have been much more difficult.)
- I took two sheets, and with the colored side face up, folded them in half width-wise, and scoured the fold with a pencil. (At this point one should apply the strips of metallic gold contact paper and/or colored strips of paper, as they will also act as a cutting guide.
- Cut slits evenly spaced along the length of the folded paper according to the tutorial here.
- Unfold, and affix the the two sides together with double stick tape. I ran a thin strip down the entire height of the lantern, just don't peel off the paper all at once, peel of a small section, make sure the sides are lined up, and then slowly peel off the paper while simultaneously affixing the rest. Hope that makes sense.
- Make a handle by affixing another length of paper to the inside of the lantern with double stick tape.
- For lanterns without handles, use a yarn needle and string to make a string for hanging.
- Large lanterns may need re-inforcing with another strip of paper on the inside of the top rim, some of my became a bit oblong.
I hope you enjoyed this fun project, and that you'll send me photos of your results! If you want to make lanterns that look more like the paper chinese lanterns sitting on my living room floor, one can certainly staple or use double stick tape to pinch each strip at the fold, thus making the lanter shorter and more open. Happy crafting!