06 March 2012

Watercolor Lanterns

The girls and I made some lanterns using watercolor paper and paints, vegetable oil, and white craft glue. I think they are lovely! I did see this idea somewhere else on the interwebs, but I am unable to find it now to give any credit. This idea seems to be kicking around, though, so I don't think I am sweeping the glory out from under anyone's feet too terribly.

We started off with plain watercolour paper which the girls painted, using the wet on wet watercolour technique. This simply means that you soak your paper before painting it with dissolved watercolours. (Not "dry" paint, as it is considered straight out of the tube.)  Here, Katalin demonstrates both her one-brush, and three-brush methods. ;) I cut one large watercolour sheet into two, one side a bit smaller than the other, to get two lanterns out of it in different heights.

This pair was a Birthday gift for their Grandma, and I only gave them yellow and red paints to work with so that she wouldn't get mud lanterns. They didn't seem to mind, and enjoyed swirling the two colours into orange in places, and trying to cover their entire papers.

When they had finished painting, we sprinkled the wet papers with a little coarse sea salt. You can use any salt, though, and it will absorb the paint directly under it, and gather the paint in the area into little pools around the grains. Different sized salt grains make different sized patterns. The salt has a nice effect, you can see the visual texture it left in some of the below photos, and the kids always have fun sprinkling it on. Many of our watercolour paintings get this treatment!

When the paintings were dry, the girls rubbed vegetable oil into them with paper towels, until they were thoroughly saturated and transparent. They were a little over-enthusiastic, so I dabbed the excess oil off when they had finished, and we left them overnight to dry on a few paper towels. The next day, I cut little strips along one side, this side become the base. Ours are approximately an inch apart.

Then I put a line of white craft glue down one of the side edges and rolled the paintings into cylinders, overlapping the glued edge with the opposite side. This seam needs to hold together well while it dries, so to hold it in place, I slipped a jar in each lantern. I clipped the edge the jars didn't reach shut with paper clips. To be on the safe side, I left these to dry overnight as well.

Once the side seams were done, I folded the fringe on the bottoms in with a dot of white craft glue where the strips overlap. I set them upright and dropped the jars back inside to hold the strips firmly in place while they dried. This is what the bottom of your lantern will look like when yo are finished. Unless your child's name isn't Katalin.

They look so soft and beautiful, with or without a candle lighting them up. The girls made a couple more for us using lots of colours, and I have been using votive candles (that are contained in glass,) inside them to keep flame away from the paper. In the ones we gifted we included some wax LED candles, so that they can be safely placed anywhere and left flickering away without fear.  

Kaia has been constantly asking me to light the candles in them, I am going to pick up another LED candle so that she can do it herself. I think it would be sweet for her to have one next to her bed at night, glowing warmly while she drifts to sleep. Next, I believe I will be wiring some handles onto ours for them to carry around, as this is what they do anyway!


  1. I've gotten a lot of inspiration from this post- I hope to make these with the girls this week and I also learned that you soak the paper for wet on wet water paper painting. I've seen so many examples of it but I didn't know that's what you did-thanks! :)

  2. Thank you both!

    Lydia, I am glad that I was able to shed some light on the process for you. I hope you have fun making them!

    They are so simple yet beautiful, and such a fun and different way to display your child's artwork.

  3. How beautiful!! Thank you for sharing at Sharing Saturday!! I hope you have a wonderful week!

  4. I don't have your e-mail, but I wanted to let you know that I tagged you on my blog. Just a way of sharing.

  5. I love these!! I'm going to try black ink or markers with a verse where its visible when the lantern is lit, bet its pretty!!


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