How to make a chinese sky lantern

Updated April 17, 2017

Chinese sky lanterns are a festive way to fill the night sky with beautiful glowing lights. They also work to show students or children the principles behind hot-air balloons on a small scale. Making your own Chinese sky lantern could commemorate a birthday, anniversary or even a wedding. Decorate them with traditional Chinese calligraphy, pictures of animals or even wishes that you want to come true. Creating a Chinese sky lantern requires only a few materials and a little patience. Soon you will have your very own glowing, flying lantern hanging from the sky.

Cut out two 2-foot-wide and 3-foot tall rectangles from tissue paper. Spray these with flame retardant on each side and allow them to dry. Cut the upper right and left corners of each tissue paper sheet. Brush on a thin coat of Elmer's glue on the top, left and right side edges of each piece of tissue paper. Do not glue the bottom edge. Press these pieces together and allow them to dry.

Hot-glue two fishing hooks together so that the hooks are upside down and pointing out. Wrap a candle wick string around the fishing hooks to form a ball.

Soak two 3/32-by-18-inch balsa wood dowels in a bucket of water for 24 hours. This will make them extremely pliable. Bend these two dowels into a circle and tie them together. Lay two dowels across this hoop so that the dowels intersect the hoop vertically and horizontally. You can also purchase pre-made circular dowel wood from a craft store.

Cut four lengths of string into 6-inch segments and spray with flame retardant. Tie all four of these strings to the hoop. Tape the tips of the string inside the tissue paper bag.

Soak the ball of wick in alcohol. Have a friend hold the bag up and slightly open as you place the wick ball on the hoop frame. Carefully light the wick ball with a long match. Allow the bag to begin to inflate with hot air before letting go.


Use a fan to test your bag to make sure there are no leaks. You can decorate your Chinese sky lantern with traditional Chinese lettering.


Soak the wick in alcohol away from the balloon. Shake off the wick ball and dip your hand in water before lighting the match. You don't want to catch your hand on fire.

Things You'll Need

  • 2 yards of tissue paper
  • Scissors
  • Elmer's glue
  • Universal Paper Shield Flame Retardant Spray
  • String
  • 4 dowels of 3/32-by-18-inch balsa wood
  • Candle wick
  • 2 fishing hooks
  • Hot glue gun
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Long match
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About the Author

Andrew DeWitt is a freelance writer/illustrator and stand-up comic with more than eight years of professional experience. He has written for Chicago Public Radio, Vocalo Radio, Second City Chicago, and The Lemming. DeWitt has a liberal arts degree with a double major in theater and creative writing.