Instructions for Making a Paper Lantern

Asian festivals such as Chinese New Year and businesses looking to attract customers often use colourful paper lanterns. But paper lanterns also help provide a festive ambience for any occasion. Their ethereal quality is doubled because they hang in the air, causing them to appear as if they are floating. Paper lanterns are fairly simple decorations to make and do not require expensive materials for their construction.

Firmly fold a piece of coloured paper lengthwise, creating a hard, straight crease.

Cut a straight line into the folded edge of the paper, stopping about 1 inch away from the opposite edge. Do this the entire length of the crease of the paper, leaving 1/2-inch gaps between the cuts.

Carefully unfold the paper to reveal the cuts you have made. The cuts will allow light to filter through the lantern.

Glue the opposite ends of the short side of the paper together to create the form of the paper lantern. Sparkly or coloured glue offers extra flair to the lantern.

Cut another piece of paper about 1 inch wide and long enough to curve from one side of the lantern to the other to create a handle. Glue the handle in the middle of each side of the lantern. Create a floating effect by attaching clear fishing wire instead of paper.

Cut a piece of cardboard in a circle the same size as the bottom of the paper lantern. Glue the cardboard to the bottom of the lantern by folding the bottom of the lantern inward 1/2 inch. Glue the folded part to the outside of the cardboard circle.

Affix a small candle or a battery-operated tap light to the cardboard inside the paper lantern. Put a small amount of glue on the bottom of whichever method of lighting you choose. Reach into the lantern from the top and firmly hold the lighting method against the cardboard until it sticks.


Decorate the paper before you fold and cut it into the lantern to create a more dramatic effect. Experiment with a variety of papers, such as thin crepe paper, wrapping paper, card stock and construction paper. Each creates a different decorative effect. Use an exacto knife to cut the cardboard if you don't have heavy-duty scissors. Make paper lanterns in difference sizes.


Be cautious if using candles because paper lanterns are flammable.

Things You'll Need

  • Coloured paper
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Glue
  • Cardboard
  • Small candle or battery-operated tap light
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About the Author

A student at Purdue University, Katherine Morrison has been writing articles on various subjects since 2003. Her articles have appeared in "Journal and Courier" and the Purdue University Archives. Morrison was awarded first place in the poetry division of the Purdue Literary Awards in 2005. She has studied art history and English at Purdue University.