How to make a 3D lighthouse

Updated November 21, 2016

With their bright beams of light, lighthouses have safely guided ships along coastlines for generations. Their tall forms and bright outer patterns have helped them turn ships away from dangerous rocks, reefs and shallow waters where they might sink. You can better understand the features of a lighthouse that help it protect the ships in the water by building a three-dimensional model of one.

Draw or colour a pattern for the outside of the lighthouse on the large piece of construction paper using the crayons, paint and markers. Lighthouses are often coloured brightly or with stripes to make them easier for ships to see.

Hold the piece of decorated construction paper horizontally (landscape) and hold the plastic drinking cup upside down along the inside (non-patterned) top edge of the construction paper, about 2.5 to 5 cm (1 to 2 inches) below the top of the paper.

Wrap the construction paper into a cone shape with the top edge of the paper wrapped around the downward facing rim of the drinking cup. The base of the cone shape (opposite the drinking cup) should have a diameter larger than the top part (where the cup is attached).

Secure the cone's shape by applying a few strips of tape around the base of the cup inside and outside the cone. Also apply tape inside the cone at its bottom (large base), where the edges of the patterned paper come together.

Apply the model glue liberally along a 2.5-cm (1-inch) strip below the rim of the drinking cup on the inside of the paper cone.

Insert the flashlight through the bottom of the cone with its bulb end facing toward the plastic drinking cup before the model glue dries. The bulb end of the flashlight should fit snugly into the narrower top of the cone. The model glue should hold that top rim securely to the paper. Let the model stand for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the glue to dry.

Turn off all lights in the room and turn on the flashlight within the lighthouse by carefully reaching inside the bottom of the cone and flipping the switch to make the lighthouse shines brightly.


Common lighthouse patterns are available on the Internet (see Resources section) for you to trace in Step 1. The patterns in the Resources section link will need to be enlarged to double their size using a copier or by tracing. Cut along the base of the construction paper cone between Steps 5 and 6 if the cone is too tall to allow the flashlight to stand on its base when it is secured inside the top of the cone.


Do not use a candle or other flammable light as a substitute for the flashlight. This could burn down your paper lighthouse and create a fire hazard.

Things You'll Need

  • 1 piece of white A3 construction paper
  • Crayons
  • Water-based paint
  • Markers
  • 300 ml clear plastic drinking cup
  • Tape
  • Model glue
  • Portable torch, 15 to 20 cm (6 to 8 inches) long with a flat base
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About the Author

Wes Duplantier is a reporter for "The Wall Street Journal." He has also held positions at The Associated Press, "The Jefferson City News Tribune," "The Mexico (Mo.) Ledger" and "The Sedalia Democrat." Duplantier is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Missouri.