How to Make a Chinese Lantern Using Recycled Materials

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Things You'll Need

  • Chinese takeout box

  • Cutting board or thick piece of cardboard

  • Pencil

  • Small hammer

  • 3/16 hole punch

  • Newspaper

  • Acrylic paint (2 colors)

  • Medium-sized paintbrush

  • Tiny paintbrush

  • Plastic bowl

  • LED tea lights

Chinese lanterns are a stylish accent for any home, but purchasing them in stores can be surprisingly expensive. Contemporary paper lanterns sell online at nearly $40. Instead of wasting your money on a mass-produced Chinese lantern, make your own stylish light source out of recycled Chinese takeout boxes, a hole punch and some LED tea lights. Hole punches and LED tea lights combined cost just over $5 and can be used to make several lanterns. Not only is creating these lanterns yourself inexpensive, but you can use them around your home, at parties or give them as gifts. Also, you can customize your recycled lanterns using paints from your home.


Making a Pattern

Step 1

Unfold the takeout box and lay it flat onto the cutting board or a thick piece of cardboard. The shiny side of the takeout box should be facing up.

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Step 2

Mark a pattern into the four large panels of the takeout box with the pencil. The pattern should be a series of dots created with the pencil tip.


Step 3

Punch holes over the marks you made with the pencil. Do this by positioning the hole punch over the mark and tapping the base of the hole punch with the hammer. You can also use a Phillips screwdriver instead of a hole punch.


Step 1

Lay the newspaper on a flat surface and place the takeout box (shiny side up) over it.


Step 2

Squeeze a small amount of acrylic paint into the plastic bowl and brush the paint all over the takeout container. Use swift, dry strokes for a textured look, or paint in long brush strokes for a flat look. Let dry.

Step 3

Using the other color of paint, brush details such as flowers or leaves onto the container using the tiny paintbrush. Let dry.



Step 1

Reassemble the Chinese takeout container. This will be easy, since the creases from the folds are apparent on the box.

Step 2

Place an LED tea light at the bottom of the lantern.

Step 3

Leave the top of the lantern open for optimal light.


Using real tea lights in paper lanterns is a fire hazard. If you are using real tea lights, make sure the lanterns are supervised at all times.



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