How to Make a Chinese Paper Lantern

Two Methods:Building a Two-Tone LanternMaking 1-Sheet Paper Lanterns

On the fifteenth day of the first month of the Chinese calendar (the last day of the Chinese New Year), the Lantern Festival is celebrated, and it's a time to decorate with lanterns of all kinds. Kids and adults of all ages can also celebrate this holiday by creating paper lanterns and placing them around the house.

Method 1
Building a Two-Tone Lantern

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    Grab two different colors of large construction paper, and a third color for the handle. All you really need to make a Chinese paper lantern is colorful paper and some tools. Red is a traditional color, but any color will do:
    • Construction paper (8.5" x 11" or bigger)
    • Scissors
    • Pencil
    • Ruler
    • Stapler, tape, or glue
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    Cut a 1" strip from both the long and short side of one piece of paper. This will be the accent color of your lantern, with the full-size piece used as your main color. Cut use a ruler and scissors to make the sheet an inch shorter on the length and the width.
    • Save these strips for later -- they can make good handles.
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    Fold the larger piece of paper in half, hot dog style. Fold the big, uncut construction paper in half horizontally, so that the two long edges meet. Use the hard edge of your ruler or your fingernail to make a nice even crease at the fold.
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    Working perpendicular to the crease, cut multiple slits along the entire folded paper. If the construction paper was a hotdog bun, you'd be cutting from the bottom up. For perfect Chinese paper lanterns, use the ruler to ensure every cut goes equally high. While there is no perfect height to get to, usually longer cuts (3-5") look best.
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    Curl the smaller paper into a cylinder, touching the two shorter edges together. You don't want too much overlap. This smaller sheet becomes the form and shape of your lantern, so you want it to be large and well rounded. Staple or tape it together once you have your shape.
    • If in doubt, overlap the papers about a finger's width.
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    Tape one edge of the larger, cut paper to the top of the cylinder, wrapping it all the way around. You're doing the same thing you did with the smaller sheet, but, this time, you use the pre-made cylinder as a guide. Take the long edge of the lantern sheet and tape it around the entire top edge of the smaller sheet.
    • Because it is longer, the bottom edge should overhang.
    • Work slowly, getting the edges of the two papers lined up perfectly for the best lantern.
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    Scrunch up the bottom of the lantern, so the cut slits point outwards, and tape the bottom edge. You should already see your lantern forming before you've even taped it. Again, go slowly for the best, most precise results.
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    Tape or staple a handle to the top of the lantern. Simply curl one of the strips from earlier in half and tape it to two places along the top of the lantern.
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    Optional -- hide the tape lines by gluing two strips of paper around the top and bottom edges of the lantern. You'll be able to see where the paper overlaps and glues or staples together. But you can create a nice accent and avoid the issue by using two strips of paper and some glue. Matching the interior color of the lantern with these trim pieces (like in the video) is extra slick looking.[1]

Method 2
Making 1-Sheet Paper Lanterns

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    Measure out an inch (2.54cm) across the width of the paper. Cut off the top and set it on the side for later. This will be the lantern's handle.
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    Fold the paper lengthwise (a hot dog fold). Make sure you take the time for a perfect, even fold. This will lead to a much better lantern,
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    Measure out an inch (2.54cm) from the top of the fold. This will be the "stop cut" line. The top of the fold means the two open edges of the paper, not the crease at the bottom.
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    Make one inch (2.54cm) interval lines across the paper and cut along the lines. You want to start from the fold at the bottom and work up to the top Stop at the top line.
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    Carefully fold the paper the other way. Making this fold will help you hide any pencil marks.
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    Use a small piece of clear tape to connect the two paper ends together. Repeat on the other side.
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    Staple or tape on the handle. You could also cut out another color and use that instead to give your lantern a little more flavor.
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    Hang up your paper lantern somewhere in the house. Make several lanterns to decorate the house fully.


  • You can also use cardstock for a thicker, sturdier lantern.
  • Adults may want to prepare the craft by measuring out lines and have kids cut the paper, with supervision.

Things You'll Need

  • Construction paper, one for each lantern
  • Scissors
  • Clear tape
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Stapler (optional)

Sources and Citations

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