More Living Ideas

Our editors share their inspirations every day

hdr_img_spring.jpg Get The Technique

Make It : Styrofoam Cup Lanterns!

Posted by


One evening at my sister and brother-in-law's house, I spotted a glowing skull lantern sitting on a windowsill. From afar, it looked like it was made out of porcelain but it turned out to be something that my teenage nephew, Jacob, made out of a Styrofoam cup!

IMG_0168I wasn't surprised. Jacob is a lifelong artist/crafter/tinkerer. He is always making things out of found scraps of wire, duct tape, erasers, wood scraps, and whatever he can get his hands on. Long before the duct tape craze he asked for a few rolls of it for Christmas. When he wanted a cell phone, but his parents weren't ready for him to have one, he made one out of duct tape...slide-out keypad, flip top and all. Kids who had their own (real) cell phones asked him to make them his duct tape version!


Jacob came up with this cup lantern while testing ideas for an Olympics of the Visual Arts "reinterpret a lighthouse" project. He rejected the lanterns for that project but kept making them anyway.


To cut the styrofoam cups, Jacob found that using a craft knife with a sharp blade and cutting lightly at first were both key to avoiding jagged edges. He adhered the cut pieces to the base cup with super glue. After much experimentation, he discovered that using a pin head to apply a small amount of glue to the center of the piece being glued on prevented spreading and dripping.  The large styrofoam cups he used are from here.

IMG_0137To make the parts that stick out, like arms and tendrils, he cut some pieces from styrofoam plates (which are sturdier than the cups). I love that the cups are translucent and the thickly layered parts are more opaque and darker.


Jacob, thanks for letting me share your clever project. I can't wait to see what you come up with next!

Comments (11)

  • They are fabulous!I have seen them close up, and they are awesome even without a light inside. Just one question. It's a battery operated candle inside,right? and does the heat do anything to the sculpture?

  • He's so creative and you can tell he can look at these materials with a different point of view and can create something unexpected. I love these!

  • These are really cute! With a little help kids would have so much fun making these!

  • Although this craft turned out beautifully I wonder if there are different materials that could be used like paper cups. Unfortunately Styrofoam is one of the worst materials for the environment as it never fully breaks down even after millions of years. If we buy a Styrofoam cup we are manufacturing something that will never leave this planet so perhaps try paper which will break down naturally in around a month.

  • This is a cool idea. I am going to try it with my granddaughter.

  • Very clever, Jodi! It is always sooo rewarding to see a young person's creative instincts. Lots of interesting possibilities here!

  • What is the light source? It seems like candles would be to hot and LED lights wouldn't be bright.

  • Great idea, thanks for sharing. One question, what did you use to make the 'lantern' glow. I am pretty sure you aren't using a candle, even a small 4 hour one that burns itself out I think would get to hot for a styrofoam cut.
    That's all.

  • These are so cool! What a creative nephew you have.I really like all of the details of layering and that crazy hairdo.
    I am going to try this with a community arts center group project. Also, do not forget to mention that only a battery powered candle can be used as a real one and styrofoam do not make a good combo.
    Thanks for a great idea.

  • Crafter Comment:

    Hi Jill,
    He used battery operated tea lights which glowed nicely.

  • Crafter Comment:

    Hi Holly,
    He used battery operated tea lights which glowed nicely and didn't get hot.

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear on this weblog until the author has approved them.