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DIY Paint Can Lights

Decorative paint containers plus candles equal a beautifully in-can-descent effect.

Decorative paint containers plus candles equal a beautifully in-can-descent effect.

Project Overview

Skill Level


Estimated Time

A few hours

Estimated Cost


Tools and Materials


  • Tracing paper
  • Pencil
  • Straightedge
  • Right angle
  • Hole punch
  • Fine-tip Sharpie
  • Shoebox
  • Safety goggles
  • Paintbrush
  • Electric drill
  • 3/8-in drill bit
  • Glass votive candles or tea lights


  • 1 quart metal paint can with lid (#27318)
  • 12 oz. Valspar Gray Spray primer (#282325)
  • Valspar paint samples: Gilded Pesto, (#6007-6B); Summer’s End, (#6005-4C); La Fonda Fiesta Blue, (#5003-10A); Filoli Garden Pool, (#5003-10C); Hacienda Tile, (#2010-4); Autumn Gala (#2004-1A)

Items may be Special Order in some stores. Product costs, availability, and item numbers may vary online or by market. Paint colors may vary slightly from those shown. Availability varies by market for lumber species and sizes.

Missing anything? Shop Online


Step 1

For a paper pattern like the one shown, first draw a 13-1/4 x 4-inch rectangle on a piece of legal- or tabloid-size paper; then draw three lines to divide it into four equal sections 3-5/16-inch wide. Draw an "X" between the corners of each section. Lay a ruler on both diagonals of each "X", and mark the lines every 3/8 inches from the center to the corners.

Step 2

Cut the 13-1/4-inch x 4-inch pattern to size. Using transparent tape, fasten the pattern snugly on the can. Now rest the can in a shoebox with one end removed to collect the metal fragments as you drill. This also lets you hold the lantern with one hand to steady it.

Good to Know

If you plan to craft several lanterns, make photocopies of your finished pattern. You can even scan it to save as a computer image file and print as many patterns as you need.

Step 3

Wearing safety goggles, drill the pattern into the can using a 3/8-inch drill bit. (Adjust drill bit size to suit your taste.) This can be tiring and is best done half a lantern at a time.

Step 4

To paint the lanterns, prime with the spray primer, then apply a base coat in the colors shown with a small flat 2-inch paintbrush. Re-coat if necessary and allow to dry overnight or at least 4-6 hours before using.

Step 5

Place a glass votive candle or tea light inside the can -- and let it shine!