Watercolour & Ink Wash Lanterns

Teaching Art

If you are a teacher in China, in the month of January or February, you WILL make a lantern. The lantern is the Christmas tree of Chinese New Year. Ugh! Don’t get me wrong, I love a lantern but I am over the construction paper, slouchy, slotted mess with a handle that always breaks. OVER IT! So, this year I made it my mission to make a lantern with students that broke away from the mundane. But before we move on, please repeat after me… “I will not, put a real candle, with a real flame, into my lantern.” Good, moving on.


Students started by painting an ink wash made from recycled and soaked marker cartridges.


While the paper was still wet students either sprinkled rock salt or drops of rubbing alcohol to create a interesting background to which they would paint on top of. The following week, we used black ink and a straw to blow branch like trails of ink across the coloured backgrounds.


Finally students folded the paper into fourths, cut six triangle notches at the top of each fold and clipped the ends of the paper so they would fit together. After folding up the flaps, students glued the seam and then glued a piece on black card stock onto the bottom and top. If you want the top or lid to open and close, only glue one flap to make that possible.


To actually turn it into a lantern, put an electric candle inside. The ones that flicker are the best, however the intensity of the glow will be different depending on the thickness of the paper. A wire handle can also be added as well for display purposes. The kids loved the way the lanterns looked and I think we were all pleased to have changed the status quo of the lackluster lanterns from earlier years.

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