How to Make Chinese Lanterns Out of Plastic Juice Bottles

By Tiffany Ross
Reusing plastic bottles in a creative way conserves energy.

The Chinese Lantern Festival, held the 15th day of the first lunar month in China, celebrates the beauty of traditional Chinese lanterns. The traditional lanterns that appear in the festival are constructed of paper and bamboo. The paper softens the light coming from the flame or bulb inside, but the same softening can be achieved by reusing a plastic bottle; this has the added benefit of helping the environment.

Choose a lantern design. You have the option of using an individual bottle to make one lamp or using many bottles to construct a large lamp. For an individual bottle, choose a design that suits the natural shape of the bottle. For example, instead of using a spherical lantern design, use the traditional lantern design that has a cylindrical shape with openings in the sides.

Draw an outline of your design directly onto the bottle using a permanent marker; a washable marker will smear. Make a practice drawing on a damaged bottle or piece of paper before you begin on your chosen bottle. These marks will be the guide for your scissors, or other cutting tool.

Cut out the design with the heavy-duty scissors or a sharp knife. Use a pair of pliers to bend the design into place. Plastic bends easily, so work gently and slowly to prevent damaging the material.

Cut the bottom off the bottle.

Rub sandpaper over the cut edges. This will smooth any rough spots, but use light pressure because an overzealous sanding job will make edges uneven or even break the plastic.

Decorate the bottle. Add separate plastic bottle pieces or draw a Chinese design on surface. If you are using the plastic bottle as the support frame for a paper lantern, then lay your paper over the bottle. Use paper-mache materials to shape the paper, or tape it to the plastic. Your method of attaching the paper will depend on the shape of the plastic underneath.

Remove the cap from the bottle and lace the electrical cord from the bottom up through the top opening. If the cord is too large, use your scissors, or knife, to cut a larger opening in the top, and then lace the cord through and screw in a light bulb.

Hang the lamp from a hook, or nail, in the ceiling so that the bulb does not rest against the plastic. This prevents the plastic from melting and becoming a fire hazard.


Use heat-resistant decorations and paints on the plastic.

Use small plastic bottles, or bottle pieces, to decorate a string of lights.

Take your bottle to the hardware store to size the cord, if you want to keep the top intact.


Do not use flames inside the plastic. This will melt the plastic and ruin the lamp, as well as create a hazard.

About the Author

Tiffany Ross is a writer and actress who has been working in Chicago since 2004. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in acting and is completing her Master of Science in Oriental medicine. Ross is a world traveler with experience working overseas.