Tin Can Luminaries

These tin can luminaries are beautiful lit up at night, with a tea light candle sitting inside.

They make your outdoor party more festive and patriotic! These look great along the walkway welcoming your guests, or put them out for your firework display. Take them along when you go camping. People will love the fact that you made them.

The best part is they are made from empty vegetable or soup cans, so you'll be able to collect a bunch of them quickly!

Read on to learn how easy it is to create this fun craft.

tin can luminaries

Things Needed:

  • Empty vegetable or soup cans, cleaned out and labels removed
  • Water
  • Sand
  • Nail
  • Hammer
  • Scrap paper
  • Ruler
  • Tape
  • Spray paint in red, white, and blue

1. Begin the tin can luminaries by filling the cans with some sand. This is a tip from one of our readers. Placing sand in the cans first stops any swelling of the can that may occur when the water is frozen. Then, fill the can up to the top with water. Place them in the freezer until the water is frozen solid. This will allow you to hammer a nail into the side of the can without the can denting.

adding water

2. Next, think about some designs you want to punch into the sides of the can. I chose to punch the letters USA, a star, and some fireworks. If you would like to use my template for the USA and star, click here. A new window will open (Adobe Reader is required) with a page for you to print. Cut out your templates, place on the can, and trace around them with a permanent marker (or draw freehand).

tracing template

3. Continue making the tin can luminaries by using a nail and hammer to punch out the design. Start at one end of the pattern and place the nail along the line. Gently pound the nail in with a hammer. The nail will go through the can into the ice. Continue working around the pattern until the design is punched out.

punching hole

4. Allow the ice in the can to melt, and dry the can completely.

5. Next, spray the bottom portion of the cans blue with the blue spray paint. Protect your work surface with newspapers and use good ventilation (preferably outdoors like I did).

applying blue spray paint

6. When the cans are completely dry, cut a piece of scrap paper to wrap around the can. Make it 1/3 the height of the can. The cans I used were 4.5 inches high, so I made my first strip of paper 1.5 inches. Wrap the paper around the bottom part of the can, covering the blue painted area, and tape it closed.

paper strip

7. Now take the cans outside again and this time give them a good spray of the white spray paint, and allow the cans to dry well. When they are dry you can remove the paper strip.

applying white spray paint

8. Next, make another paper strip 2/3 the height of the can. In my case, I made the strip of paper 3 inches wide. Secure around the blue and white portions of the can, leaving only the top portion exposed, and secure with tape. Take the cans outside again and this time spray the top section with the red spray paint, and allow to dry. Remove the paper strip and you will see the pretty red, white, and blue stripes.

applying red spray paint

9. If you want to further decorate the tin can luminaries, this is the time to do it. If you would like the designs you punched to show up better you can paint them a different color, such as black. When you are ready to illuminate, add a little sand to weigh down the cans and add a tea light candle. Your guests will love them!

soup can luminaries

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Helpful Hint

by Jennifer


"I laid down two bricks on a towel on a solid surface and then covered the bricks with a towel so as to not scratch up the can. Then I put my ice filled can between the two bricks to help hold it in place while I nailed the holes in the can."

Response from Crafts For All Seasons: Thank you so much for this advice, and for including the photos!

› Tin Can Luminaries

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