Tin Can Lanterns

Lori Greco
by Lori Greco
3 Materials
1 Hour
Recycle your tin cans and decorate them to be used as outdoor lanterns. I love how easy they were to make and how fun they look when the candles are burning on a nice summer night.
You'll need the following materials:
  • recycled tin cans (pasta sauce, canned vegetables, etc.)
  • hammer
  • nails
  • spray paint, I suggest the Rustoleum product line
  • sand
  • candles (regular or citronella)
  • wire if you want to hang them
Remove the labels from your tin cans and clean throughly. You can use goo-gone to remove any left-over glue. Or, once the can is frozen (see step 2), I  just chipped away at any frozen glue and it came off fine. Fill cans with water and freeze. This will help your can to keep it’s shape.
Once the water is frozen, take the can out of the freezer and place it on a solid surface. To help prevent it from rolling around, I took a dish towel and shaped it in a circle and placed the can in the middle of the towel. Not fool-proof, but it helps.
Use your hammer and tap a nail into the can to create your design (FYI – it’s pretty easy to hammer through the tin). Your design can be random holes or you can create an image with the holes.  To create an actual image, I suggest using a sharpie and draw dots on the can in the shape of your design (such as a flower, hear or leaf). Or you could print out a picture and tape it onto the can and hammer in nails in the shape of that image.
Or you can just wing it – which is what I did. I decided to do some with a leaf pattern but I also did a few with just a random pattern of dots. You can even use different size nails to create some variation in your designs too.
Once your design is done, spray paint the can your desired color. I love the natural tin finish but it will rust. So I did a few in color and then used silver spray paint to preserve the tin look. I would recommend turning the cans upside down to spray them to prevent spraying the insides (I figured that out pretty quickly!)
Apply a few coats of paint if needed. Once dry, add sand and a candle. You can also add 2 more nail holes along the top of the can, on opposite sides, string a wire through them and hang them on a tree branch or from an umbrella.
6. Light your candles and enjoy!
You can even use citronella candles and these double as bug repellents. These lanterns look great in bunches too.
Suggested materials:
  • Recycled food tin cans   (recycled)
  • Spray paint   (Home Depot)
  • Hammer & nails   (Home Depot)
Lori Greco
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
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  • Sue in wy Sue in wy on Oct 25, 2020

    Thanks for the Rustoleum tip! (I did this the hard way, didn't think to fill with ice - duh!) and painted with some acrylic paints that I loved. Too bad, they all rusted and looked terrible! Next time I'm doing it your way. Easy-peasy and super cute!

  • Marilyn Marilyn on Oct 10, 2022

    These are amazing!! I love making treasures from trash. Awesome art!