DIY Luminaria / Candle Shades 🕯️

As the evenings lengthen through late spring into early summer, I’ve been reflecting on the magical, calming qualities of twilight and/or dusk. Technically, there are three stages of twilight that slowly yet surely submerge us into dusk, that final blanketing of the sun as it seeps below the horizon each and every evening before nightfall. It’s not just that this gradual slipping away of the sun has marked health benefits, signaling to our bodies that it’s time to rest, unwind and restore (which is one reason why the modern blue light of various screen technologies can be so harmful at night); there’s also just the delightful softening of light that is commonly referred to as “the golden hour,” when the sun’s piercing heat diffuses into a smearing of orange, yellow, pink, even lilac pastels, calling forth a warm, fuzzy glow that, for me at least, begins to blur and collapse boundaries between what is ordinary and extraordinary — begins to name what is ordinary and what is extraordinary as overlapping experiences, if not one and the same.

Sometimes it seems like I’m always chasing after this daily moment, which I will acknowledge is more than a bit silly since by definition and by experience this light shifting is just that: a shift, fleeting and transitional. Still, it would be nice in some small way to maybe catch or hold onto or re-create this mystical, blending light-level, to suspend myself in the extraordinary ordinary for a couple of moments longer. This brings me, slowly yet surely like the setting sun itself, to the subject of this blog, a simple yet transformative craft that takes some of the most ordinary objects around, such as waxed paper, adhesive tape and an iron, to create absolutely stunning luminaria or candle shades, which diffuse the soft flicker of flame into a table-top golden hour you can extend as long as your wick will burn.

A tall, thin candle glows inside a luminaria or candle shade made of waxed paper and a pressed Blue-Eyed Mary bloom, an early spring wildflower.


To make this craft, you will need:

  • waxed paper
  • scissors or a craft knife
  • tape
  • ruler
  • pencil
  • iron and ironing board (or ironing blanket/mat)
  • pressed flowers or other thin, flat objects (such as paper confetti) to seal between the waxed shades

Photo of materials for this luminaria/candle shade craft, including a Hamilton Beach iron, a huge copy of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (which contains pressed wildflowers within its pages), a roll of unbleached waxed paper, a 12-in ruler, a roll of adhesive tape in a gold and white dispenser, and a pair of orange craft scissors.


If you want to seal flowers into your luminaria, first you will need to press them for a couple of days to a couple of weeks ahead. It’s best to press your flowers between two paper towels or napkins tucked into the pages of a thick, heavy book with some more heavy books or objects piled on top. If you’re a major nerd like me (🤓), you might even press your flowers between the pages that index their definitions in a huge dictionary.

Three photos showing two kinds of early spring wildflowers (blue-eyed Mary and purple dead-nettles) pressed on pieces of paper towel within the pages of The American Heritage Dictionary. The wildflowers are pressed between the pages of the dictionary where each of their definitions–the words “blue-eyed Mary” and “nettle”–appear.
The top and middle photos show the early spring wildflower blue-eyed Mary pressed between the pages of The American Heritage Dictionary. The bottom photo shows three purple dead-nettles pressed across from the dictionary definition for “nettle.”
Two photos showing a close-up of three purple dead-nettles and two wild blue phlox blooms pressed between the pages of a dictionary. The purple dead-nettle blooms are placed next to the definition for the word "nettle," while the two phlox blooms are placed near the definition for the word "phlox." In the bottom right of the photo featuring the phlox blooms, there is a botanical illustration of the phlox flower printed in the dictionary.
The top photo shows a close-up of three purple dead-nettles pressed next to the dictionary entry for the word “nettle.” The bottom photo shows two phlox blooms pressed near the entry for the word “phlox.”

Once your flowers are pressed (or your other thin, flat objects are ready to seal inside), it’s time to measure out your waxed paper to create your shades. The shades can be as tall or wide as you like. I measured out four 9-in x 4.5-in rectangles, to create four 4.5-in square panels to uniformly shape my luminaria.

The goal with your rectangles of waxed paper, no matter the dimensions, is to be able to fold the rectangles in half to create square panels that will shape the four sides of the luminaria. To be clear, you don’t *have* to fold these rectangles down to create your panels (your panels don’t even need to be rectangular or square); this choice just makes it easier to slide your pressed flowers between the waxed paper before you fuse the two halves together with the iron.

Two photos illustrating how to measure and cut out the waxed paper panels for this craft: the first photo shows a piece of marked waxed paper with a pencil and ruler laid on top. The second photo shows two 9-in x 4.5.-in pieces of waxed paper cut out and creased in the middle. Two pressed wildflowers (one purple dead-nettle and one blue-eyed Mary) are laid on top of the cut-out and creased waxed paper rectangles. A ruler is also laid over the top halves of the creased pieces of waxed paper while a pair of orange craft scissors are placed towards the bottom of the pieces of waxed paper, near the pressed wildflowers.

Once you have your panels of waxed paper cut out, you can fold them in half and slide your pressed flowers or other thin, flat objects between the two halves. You want to make sure that the shiny “waxed side” of the waxed paper is on the inside of each panel and that your pressed flowers (or other thin, flat objects) are tucked between these two shiny waxed sides. When you run the hot iron over the waxed paper, these shiny waxed sides will fuse together, to create the panels of your luminaria.

Once your panels are cut out and folded down, and once your flowers or objects are tucked safely inside, you’re ready to begin fusing the panels together with the hot iron. I went over each panel a couple of times (2-3 gentle passes) with the iron set to the lowest “synthetic” fabric setting; it doesn’t take much heat or pressure to melt the wax and fuse your panels together. By the way, if you don’t have an ironing board (or room for an ironing board), you can always use a handy-dandy ironing blanket or mat on top of your washer/dryer. (And if you don’t have an iron, I wonder if a hair straightener would work…)

Photo of a striped ironing blanket with four pieces of folded waxed paper laid on top. The ironing blanket is laid on top of a dryer next to an iron.

Four pieces of folded waxed paper fused together with pressed wildflowers inside.

If you get to this point in the process and start thinking, “Aw, shucks, maybe I should have opted for a lighter color of waxed paper,” simply take your fused panels and hold them up to the light for a dose of (reassuring) magic! ✨

Photo of a white hand holding two fused pieces of waxed paper up to the light coming in through a curtained window. The light filters through the waxed paper to reveal the silhouette of two pressed phlox blooms (one per piece of fused waxed paper).

Once your panels are fused together, it’s time to assemble your luminaria. You want to tape each panel together to create a pseudo three-dimensional cube, though the top and bottom of this 3D cube will be missing — that’s how you’ll be able to slide your luminaria over your candle/light source.

Photo of four squares of fused waxed paper laid out on a table.

Photo of four squares of fused waxed paper laid out on a table. The bottom two pieces of waxed paper are taped together while the top two pieces are laid next to each other, about to be taped together.

Photo of three squares of fused waxed paper laid out on a table and taped together.

As you’re taping your panels together, you want to make sure to tuck your tape over the outer ends of your panels towards the eventual center of the luminaria. This taping trick will hopefully keep your panels stable as you get ready to shape them into your 3D cube.

Photo of four squares of fused waxed paper laid out on a table and taped together.

Once all four fused panels are taped together, turn this long rectangle over (if you’re okay with your tape showing on the outside of your luminaria) and then fold the two outermost panels toward the center, kind of like you are making a little book out of the four panels.

Photo of four squares of fused waxed paper laid out on a table and taped together in a long, skinny rectangle.

Photo of four squares of fused waxed paper laid out on a table and taped together in a long, skinny rectangle. The two outermost square panels of waxed paper are folded in towards the center of the rectangle.

After folding the two outermost panels towards one another, tape them together for your final seam of the luminaria.

Photo of two squares of fused waxed paper taped together.

You’re ready to shape your luminaria! If the taped-together panels don’t want to stay upright on their own at first, you might need to fold along the taped seams, to provide stability and structure.

Photo of four pieces of fused waxed paper taped together and stood up to create a 3D candle shade/luminaria.

Here’s when the light magic begins, continues, disperses. Place a candle or other light source in the center of your luminaria, and turn down all the other lights. Watch as the light seeps through the waxed paper panels, hitting that lush golden-hour hue and casting a gorgeous silhouette over your pressed flowers (or other sealed-in paper objects). 🌆

GIF of a lit candle flickering inside a waxed paper luminaria/candle shade. The candle is ensconced between two panels of waxed paper that glow orange-pink and cast a purpleish silhouette over two pressed wildflowers sealed within the waxed paper panels.

Bonus Craft (Especially for the Fire-Averse 🧯)

Have you read all the way to the end of this blog and thought something like, “Paper shades over a candle’s flame??? Absolutely not!!!” (Hi, Mom—it’s me; I’m the problem, it’s me. 🔥) I’ve got some good news: if you’re not comfortable with the idea of placing flammable paper close to an open flame — which, absolutely no judgment! — then you might want to use your fused waxed paper panels for another delightful outcome. I used up some scrap waxed paper from my original luminaria measurements to create two skinny 4.5-in x 3-in panels, which could be used as bookmarks or earrings or, when taped to the window, as “stained glass” panels that allow for the same enchanting light-play as the luminaria does.

Photo of two fused waxed paper panels taped to a window. Within each waxed paper panel, a pressed phlox bloom is visible in silhouette as the light from the window filters through the waxed paper, similar to the transparency of stained glass.


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