DIY Patterned Paper Lanterns – Hack your own custom party decor!

Need that one really, “Wow! Where’d she get those?” party decoration idea? Then, here’s one for you! Hack your own custom patterned paper lanterns. Yes, it can be done on the cheap with a relatively simple technique!

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Look closely at the Vera Bradley floral paper lanterns and the party linens in the images above. You’ll see they are exactly the same floral graphic. Miss Party hacked those beautiful Vera Bradley paper lanterns using ordinary, inexpensive, white tissue paper lanterns and a pack of Vera Bradley paper napkins! Use ANY designer’s high-quality 3-ply paper napkins you would like to use, the only caveat is that the background of the pattern must be white or off-white. A pastel background may work, but you’d have to test the water on that one. Technically, this project is beyond a hack job and would be considered a custom job as one couldn’t actually go out and buy them anywhere else, for any amount of money but let’s not worry about that. “How did she do such a thing?”, you ask.

Miss Party used the simple technique of decoupage to put sections of the pattern cut from Vera Bradley’s ‘Viva La Vera!’ printed paper luncheon napkins, onto the paper lanterns. She did three different versions of the lanterns using two different napkin patterns, in three different sizes: one which completely covered the lantern with sections of the floral graphic; one with randomly placed sections of the individual flowers in the patterns, and one with just a center band of the trailing floral graphic.

The steps aren’t difficult but it will take some time depending on how many lanterns you are trying to customize. Allow for several blocks of time to complete all of your lanterns, working on 2-3 at a time. Miss Party wanted her floral lanterns to be randomly mixed in with other brightly colored lantern bunches so she didn’t need to make dozens of the customized ones. On party day, she was knocked out by the unique and coordinated look it added to an, otherwise, generic party decoration and felt it was well worth the time spent. Another wonderful thing about paper lanterns is that, unlike balloons, they are easy to store flat and are completely reusable. Think about brightening a bedroom or playroom with a few hanging from the ceiling or strung on a ribbon.

You’ll need:

-White or pastel colored tissue paper lanterns of whatever size you choose (the lanterns can be ‘economy’ quality)
-1 package of high quality, 3-ply patterned paper luncheon or dinner napkins with a white or pastel ground (must be the same color as your paper lantern) will likely cover 8-9 lanterns depending on how closely you place your tissue paper sections
(what is important is that the lantern color and the ground (background) color of the paper napkin MUST be the same)

-white glue
-1 or 2 disposable 1 1/2 inch sponge brushes or other inexpensive 1 inch paint brush
-Disposable cup
-apron is advised, though glue should wash out of clothing

Prepare a covered work surface as this is a messy project.

1) Begin by cutting away any border from 5 or so of your chosen paper napkins which, in so doing, you are also cutting away the embossed border which keeps the 3-plys of tissue paper together which forms each single napkin. Then, cut out lots of large to good-sized clusters or groupings from the print of the napkins. You can also vary how you group the printed graphics as you cut them out. Keep in mind that your lanterns are viewed from a distance so you want your graphic groupings to be of a fairly good size.

2) With each cut out piece, remove the top (single-ply) tissue paper from the set of three-ply papers on which the napkin graphic is printed. Lay them out across your table or stack them into similar sets if you are doing a variety of groupings of the graphic print.

3) In your disposable cup, squeeze in approx. 2-3 tablespoons of glue and then the same quantity of water. Stir to fully mix the watered down glue mixture with your sponge brush.

4) The process for affixing each piece to your paper lantern is as follows:

a) Apply a THIN coat of glue mixture to your paper lantern that is a bit larger than the size of your printed tissue paper piece.
b) Lay the printed tissue paper piece over the glue mixture. Gently smooth any wrinkles or bubbled areas so that the piece, more or less, lays flat against the paper lantern’s rounded surface.
c) With your brush, gently paint a THIN coat of glue mixture across the entire surface of the applied tissue paper piece. Be sure to paint to the edges and a little beyond the applied tissue paper piece, decoupage-style. (In essence you are sealing the tissue paper piece to your tissue paper lantern.

5) Work across a large surface area of one side of the lantern and then set that lantern aside to let the glued pieces dry fully while you work on another lantern.

6) Rotate working on two or three lanterns, cutting out additional pieces from your napkins and gluing them in place, until you complete your desired pattern on all 2 or 3 lanterns. Let dry at least-3 hours or overnight before collapsing down the lanterns for storage until the party.

Be sure to fully clean your sponge brush and cup with water if you will need to reuse them for another future session of working on the lanterns.

One additional tip: If you are applying large tissue pieces or are using most of the napkin graphic to do an all-over covered paper lantern, you will quickly see that large pieces don’t want to conform to the rounded surface of a paper lantern. To deal with this issue, place the tissue graphic over a thin coat of glue on the lantern, as above. As you work around the piece applying the thin top coat of glue, snip in a few 2-3 inch darts towards the center of the tissue piece. Doing so will help “ease” the tissue paper into laying flat. Since the lantern will be viewed from a distance, the darted areas will be undetectable.

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