Martha-esque photo lanterns as centerpieces

January 13 | Guest post by Tracy

Offbeat Bride Tracy took her inspiration from Martha Stewart's (all hail Martha!) photo centerpiece idea, winged it and somehow created an awesome, true-to-example, DIY, photo centerpiece option!

Finished, unlit lantern
These are really cute and could be made to accommodate a wide variety of themes, applications and color schemes, and in a range of sizes. They're also pretty easy and relatively cheap to make! They just take a little time and a little creativity.

I couldn't find step-by-step instructions on Martha's project so I took a leap of faith and just tried it out! They turned out beautifully and I couldn't be happier with 'em.

Only a few materials are needed, and this can be constructed using basic crafting skills (no crazy contractor-style tools needed)…

Materials (one lantern)

Arrange into a triangle.

Step 1:
The first step is to paint the frames. I used a greyish-cream colored crackle paste, which worked really well for the antique look I was going for. If you're going to go the crackle route, I would recommend the crackle paste as opposed to a two-step crackle process. It goes on thick and looks like authentic old school paint.

You could use anything you like: craft paint in your wedding colors, metallic spray paint, wood finish, glitter glue, stone-textured spray paint, whatever! Just make sure that you paint both sides of the frame as the inside will be visible through the top of your lantern.

But you could do anything really: a design, a patterned print, a monogram, a poem or lyrics in a pretty font, etc. Or you could do nothing at all: just the vellum (white or in any shade) gives the candle light a soft glow and looks lovely on its own. It's totally customizable to your taste and only limited by your creativity.

Bind with elastics

Step 2:
While you're waiting for the frames to dry, print or photo copy your pictures in black and white/greyscale onto the vellum. Allow it some time to dry before you work with it or it will smudge (I found this out the hard way). Cut the photos/designs to fit your frames. You can do this easily by putting the glass that came with the frame over your vellum and tracing it.

Step 3:
After the frames are COMPLETELY dry, arrange them into a triangle as shown in the picture noted. Secure them in place with the elastics, one around the top and another near the bottom.

Step 4:
Using a hot glue gun, apply a good amount of glue along the seam of two frames. Work in one small (~3 inches) section at a time and use a utensil of some sort (I used an old ruler but you should probably use a paint knife) to smooth the glue into the seam while its still warm.

After you have completely glued the seams, allow the glue to cool and set with the elastics still on. this would be a good time to remove all of those annoying "spider web" strands of glue that tend to get everywhere when you're hot-gluing.

Step 5:
Once the glue has set, remove the elastics and add your vellum images. Since this was my first time making the lantern, I taped my photos in place, just so I could see how it looked. I would recommend that you use scrapbooking glue dots to adhere the corners of the vellum into the frame, where the glass and backing would normally fit.

Step 6:
When your lantern is complete, insert a votive candle in a small holder into the lantern. Tea light candles look okay too, but larger votive candles make your images really glow and illuminate the table.

lantern6
finished product!

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  1. Yay! Love Ikea picture frames! I did something similiar for a 75th anniversary party about 10 years ago and was considering it for centerpieces -your directions are SO much easier than the nightmare I created for myself. Beautiful, inexpensive and personal.

    • good question! I took them out because the Martha ones I was trying to copy just had the vellum. personally I think it might take away from that pretty matte glow, but I suppose it could work with or without the glass.

  2. I love this! You've given me a great idea, I am thinking that if I used a few different pictures I could use this to "hide" a jar and just have the blooms of a few flowers peeking out of the top! SOOOO many possibilities!

  3. Sorry I missed this the 1st time it was posted. Such a fun and smart idea.
    And yes all hail Martha! I used to make fun of her, (too bright and chipper) but now I love her site.

    • I still make fun of her sometimes (ever seen Whatever, Martha? hilarious!) because some of her projects are… well, frivolous. but I'll be damned if she doesn't have some great DIY ideas & recipes!

  4. Unfortunately, a couple really important people in our family can't be with us on our special day. I've been looking everywhere for memorial frames that aren't too, well, grim. This would be perfect. And then on the outside of the frame we can hot glue some cute little embelishments as well. I ADORE this! It's exactly what I've been looking for!
    Thanks so much!

  5. About 5 years ago, made a bunch of the lanterns for a high school senior tribute dinner and reuse every year. Things I found out:

    Since reusing frames for many years, still tape the vellum in so it can be easily removed for next year. I use colored duct tape cut to size to attach the side seams of the frames on 2 sides only. The duct tape is cheap and easy to apply and repair. I only tape 2 out of the 3 seams so the frames can be laid flat for storage. They still stand up well and if you want, you can duct tape all 3 seams and remove 1 later for storage. I place paper towels between each unfolded lantern to protect the paint and then they are stackable. This year, I needed more frames and at Dollar Tree, found a bunch of framed gothic prints for $1 each. Got rid of the print and glass and had perfect frames without even painting them! (The frames were black and looked great with the grayscale vellem photos)

  6. I would love to make these for my wedding but I can't decide on how big the frames should be. What size frames did you use when making the one on this website?

    2 agree
  7. I don't mean to be stupid…but are you glueing the seams on the outside or inside. I assumed inside so it would look nicer, but I can't seem to figure out how to get the glue inside once they are rubberbanded together. Any help appreciated!

  8. I don't mean to be stupid…but are you glueing the seams on the outside or inside. I assumed inside so it would look nicer, but I can't seem to figure out how to get the glue inside once they are rubberbanded together. Any help appreciated!

  9. This is exactly what i have been looking for! I just called my mom and sent her on a mission to IKEA and ordered vellum off the internet. Thanks!

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