How to Make a Tea-Light Lamp From a Photograph

Updated on April 18, 2017
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Jean has a passion to create beautiful artwork, jewelry and home decor items which she sells online. She also loves to teach others how.

A tea light in a photographic lamp
A tea light in a photographic lamp | Source

Memorialize Your Memories

As long as your photograph is 8 1/2 x 11 inches or under you can make it into a tabletop lamp that becomes a treasured record of something you like or even treasure. An acquaintance of mine invited me over for coffee to see his recent trip photos. Almost three-quarters of them were the spectacular fall leaf colors he saw on the train. They would make beautiful lamps.

The only difficult part of making these lamps is choosing which one to make first. Then you are smitten and sweet little lamps pop up everywhere. So, let's make a lamp.

A Word of Caution

This lamp is made out of paper and is not designed to be used around live flame. Use only battery-operated or solar lights in any of these lamps.

Supplies You Will Need

  • vellum paper available at stationary stores
  • ruler
  • scissors
  • small clothes pins or bulldog clips
  • rubber cement
  • a treasured photo
  • a battery-operated or solar tea-light or other light

Tips and Tricks for Making Your Lamp

  • Your photo size will determine the size of your lamp
  • Bright colors will show up better on your lamp that pale or dark images.
  • Do not use paper clips, it will put a permanent bend in the paper.
  • Use a ruler to draw the lines so that all four sides of the lamp will fit together perfectly.
  • You will be putting folds in some of the sheets of paper, so use a straight edge as a guide
  • The bottom edge of your photo is going to be the bottom edge of your lamp
  • You will be using a copy of your photo, transferred onto the vellum paper as the front of your lamp. I will clearly explain the process below.
  • Precisely measure everything so that the tops and the bottoms all match with no gaps or crooked corners.
  • Once you have glued a side, clip the ends with small clothes pins, or small bulldog clips until the glue is dry before gluing another side or the bottom.
  • If you wish, you can flip the picture horizontally in your computer so it prints in reverse. When you print it, flip the paper over and the image will be on the inside so it won't scratch and get marked up the same.

How to get the Photo Onto Your Computer

You are going to use a copy of your photo that will be added to your computer if it isn't already there.

  1. If you are not computer savvy, you can take the pictures you want to put on a tea-light lamp along with a sheet of vellum to your local photocopy outlet. Have them resize the pictures to the size you want, adding at least 1/2 inch border around each photo (to allow for the gluing tabs) and print them on a plain piece of paper. Look at the images and the spacing and when you are satisfied with the spacing and the size, have them print them on the vellum sheet. You can have them reverse the image if you like so the image will appear on the inside of your lamp. This helps prevent scuffing and wear on your photo.
  2. If you have a photo scanner, scan the photos into your computer and move them to a photo editing program to resize You can reverse the images if you want them to be inside the photo lamp to reduce wear and scuffing. Arrange photos with at least half an inch border around each picture to allow for the gluing tabs. Print them on a vellum sheet.
  3. If you don't have a photo scanner, take your photos and a flash drive (memory stick, thumb drive, etc) to your local photocopy shop and get them to scan them and put the images on your flash drive. Take the flash drive home and add the images to a photo edit program on which you can resize your photos and position them on a page with at least 1/2 inch border around each photo to allow for the gluing tabs. Print your photos on a vellum sheet.

Why Use Vellum Paper?

Vellum paper is a thicker yet translucent paper that allows the light to really accent your image. It is flexible and holds its shape well, particularly if you have a long image like a cruise ship. It won't wow or bulge in the middle.

Here, in Canada, the vellum paper is almost $14 for 25 sheets, but you can't really put a price on your memories.


  1. Take and select the picture for your tea-light lamp.
  2. Get it loaded onto your computer if it isn't there already.
  3. Move it to a program where you can edit and resize it. If you make the image between 3 and 3 1/2 inches wide you can get two vertical rows of images on a page and make more than one lamp. Make sure you leave a 1/4 inch border around each image (1/2 to 3/4 inch between photos so you have room for the gluing tabs.
  4. Print your image or images onto a sheet of vellum paper in black and white or color. If you wish you can flip the image over so when you assemble your lamp the image will be on the inside of the lamp (to avoid damage) and appear the right way.
  5. Take a pencil and carefully measure and draw a 1/4 inch border around the sides and the bottom of each image.
  6. Take another sheet of vellum and draw an identical back piece. The two side pieces can also be identical or you can make them narrower, as long as there is room for the tea-light with a bit of room between it and the sides, so you can't see it reflecting through the vellum, and of course, for safety.
  7. Measure the bottom you will need and carefully draw it to have exact 90 degree angles. You do not need gluing tabs on this piece.
  8. With good paper scissors, carefully cut out your pieces, keeping the lines as straight as possible.
  9. Take a plastic eraser and erase any pencil marks anywhere on the vellum. Plastic erasers do not smudge. Any lines or marks will show when you lamp is glued.
  10. Take your ruler and use it to help you crease all the tabs so they are straight and folded in the right direction. they will need to be on the inside of your lamp when you glue them.
  11. When you are ready to glue your lamp together, ensure you have quite a few of the one inch mini clothespins ready to hold the sides tightly in position after you apply the glue. Alternately you can use very small bulldog clips. You will need 16 or so to glue the bottom alone. But I advise you to glue only one side to the bottom at a time and let the glue dry thoroughly. It will make your assembly a lot easier.

Pick a Picture to put on Your tea Light Lamp

a picture of the back end of a 1959 Dodge
a picture of the back end of a 1959 Dodge | Source

Copy and Paste the Photo Into Microsoft Publisher

the photo in Publisher
the photo in Publisher | Source

Add Other Photos to the Page so you Don't Waste Paper


These are the one Inch Clothes Pins I use to Hold the Pieces Together When They are Gluing

Mini clothespins
Mini clothespins | Source

Print off the Pictures on a Sheet of Vellum Paper

The printed sheet
The printed sheet | Source

Draw a Quarter- Inch Border Around the Sides and the Bottom of Each Picture

Use a pencil and a ruler to draw the gluing tabs.
Use a pencil and a ruler to draw the gluing tabs. | Source
A closer look at the lines
A closer look at the lines | Source
Another close look at the lines
Another close look at the lines | Source

You will notice there is a border drawn on the top of each picture when I got carried away with drawing the lines. That border is not needed.

Using a Ruler, Measure the Sides and Bottom and cut Then Out

The sides and bottom are cut out ready to fold the gluing tabs.
The sides and bottom are cut out ready to fold the gluing tabs. | Source

Be sure to cut the top tab off if you have drawn it there like I did. It is not needed.

No Gluing Tabs on the Tops of the Pieces

We are going to fold the tabs now.
We are going to fold the tabs now. | Source

Fold the Tabs Ready for Gluing

Ready for gluing
Ready for gluing | Source

After you have folded the gluing tabs, be sure to erase all pencil lines with a plastic eraser. Even the smallest bit of pencil mark will show after its glued.

Apply Glue to a tab and Clip it With Clothespins so the Edges Stick Together and Don't Buckle

The front and the bottom are gluing.
The front and the bottom are gluing. | Source

Continuing the Sides and Bottom Until Everything is Glued

Mini clothespins work great for gluing
Mini clothespins work great for gluing | Source

A Completed Lamp Ready for the tea-Light

Tea-light lamp
Tea-light lamp | Source

Memorializing Your Photos

What do you think about using prints of your photos to make a decorative item for your home.

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Be Sure to use Battery-Operated Tea Lights

These decorative lamps are made of paper and are highly flammable so you will want to use battery-operated lights in them.

The rear end of a 1959 Dodge
The rear end of a 1959 Dodge | Source


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