DIY Paper Star Lanterns and Free Cutting Files

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I love the ambiance that paper lanterns can create. Especially paper star lanterns. They can instantly transform a ho-hum space into something truly <insert your favorite adjective here >. Like magical…or dreamy….or enchanted…or (one of my favorites) incandescent.

paper star lanterns transformation

But you don’t have to shell out a lot of money to get them. Because today I’m going to show you how easy it is to make your own paper star lanterns using your Silhouette. If you don’t have a Silhouette, I’ve included a link for a free PDF template as well. The assembly instructions are virtually the same.

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We’ll start with a basic star lantern, like this one.

basic star lantern

The cutting files I created have a couple features that differ from ones that you print out and cut yourself. For one, there are three different pieces. I’ve labeled them A, B, and C, below.

cutting files

Pieces A and C each have a small hole to thread something through to tie the star together. Piece A has the hole near the outside edge, and piece C has it in the middle.

holes in each paper

So pieces A and C will each get cut once, while piece B, which has no holes, gets cut 3 times.

I also added dashed lines to get nice, crisp folds.

dash lines drawing

So let’s get started. I used double-sided cardstock for the pictures to make it easier for you to tell which is the right side (dark blue) and which is the wrong side (light blue). After you’ve cut your five star pieces out, lay them down wrong side up with the long flap closest to you, and begin by folding the 4 long folds away from you.

long folds away from you

long folds againkeep foldinganother fold

Open the piece out again, right side up this time, and fold both short flaps toward you.

short flaps toward you

Starting with piece A (the piece with the hole on the edge), apply glue to the single long flap. You could also use tape if you’d like, but I prefer the look and holding power of glue.

glue to the single long flapNow glue it into a point by laying it down and pressing the outside edge over the glued edge.

glue it into a point by laying it down

Repeat the same for all five points of the star, ending with piece C. Doing it in this order will allow the pieces to dry in the order you’ll be gluing them together.

Repeat the same for all five points of the star

Now we’re going to glue the 5 points together. The order should be A-B-B-B-C. This is important so that you have the pieces with the holes (pieces A and C) adjacent to each other, but not glued together. Starting with piece A, which should have been the first one you glued together, apply glue to the two bottom flaps.

glue the 5 points together

Place the two plain edges of another point (piece B) over the glued flaps, like so.

Place the two plain edges of another point

And hold them together until dry.

hold them together

Now repeat, applying glue to the two flaps of the piece you just glued on. Continue gluing the pieces together, using all three of the B pieces before ending with piece C.

applying glue to the two flaps

For the last point on the star, you may find it easier to fold the paper star accordion-like, and glue the piece on one flap at a time, holding the flaps together as they dry, like below.

holding the flaps together

Here’s what it should look like now. By leaving a gap between C and A, you can easily fold the star flat for storing later. This is how most store-bought paper star lanterns arrive. Of course, if you plan on hanging it up another way, and you aren’t worried about storing it or inserting a light, you can glue it together permanently.

holding the flaps together

If you do plan on hanging it up with thread or string, I’ll show you my favorite way. Thread a needle with a long piece (24″ or so, depending on where you will be hanging it) of monofilament thread (it looks invisible), doubled up. Insert the needle into one of the holes.

monofilament thread

Here’s a drawing so you can see what I’m talking about.

Drawing for Paper Star Lanterns

You’ll then come out the other hole, leaving the loop hanging out of the first hole so you can insert your needle back through the loop.

come out the other hole

Like so:

Drawing 2 for Paper Star Lanterns

Pulling on the thread will cinch the two points together, closing the gap, and you’ll then have two strands of thread to tie your star up, making it appear to “float” in the air.

Pulling on the thread will cinch the two points together

That was easy, right? So now that you know how to put one together, I’ll show you some of the other stars I made.

some of the other stars I made

I used the Silhouette program (the regular version – I don’t have the Designer edition) to add little cutout stars and holes to the basic paper star pattern for this one, which was inspired by Pottery Barn Teen’s Star Paper Pendant. You could easily enlarge it and add one more point to make it nearly identical to the original.

Star Paper Pendant

Next, I made one with window cutouts and then lined it with tracing paper. I love the simple elegance of this one.

window cutouts

The one below is my favorite. I cut it out of water color paper, so it’s very sturdy. It’s also lined with tracing paper, but it has floral cutouts on each face. Don’t you think it would be pretty for a summer wedding? (Design is Fancy Flourishes Mum by the very talented Samantha Walker, and available from the Silhouette Online Store).

pretty for a summer wedding

But you don’t have to stop at the basic star shape. Here are a couple more I made in a different shape, similar to Pottery Barn’s Olivia Star Pendant. Both were cut out of plain white cardstock, but the one in back was spray painted a copper color and hung with a cup hook. The one in front is hanging from a light string.

modeled after Pottery Barn

And here’s one more, modeled after Pottery Barn’s Bronze Star Luminary. Again, cut from cardstock and spray painted copper. It almost looks like the $79 original, doesn’t it? But I like the smaller price tag of mine!

modeled after Pottery Barn 2

The assembly on those is a tutorial for another day, but the point is, you don’t have to stop at the star shape. Let your imagination run wild, and your cutting machine will do all the heavy lifting.

To get you started, you can download the basic paper star lantern cutting file here (this is a Studio file, for use with Silhouette cutting machines). You can download the file as an SVG here. Cutting them as-is will produce a star about 9 inches tall, but you can resize them to be as large as you want. If you don’t have a cutting machine, you can download a PDF template here.

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DIY Paper Star Lanterns