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Home and interiors

How to hand-paint beautiful dinner candles in 5 easy steps

Obsessed with quirky candles? Hand-painted candles (aka Instagram’s favourite interiors trend) are flooding our feeds right now and they’re really easy to make yourself – here’s how to do it. 

Quirky candles are a trend that shows no signings of waning. Whether it’s twisted and cubed styles, marble-print patterns, or wax honouring the female form, our taste in candles appears to be getting ever-more adventurous and decorative.

Enter Instagram’s latest craze: the hand-painted candle. Sporting everything from floral, fruity or abstract designs, painted candles that are too beautiful to burn are fast becoming a homeware must-have. As the countdown to Christmas approaches, candle designers have also started making a slew of intricately painted advent candles.

Desperate to get your hands on some hand-painted wax? Well, hand-painting candles is something you can do easily at home. Whether you’ve made your own tapered candle or you’ve got some spares lying around the house from a lockdown-induced online spending spree, why not get creative and take your candle game to the next level?

Otter Hatchett, who founded the Peckham-based hand-painted candle brand By Otter in lockdown began painting candles after being inspired by Laura Jackson’s #makeamealofitchallenge. “I wanted to create some fun, colourful candles for a Mexican-themed dinner I was planning. So I started experimenting with citrus fruits like clementines, lemons and limes,” she says.

Otter uses different textures in her work and has become known for fruity motifs. Here share her techniques for creating beautiful, personalised hand-painted candles at home with minimal equipment.  

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What you’ll need:

  • Candles
  • Rubbing alcohol or surgical spirit
  • Lint-free cloth
  • Paint brushes or sponges depending on the texture you’re after
  • Acrylic paint
  • Paper stencils (optional)

How to paint candles

  1. First, prep your candle by cleaning it with rubbing alcohol or surgical spirit and a lint-free cloth. This will remove the sheen and help create a more absorbent surface.
  2. Paint your design straight onto the candle using a paint brush or a sponge and acrylic paint. You can create your designs freehand or using paper stencils. 
  3. Let the first coat dry before applying the second coat. The amount of coats you will need depends on what colour paint you’re using and on your design. As a general rule, two is usually enough.
  4. Leave to dry for a couple of hours. 
  5. Once the candles are finished, handle with care as the paint can chip or scratch if not looked after or stored carefully. 
Selection of pastel abstract painted candles
Blue dinner candles with lemons painted on them
Otter's pastel painted candles
Otter's signature painted candles, Otter's lemon candles, How to paint candles at home

Otter’s tips for creating beautiful painted candles safely

Experiment and don’t be a perfectionist

“As long as you’ve prepped the candle, the paint should go on without any problems,” Otter says. “It’s definitely trickier to paint on a curved surface but use the candle shape to your advantage and don’t worry about it being perfect to begin with. Just start experimenting with different designs and techniques and see what works for you!”

Pick your colours wisely

Otter likes to buy candles that come in one block colour and paint contrasting colours onto them. It makes the candles look striking and helps the designs stand out. “Pink and red is a strong contender,” she says of her favourite colour combinations. She also loves combining different shades of the same colour, like green on green.

Use the wax that works for you

“My candles are made from paraffin wax which works best for me,” Otter says. “But I think it’s about experimenting and finding what works for your design.” You can use any wax but you might find that different kinds of wax work better with different paints. It’s best to experiment to find what works for you.

Prioritise safety if you burn your candles

Your candles will be safe to burn after a few hours of the paint drying, as long as you use water-based, non-toxic acrylic paint. “The amount of paint used can also affect the burn time so I’d avoid covering the whole candle in paint and stick to smaller designs,” she says. “Like with any candle, you should keep an eye on them when lit and make sure they’re never left unattended.” 

“Some would argue they’re too pretty to burn,” she adds, explaining they can be used simply as a homeware accessory if you’d prefer.

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Images: Otter Hatchett

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