DIY Gorgeous Paper Mache Lanterns with Autumn Leaves

Fall is my absolute favorite season and I’m always trying to find ways of preserving the colorful leaves so I can look at them longer! We made these paper mache lanterns in the spring with pressed flowers, but this time I wanted to try an autumn version. It’s the perfect fall craft and the results are gorgeous!

So if you’re like me and love all the fall leaf crafts, try out these paper mache lanterns! Here’s what you need:


1. Mix up paper mache

To make paper mache, you simply need flour and water! The approximate ratio is 1 part flour to 2 parts water. If it feels a little runny, you can always add a little more flour at a time (and vice versa) until it feels just right. For some extra guidance, try out this recipe for paper mache.

2. Add paper mache layers to balloons

hands of child putting paper mache layers over a balloon to make paper mache lanterns

Blow up as many balloons as you’d like to the size you want your lanterns to be. We blew ours up about halfway to have small/medium sized paper mache lanterns. Then, we taped a rock to the bottom of the balloons to weigh them down since the paper mache gets heavy and the balloon will start to tilt as you add more.

Next, tear white tissue paper into medium square/rectangular pieces. Dip the pieces of tissue paper into paper mache, rub off the extra drippings with your finger or against the edge of the bowl, then add to balloon until you’ve covered approximately 2/3 of the balloon, leaving enough space for the lantern opening. 

Make sure to overlap and create at least two layers of tissue paper on the balloon. Expect this step to be messy! We did ours outside on a picnic table where I didn’t mind as much. Once they’re all finished, let the paper mache lanterns dry overnight.

3. Gather leaves + make confetti

Collect leaves and use them immediately while they’re still fresh if possible. This way, the colors are brighter and easier to glue on because they’re not so brittle. Gather a variety of sizes and colors!

If you have different shaped hole punches, make some leaf confetti! In addition to a regular hole punch, we have a larger circle and star shaped punch. Make sure to leave some whole leaves too!

4. Add leaves to paper mache lanterns

Paint a layer of mod podge over the tissue paper layers of your paper mache lanterns. Stick on whole leaves and leaf confetti alternately, then paint layers of mod podge over the leaves as well. Don’t be afraid to lay it on thick as mod podge will dry completely clear and leave a nice sheen! 

After you’ve completely finished adding leaves and a layer of mod podge over the entire surface of the paper mache lanterns, let these dry overnight once more.

5. Pop balloon and even out the edges

After everything is completely dry, pop the balloons! Gently remove the balloon layers from inside of the bowl (they may stick a little). Cut or tear away some of the edges around the rim of the paper mache lanterns to even them out if you prefer. 

6. Add wire hanger

Use a hole punch to make two holes on opposite sides of the lantern, then string a wire handle through and twist with pliers to secure. Add an LED tea light and your paper mache lanterns are ready to go! Hang them around the house as fall decor or put them in the kid’s room to use as a night light and enjoy the beauty of fall even after all the leaves have fallen outside!

If you enjoyed this craft, check out our spring paper mache lanterns or even more crafts with fall leaves!

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