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Easy DIY Paper Lantern Luminary Bags With Old Maps

Illuminate your winter nights with the magic of DIY luminary bags and captivating paper bag lanterns that infuse your home with warmth and beauty.

As the days grow shorter and the winter evenings envelop us in darkness, there’s a magical charm in adorning our homes with radiant indoor light decorations. If you, like me, cherish the cosy glow of lights during this season, you’ll fall in love with the enchanting world of DIY luminary bags, also known as paper bag lanterns.

These captivating creations add a warm and inviting ambience to your living space and serve as delightful pieces of art that bring joy to your heart.

While I’ve always been a fan of using those lovely copper string lights to embellish my home, featuring them alongside my brilliant LED deer decoration and heart string lights, I stumbled upon a game-changer that elevated my lighting game to a new level – remote-controlled LED tea lights.

These tiny wonders provide the ultimate convenience, allowing you to light up an array of tea lights with a simple push of a button.

Gone are the days of fumbling inside the luminary bag to ignite each tea light. As I step into my lounge, I grab the remote, press the switch, and “voila” – my home is instantly adorned with a mesmerizing display of illuminated lanterns. Join me on this fascinating journey into the world of DIY luminary bags and discover how you can effortlessly transform your space with these delightful creations.

I’ve used the same tea lights with the rainbow postage stamp decoupage jars I made.

Brighten Up Your Home With Paper Bag Lanterns

I decided to use old maps for my DIY paper bag lanterns. Old maps conjure up memories of past travels or places I have lived. I think the light shines through them, and they are thrifty.

Even if you don’t have a vast collection of old maps like me, you can pick them up cheaply from charity/thrift stores. I often find purchasing old maps cheaper than craft paper or gift wrap! There are some fantastic vintage maps for crafting that you can print too.

A star punch was used on the bag to create a pretty light effect. You can experiment with different-shaped paper punches on your bags to see what effect you like or even use a simple round hole punch.

Even though I have made these map luminary bags as a winter decoration to brighten my home, I think they would be great for a summer outdoor party and could illuminate a garden path.

They were made similarly to these DIY wrapping paper bags.

DIY map luminary bags

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Supplies For Paper Luminaries

  • Old maps – You can pick these up from charity/thrift stores. The bags I made were A4 size so that you can print off maps onto A4 paper. This might be handy if you are looking for maps of a particular country or state. Pictureboxblue has lots of free maps to choose from and print.
What you need to make map luminary bags
Remote controlled tea lights
  • Rotary cutter and mat if using old maps.

How to Make Paper Bag Lanterns

First, if using printed maps, cut the maps up into A4-sized sheets. I can generally get 6-8 A4 sheets from one standard roadmap.

A4 Map sheets

Step 1: First, fold one sheet of A4 paper lengthways to overlap 5-10mm on one edge.

Make sure the map print is on the outside of the fold. Fold this flap over and glue it to the map to create a tube.

Folding and sticking map bag

Step 2: I punch patterns into the map paper before moving to the next stage. I do it at this point as I have more of an idea of where the punched designs will appear in relation to the finished luminary bag.

Punching stars into map luminary bags

Step 3: Place the map paper lengthways and fold it 5-6cm from the bottom. Use a ruler to make a nice sharp crease as you fold.

folding up base of the bags

Step 4: Push in the sides of the map where you have folded so that the base of the bag opens out and lies flat, like in the picture below.

Step 5: To secure the base of the map luminary bags, fold down the top half of the base flap to just over halfway and glue it down.

Next, repeat with the bottom half of the base flat.

Step 6: Then, fold 3cm from the edge on both sides of the bag.

Step 7: The final bit is the slightly fiddly bit. You need to open up the bag by putting your hand inside and then fold in the creases on the side to make the paper bag shape.

folding in sides

Step 8: Finish by popping a remote-controlled light into the bag and folding it over the top.

finished map luminary bag

As the remote-controlled tea lights came in a box of 12, I made 12 paper lantern bags.

I also used these LED tea lights with my Chinese paper lantern tea light jars.

I think that they look much more effective together in a big group. You could always use maps of your favourite places to make these bags to give them that personal touch. I’ve made waterproof versions of these map paper bags to use as cool plant pot covers.

finished map luminary bags
finished map luminary bags illuminated

FAQs Paper Bag Lantern/Luminaries

1. What other kind of paper can I use for paper bag lanterns?

You can use any paper as long as it’s sturdy enough to hold its shape but thin enough to let the light shine through. Standard A4 printer paper, construction paper, or even brown paper bags can work well.

2. Can I use real candles in my luminaries?

Due to the fire risk, using real candles in paper bag lanterns is strongly discouraged. Always opt for LED tea lights or battery-operated candles instead.

3. Can I make luminaries in different sizes?

Yes, you can make paper bag lanterns in any size. Just adjust the size of your starting paper. Remember, the larger the lantern, the sturdier your paper should be.

4. How can I stabilise the bottom of my paper bag lantern?

You can make the bottom of your lantern more stable by folding in and glueing an extra inch of paper on the bottom inside of the lantern. Or by adding a cardboard base

5. Can I use paper bag lanterns outside?

Yes, paper bag lanterns can be used outside, but remember that rain can damage them and shouldn’t be left unattended. They should be kept away from anything flammable.

6. How can I hang my paper bag lanterns?

You can attach a piece of wire or string to the top of the lantern to hang it. Make sure to secure it well so it doesn’t fall.

Other Paper and Map Craft Ideas

Printable maps can also be used to make these charming DIY tea light lanterns, and also with these DIY hanging paper lanterns.

If you have any leftover maps, you may want to check out some of my other map-themed gift ideas and paper craft decoration posts.
Vintage Map Heart Garland

DIY paper Christmas Trees with Maps
Map Paper Rosettes Decorations
Printable 3d Map Star Decorations

finished map luminary bags illuminated

For more papercraft ideas, visit


Monday 23rd of December 2019

Claire these are so awesome!!! I love the tip about the hole punchers I had no idea there was a magnetic one that could be used in the middle of the paper! Also... remote controlled tea lights that's also new to me!!!? Thanks for that! These are gorgeous in map design, I'm pinning this idea for next year!

Claire Armstrong

Monday 23rd of December 2019

Thank you, Susan. They are a good all year round decoration, I've used them in the summer to light up the garden at night for a party.

Fall Lighting Ideas to Brighten Your Autumn - Backyardscape

Friday 2nd of August 2019

[…] How To Make Pretty Map Luminary Bags […]

Caro | The Twinkle Diaries

Saturday 2nd of February 2019

I LOVE these Claire!!!! They'd be a gorgeous way of lighting the garden at a summer BBQ! So lovely. Thanks so much for linking up with #HomeEtc xx

Claire Armstrong

Sunday 3rd of February 2019

Thank you, yes it would be a good way to llluminate the path.


Sunday 20th of January 2019

Great idea! What brand is the magnetic punch? Does it saw somewhere on it? Thanks, for the link to the downloadable maps too! Marilyn

Claire Armstrong

Sunday 20th of January 2019

Thank you, the punch is "Star - Artoz 'Flying' Paper Punch"

Jodie Fitz

Tuesday 15th of January 2019

I absolutely LOVE this idea! I love all things maps...and, as you know I'm a fan already of your constant creativity. You were featured at this week's RTT Party: Have a great week...

Claire Armstrong

Tuesday 15th of January 2019

Aww, thank you so much Jodie, that is awesome.