With a single tool and some paint, create your own designs on pillar candles

The glow of pillar candles adds warmth and romance to any setting. Give pillars your own style with this simple decorating technique. The flickering candle flames on the painted, carved pillars create a beautiful play of light and color, accentuating your design. Arrange the candles in groups on a mantelpiece or table, or give them as holiday gifts.

Time: 15 minutes per candle

Cost: Depends on type of candle


• Newspaper
• Woodworking carving knife
• Pillar candles of varying sizes
• Paper towels
• Small bristle or foam paintbrushes
• Acrylic paints


1. Line your work surface with newspaper to collect the wax particles as they drop. If possible, practice carving on a scrap candle to get the feel of the woodworking knife, because once you carve into the candle, you can’t erase the mark. However, you’ll find that it’s easy to carve simple patterns such as these leaves.

2. To carve, hold the knife at the angle you would hold a pencil. Patterns can be randomly or evenly spaced. For a pattern that covers the candle, start with one leaf shape, then carve overlapping leaves around it. As you cut into the candle, you’ll produce wax particles that either fall on your work surface or remain lodged within the carved grooves. Lightly run your finger over the carved sections to remove wax curls and smooth out the surface.

3. When you have finished carving the candle, wipe off excess wax with a paper towel, making sure that no loose particles remain on the candle. With a small bristle or foam brush, paint a contrasting color (or gold and silver accents) on the leaves. For an “aged” look, wipe off the paint instantly, so that only faint color accents remain inside the grooves.

Note: Leave the top of the candle unpainted, and never paint the wick.

Placement tip

Candles are more interesting if they’re not perfectly matched. Stagger the sizes and vary the designs, so they form a pleasing arrangement without being too symmetrical.

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