Any crafter will know the feeling of being curiously lost in a DIY project, and the satisfaction they get when it’s finally done. Major projects equals major doses of those feelings. I get nostalgic about wedding crafts for instance, or the cardboard Christmas village I made when I was ten. But there is also something to be said about the little projects for everyday. Especially when they’re lovely yet functional, and hard to get wrong. These DIY candle holders are exactly that.

I wanted a cross between frosted and vintage mercury glass, but didn’t want to use any flammable paints. The solution was simple acrylic paint, and to create a faux distressed finish. You could use this technique on tiny votives, or on larger candle holders. I made just one prototype last month and promptly did my happy dance. The technique reflects and illuminates the candle light to create a soft, golden glow. What’s awesome about this project is because it’s super easy and versatile. These candle holders would make great handmade gifts, and they’d work in any space, in a variety of decor styles. Light up the room (and the soul inside) in three steps.



white votives or candle holders (clean and dry)
titanium white acrylic paint
yellow ochre acrylic paint
one toothpick
flat paint brush
small scouring pad (for dishwashing)
old newspapers to protect your work area
tea lights

Step one: Mix the paint
You want the votives or candle holders to have an ivory color instead of a super white. Place a dollop (about a tablespoon for five tiny votives) of the white paint on a small container or old cardboard, and use the toothpick to get a speck of the yellow ochre, and mix that well into the white. You can put a speck of the original white beside your ivory mix to see the difference. The ivory should be creamier and warmer. It’s better to start with the smallest amount of yellow ochre and to work up from there. If the mix is too yellow or beige you can always add more white. The paint darkens a bit more as it dries.

STEP two: Paint the votives

Without mixing the paint with any water, start painting the inside of the votives or candle holders. Go for quick, thick strokes and just paint away, making sure you cover everything. Paint the outside of the votives using longer strokes. Work fast, and don’t worry too much about getting it perfect. Just make sure you cover the entire shot glass with the paint. The paint should be thick enough so that you hardly see the glass anymore, but not too thick that it looks like you can peel it off. Let the paint dry for about 5 – 10 minutes.

Don’t forget the rim, but paint the bottom later (in step 3).

STEP THREE: Distress the finish
When the paint has dried but still feels somewhat sticky (tacky), cut a piece out of the scouring pad so it’s easier to hold and start rubbing the paint off using quick strokes. Using light to medium pressure, go upwards and sideways, until you see the paint come off, revealing the glass a bit in thin and long haphazard lines. Do the inside of the votives too, but the outside a bit more. Just remember that the candle light can already be seen through the paint, so you don’t want to take off large bits of it. When you get the look you want, you can gently smooth out the finish with your fingers or a piece of dry cloth. Don’t pull or scratch. Paint the bottoms last for a more finished look and let dry. And you’re done! I wish these photos could show how nuanced this votives look. They’re great even without the candles.

A few reminders

Start with one votive or candle holder first if you feel more comfortable with that. And when you get the technique down, you can work assembly line style, and finish five votives in about thirty minutes or less. Also, acrylic dries fast. The acrylic washes off clean, which means you can start again if you need to. It also means you can’t get your finished votives wet. Just wipe with dry cloth to clean.

Important. Keep an eye on these votives when lit. Keep them away from children, from drafts, and don’t put them in places where they might be knocked over, or near flammable substances or materials (like curtains). Also cut the wicks of your tea lights before lighting to keep the flame low and small. And take care in handling the lit votives as the glass can become hot. Extinguish the tea lights first if you must move the votives quite a bit, or just use LED tea lights instead.

So there you have it! Hope these little beauties inspire you, they were such a pleasure to make. And as always, thanks for reading.

UPDATE August 2016: It’s been over two years since we made this DIY, and they look even better with age!

* Photos by Ina Amor Mejia and Gabby Mejia.