Glowing Photo Luminaries

Glowing luminaries from Our Best Bites sm When I was growing up, we had a formal dining room that was only used on special occasions like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.  At one point I thought that was a really wasted use of space, but now looking back- because it was so special, that room was home to some of my most precious family memories.  It’s the only room where we used  my great grandmother’s gold-plated china.  And where we sat on fancy padded chairs and got to drink sparkling cider and use the fancy butter knives.  It’s also the only room where every meal was eaten by candlelight- and it was magical.  My parents would dim the lights and right before we started our meal, they’d light tall candlesticks and the little flickering lights would reflect off the crystal goblets and make everything twinkle.  My family meals now, even on special holidays, are much more casual.  I purposely didn’t build a formal dining room, and sometimes we even use (gasp) paper plates!  However the one thing that I still love, is having flickering candles on the table.

Glowing luminaries from Our Best Bites
Recently I was cleaning my garage and came across a big pack of vellum from my drafting days in college.  I was showing my kids how fun it was to color on it and how when held up to the window, it became translucent and let the light through.  That’s the moment I had the idea for this project, and I love how they turned out.  This is such a fun, easy, and inexpensive way to create a personalized decor piece that’s perfect for a centerpiece during a special family meal, or just to enjoy at home.  These would make darling gifts, too!

To make these, I used my photo printer to print some of my favorite family photos onto vellum.  You  might have to experiment with your own printer to make sure it can print onto vellum, but most inkjet printers should work.  I’m using a Canon PIXMA photo printer and it worked beautifully.  I even used the coordinating PIXMA Printing Solutions iPhone app and printed some shots straight from my phone.

Canon Photo Printer
So just print out a variety of photos.  If you’re using these as table centerpieces for a holiday meal, try highlighting your favorite moments from throughout the year.  Horizontal photos will work best since you’ll need the width to wrap around your luminary.

Vellum Photos
Next you’ll need some glass jars or vases.  Since nothing happening here has to be permanent,  you can do what I did and poke around your house to see what you can round up.  Glass mason jars, flower vases, and hurricanes work great.  Try however, to avoid irregular shapes.  Squares will work, but the very best is smooth cylindrical shaped glass.

Glass Containers

Trim your photos to the proper height of your glass.

Trimming Photos And then apply a piece of double-sided tape.  (I told you these were easy!)

double stick on glass

Simply attach your photo to the tape.  For larger containers, you’ll need more than one photo to cover all of the sides.  Just have them meet right up in the middle of the tape for a seamless look.

Photos on Luminaries

And if you want, you can even attach a piece of washi tape for decoration.

Washi Tape on Luminary
The fun part is that these little luminaries look beautiful in broad daylight.  Set on a windowsill, the light pours through them and naturally makes them glow!

Luminaries on Windowsill from Our best Bites
And if you’re like Kate and me, and have a crazy obsession with scented candles, these little glass jars work beautifully for this project.  The lower the candle wax, the better, so if you’ve got some almost-empty ones, they’ll work perfectly!

Play around with a variety of sizes and group them together for a fun display.

Lumanaries on Windowsill
The real magic happens when the lights go dim, and the candles start burning.  Place a few tea lights in your glass containers (I put several in my really jumbo ones!)

Lit Tea Lights
And everything will come alive with a flickering glow.

Glowing Luminaries with Candles
The soft light pours through the vellum and illuminates the photos, creating a beautiful work of art!

Glowing Family Luminaries from Our Best Bites
I used these at a dinner and they were the topic of conversation.  People couldn’t stop looking at them, and wondered how on earth I made them, and my kids especially loved seeing their pictures on there.  The best part was hearing them say things like, “Hey, I remember that!  That’s from our trip to the beach!  Remember when….”

Glowing Family Picture Luminaries from Our Best Bites
It’s such a fun conversation starter.  I could see these being so beautiful for a wedding celebration as well.  Can you imagine photos of the bride and groom all lit up?  You can also use a battery-powered tea light and use these for night lights!  I let my boys put on in their room and they loved it.

Start thinking about your own family memories you could light up! (Hover your mouse over the image below, to Pin it!)

Easy and Affordable Glowing Family Photo Luminaries from Our Best Bites


Presented by Canon PIXMA Wireless All-in-One Printers. PIXMA Printing Solutions (PPS) lets you print photos or documents directly from select popular online Cloud services.


  1. I did something like this for my wedding centerpieces! I bought a TON of dollar store frames, popped out the backs and glass, spray painted them, glue gunned them into triangles of 3, then glued a bunch of our engagement photos that I printed onto vellum – but I used black and white photos. They were really striking and I loved the look!
    I really love the idea of doing these to circular glasses AND using color photos! You girls really are the best!

      1. This entire post is a photo tutorial. If you aren’t seeing photos, I would try a different browser 🙂

    1. So do these have to be used on vellum? Can you use regular pictures that have printed out at photo place, not sure what vellum is, just asking

  2. I have been obsessed with luminaries this year! Just last night I created a separate pinterest board for them when I realized I had pinned so many! Guess where this one is going?! Love the idea of using photos…Thanks for the great idea! Great gift idea, too (a different way for the grands to display the kids).

  3. I can’t tell you how much I love this-it’s so great. I’m gonna try and get some made for Thanksgiving when we’ll have a lot of family here. Thank you so much Sara.

    1. Great idea! But you may want to post that the vellum needs to be place on the outside of the glass!! Some people will put it inside I can guarantee you and will start a fire inside their candle,,

      Just a precautionary thought,,

      Thanks for posting!

  4. I don’t usually comment on blogs, but these are so adorable that they must be commented on. LOVE IT!

    1. I LOVE it when people comment and say they don’t usually comment. It means a million times more that you took the time- thanks Emily!

  5. For my wedding I did this, but instead of pictures I printed our guest names and used them as place cards and a favor. It looked beautiful and functioned really as three purposes: decoration, place card, and gift. I will have to try pictures next.

    1. I love it- that’s a great idea, too!

  6. I have made these for centerpieces for our HS reunion & my moms birthday party with photos of her at different ages! They are always a big hit!

  7. I LOVE this! I have been racking my brain for something to make for my parents for Christmas and I think this will be perfect!! Would you recommend doing it the same (just with double sided tape) if we wanted it to be permanent? I’m just worried about the durability.

    1. Vellum is actually quite thick and durable, but you could try modge podge and see what happens with that.

      1. So I can modget podge vellum without it ruining or running the ink into the paper?? I guess I’ll have to try it??

    1. Marianne- I was going to experiment with modge podge, but never got around to it. You could definitely try that out!

      1. I used some photos of my great grandparents and used Modge Podge to adhere the vellum to the bottom third of a tall cylinder vase. Since they were vintage, I also used the Modge Podge on the entire vase and then added a layer of brown vintage ink. I liked the texture that that added.

        1. Very cool!

  8. Okay, this may be a dumb question, but what type of vellum do I need? I am looking on amazon and have no clue. Should I get they type that says for inkjet. Clear or translucent? pounds? Yikes! I am looking in the office section. Never bought it before, but such a cool project for Christmas gifts 🙂 Love your blog!

    1. Hmm, I’m not sure- I always just go to the craft store and pick something out look and feel! Maybe try that and then you can look up the specific one on Amazon?

  9. These are so, so lovely! I posted it for a friend who is helping to coordinate a wedding, and she loved it too. Thanks so much for a gorgeous, AFFORDABLE idea!

  10. I think this is the best centerpiece EVER! I am already working on ones for my in-laws for Christmas Eve. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this idea. Thank you!

  11. Love this idea but how did you print out the photos to fit all around your jar/vase? Did you have 2 different photos? One on front and different one to fill the back side? Help, I’m technically challenged!

  12. Love this, I’m going to get some vellum today! We have lost several loved ones this year and I’m going to put their pictures on a candle in remembrance of them during the holidays.

  13. The best idea I’ve seen in a long time. Definitely going to make these. I still have some left over vellum (somewhere) from our wedding invites. Brilliant, thank you so much 😀

  14. Love Love Love this. I’ve been working trying to transfer pictures unsuccessfully onto a candle, this is so much easier. One question, does the candles burn the vellum or do you use the fake ones??? So afraid of causing a fire. Many thanks for posting this

  15. Looks pretty cool! I wonder if there’s something you could put over them on the outside so as to protect the paper? I was thinking maybe laminate them or cover them with a plastic sleeve? But then, that might make them look too “shiny”.

    Any thoughts anybody?

    I guess I’d worry that somebody would splash them with something… or…well…we have a cat who sneezes a lot. But I suppose printing another copy of the photo, trimming, and replacing it wouldn’t be too hard.

  16. Hi, I’m Dutch (The Netherlands/Europe) and I like to thank you for this GREAT idea!!!
    I will try this for Christmas, isn’t it a good idea to ask all the users to send their photos and show them here?
    Thanks, thanks, thanks, one of the best ideas in years!

  17. Hi, I’m a Dutch (The Netherlands/Europe) woman and I like to thank you for this GREAT idea!!!
    I will try this for Christmas, isn’t it a good idea to ask all the users to send their photos and show them here?
    Thanks, thanks, thanks, one of the best ideas in years!

  18. What a beautiful idea! I’m rather DIY challenged, but these seem simple enough for even me to do! As a matter of fact, I’m going to try making a few as Christmas gifts!

  19. Hi!! I am hoping you can help!! I decided to try your project, I purchased the vellum, the vases, double sided sticky tape and put it all together. When I lit the candles, the sticky take came unstuck and the photos curled off… HELP!!!

  20. I love this going to try it tonight did anyone try it with hodge pledge yet to keep the photos permente ? Just wondering:)

    1. I tried, and it didn’t work for me. It wrinkled the vellum, which didn’t look good on the faces.

  21. Oh wow, I went out and bought everything you said because I feel in love with this project… its now 3 days before Christmas and I cant get it to work.. I also have a canon pixma photo printer but I just cant get the vellum to print at all, I even stuck another piece of paper behind it so that I could trick the printer, but nothing… I am very sad, these are just gorgeous!!!! Any ideas for me???

  22. Going to try this tonight WITH the modge podge. Hope it works! Up against it for inlaw presents. Will post a note on how it goes. Have printed on vellum for scrapbooking, don’t know why that worked, maybe the printer? Hoping this works with the modge podge.

    1. Ok. Modge podge did NOT work for me. Wrinkled the vellum, and that didn’t look good on the faces. Will have to be plain. If they get splashed, printing a new one won’t be that big of a deal I suppose.

  23. Thank you so much for the wonderful how-to, and the gorgeous photos, and the amazing idea in the first place! They turned out BEAUTIFULLY!!! May I suggest a tip? If your glasses are not perfectly straight sided (mine were angled out at an imperceptible degree) wrap your glass in regular typing paper (hold or tape to keep it from moving), and trace around the top and bottom edge. You will have a perfect pattern that, when placed behind your vellum print, makes centering your photo a breeze. Also, I took a string, wrapped it around my glass, then measured it to get the length I needed for print (my small votive holder was 2 1/2″ tall by a shocking 7″ around!). Hope this helps.

  24. Do you think this would work for black and white pictures? I love this idea and thinking of doing it for my baby shower but using copies of my sonogram pics of the baby

  25. I haven’t made these but I think I would suggest only one piece of tape and bring the ends of the photo together there. I “THINK” (LOL) that if you do take in more than one spot, it will show through the vellum. Also, when you go to the craft store, ask for help around the Modge Podge. There may be one that is permanent (not all are) and will withstand the heat from the candle. GREAT DIY.

  26. I LOVE My family pictures, especially since I have my own Lil family, and I LOVE candles and cannot wait to try this!!! 🙂

  27. We made these as our wedding centrepieces, and had tonnes of compliments on them. For my first try I used double sided tape, but when I burned a real candle in them, it released the glue. So, second try was spray adhesive. It didn’t work perfect, but it was pretty good. They held up for the entire reception, but they didn’t look really great at the end of the night, as the heat from the candles had wrinkled the vellum. If I had a ‘do over’ I would have used battery operated candles. Good luck everyone!

  28. Hey there. I was just curious if I am able to use regular drinking glasses for this project. Would the heat from tea light crack it? Just wondering.
    Great project, already planning to do this as a gift for a dear friend.

  29. I was wondering if these could be. Decopaged to make them more durable? That way they could be wiped clean and stay pretty longer.

  30. Does anybody have suggestions on how to make this more permanent? I am wondering if there is a type of glue I could use to secure the photos to the glass that would not mess up the effect– any suggestions?

  31. Dumb question but from the pictures you posted, it looks almost like you blew up the pictures first and that they printed out the size of the 8/12 x 11 sheet of paper. Am I wrong on this? Hard to tell from the picture what size the pictures turned out to be. i.e did you blow the pictures up first and then print on vellum – so that you could cover a bigger sized jar? It’s probably an optical illusion and I have a feeling you just used a 4 x 6 photo that when printed onto 8.5 x 11 vellum, it stayed at a 4 x 6 size which means you could typically copy 2 pictures onto one sheet of vellum I’m assuming. I too would like to work it with Mod Podge to make more permanent and I bet there are heavier stocks of vellum that could take the wetness of the Mod Podge. I also have a spray adhesive – it doesn’t hurt to experiment I suppose. Great gifts, thanks for posting!

    1. I simply printed out photos to match the size of my project. For the large containers, I printed them at 8.5×11 to use up the whole sheet.

  32. That was the idea i need for the 80th birtsday from my father in law. Thank you and many greetings from germany

  33. I made these for our Thanksgiving table and they were beautiful – they are still part of our Christmas decorations. Everyone thought they had been professionally made – thank you for sharing this project.

  34. has anyone tried placing the vellum inside the glass? depending on the shape of the glass & thickness of the vellum you might not need any adhesive and with battery tea lights there would be no fire risk, right?

    1. Did you try putting the vellum inside the glass and using battery tea lights? That was my thought, too. =^..^=

  35. I tried this Thanks! but i had a hard time with vellum meeting up equally in the back? Am I doing something wrong? they are round candle jars? nothing fancy about them. and it almost looked like a V,one side always wanted to pull upwards? any suggestions? I’ve searched internet and I get nothing! or are these suppose to be wrapped lightly not snug?

    1. exactly the same thing happened to me I can not get my vellum to meet up properly. Any ideas anyone ?

  36. I love these and bought all the supplies but I am having a problem when I use my cannon printer to print the picture on the vellum sheet…does anyone have any helpful hints.

  37. Try doin laminating the pic then taping it. And Im going to try using TRACING PAPER, its a lil cheaper and goes through the printer better. And the Eeamination will increase the photo details!!! Wish me luck!

  38. For your printing you can take your digital file to OfficeMax with your vellum and they will print it for you. It is $ .10 for b/w and $ .49 per page. Not a bad price and it is laser print which holds up better. They also look awesome. Don’t smear when when water hits. I send all my prints there. Just bring your own paper or they charge a little more. They will print on just about anything.

  39. I printed mine on translucent velium that has metallic confetti in the paper. I printed a black and white plus colored photo of the same pic on 1 pg. Had no problem with the paper or printing, altho, when it came out it did try to curl up. I laid it flat and let the ink dry on the paper for about 1 hr. Was wondering about using reverse collage glue? I

  40. Sara: I tried the luminaries with photos printed on vellum and put on glass; however, the double stick tape did NOT work at all and the pictures fell off within a minute. What did you do to get the vellum to stick on the tape? I was looking forward to making these for gifts, but it isn’t working. Please help. I saw on another page to use mod podge, but that didn’t work too well either. Thanks for you help.

    1. I just used regular scotch brand doublestick tape and they’re still stuck on there like the day I did them!

  41. Just found your tutorial for the Photo Luminaries, and I have a question. Just a beginner in projects such as this, I am not familiar with “vellum”. I looked online at Hobby Lobby and found packs of Vellum listed as being clear. Is that what you are talking about?? Also, do you use just regular snapshot photos and copy in the same way you would on regular copy paper?? My printer/copier is a Canon PIXMA MG3122 and does a good job coping with regular copy paper, but I am not sure about how to use the Vellum. Any help you can give me will be greatly appreciated. I love the project!! Thanks for your time. kdm

    1. Kay, you’re not making copies, you’re actually printing the photo onto the vellum. And the vellum is transparent. Not clear, but sort of like the same transparency as tissue paper (only thicker.) If you’re confused, I would recommend asking someone at the store. Hope that helps.

  42. Have not tried this yet, but I have another question (probably a very dumb question): Does the picture go on the inside of the jar, or the outside?? I read all of the comments that were showing on your site and did not find that particular question, which shows that everyone else is smarter than me!!!!! (I did look closely at your pictures in the tutorial and it looks, to me, like the pictures are on the outside of the jar, but I just want to be sure. Again, thanks for your time. kdm

    1. Outside 🙂

  43. Hi, I also have the same question as a lady above, and don’t believe I saw an answer. She wondered about using regular drinking glasses, or would the heat be too hot from the candle? I saw a lot of heavy glasses at the Goodwill store, but didn’t buy them because I thought I probably had to use mason jars? Also more ideas on making it permanent? Glues that hold up to heat? Thanks for the great ideas though, will try them, but hope someone can answer these questions before I start.

    1. I can only show you what I did, if you want to experiment with other forms of glass containers or glues, you’d have to experiment!

  44. Could you please email me this my parents passed away I would like to have a go at this for my sins I don’t have a printer at home thank you

  45. Thanks for sharing this! I had printed some photos on vellum about a month ago to see the affect. I loved it but then was like, “what can I do with them, they’re sheer and would be nice with a light behind them”….. Now I know!

  46. I want to make these for my husband’s 40th birthday party. On Amazon they have “clear” vellum paper – all different pounds. The shipping is quite pricey. At staples they have white vellum paper. Can I use white vellum paper? What pound can I use? Is 29 pound to thick? My friend suggested 17 pound paper. The paper at staples is white and 29 pound. Would white be better than clear!, Please HELP!!!!!!!! His party is next weekend. ThanKS for the great idea!

  47. My mother passed away this past May. I am thinking of making these with pictures of my Mom and giving them as gifts this Christmas to my grieving family members. Thank you for this great idea!!!

  48. What kind of Vellum paper are you supposed to buy????? I don’t know what will work best and its not listed? No stores around here seem to carry it, i can just get it online and everythings really vague about it being translusant? Can anyone please help me?? 🙂

  49. Sara, I do not have a photo printer. Would a regular printer work instead? I would love to do these for Christmas presents.

  50. If you put more than one photo on a single jar/container, when you like the candles do you see the one in back shining through on the front photo? Does that make sense?

  51. Thank you for a wonderful idea! To make them more permanent, perhaps some clear polyurethane spray?

  52. I was thinking of making these for Christmas gifts so I bought the stuff I needed and tried one but it will not stick! the double sided sticky tape sticks to the glass but the velum will only stay for maybe five minutes anyone have any help for it to stay?

  53. I Have wasted 5 sheets of vellum now and my question is my color does not come out it horrible it’s nothing like the picture almost blurry, I’ve tried just to do black but nothing comes out do I set it on color setting, do I need to adjust my color setting some how, do I just use black/white pics, tell me what I’m doing wrong was gonna make these for Christmas cuz they didn’t seem too hard but now I’m thinking different.

    1. I had to change the setting on my printer to print on the vellum. I have the choice of translucent I think & that worked. I decorated some vellum with stickers & made it into a cylinder with double sided tape. Put a battery operated candle in the middle for Christmas decorations to share.

  54. I was in the same boat! I found the lighter your picture is the better it comes out! I was using a picture of ornaments on snow and if I make the snow bright white with no shadows it comes out fine try brightening the contrast. I found if I put a small strip of color duct tape on it to seal it, it works great! hope this helps!

  55. These look fabulous! It looks like you used white vellum and low weight cause the edges are curling up after you printed them? The pictures are sized (enlarged) before you print them. Tape and vellum are applied to the OUTSIDE of the jar?

  56. Ok so my question is how do you get them small enough for a tea light candle? What size do u print. Because when i print wallet it makes my picture the whole wallet size..

  57. I had trouble with the photo clarity after printing on vellum. Landscape photos were fine but photos were too detailed and did not print well at all. For example, eyes would come out solid black. Maybe depends a lot on the type of printer?

  58. My concern is using an inkjet printer will it smear if you try to seal the photos on the glass? Your projects are beautiful! Thank you for sharing

    1. You’ll have to just experiment, I’ve only done it with vellum 🙂

  59. Hi….just an fyi…I did this on glass bricks for a wedding they come in 5″ to 12″ square sizes…rule of thumb with printers is if you want the pictures or art work to be permanent on vellum you need to use a lazer printer, being thermal it won’t run if you get liquid on it.

    1. Just cut to fit 🙂

  60. do you think a flame less candle would work? My grandpa is in assisted living and can’t have actual flame candles!

  61. Hey (: can’t wait to try these! Yours are absolutely stunning. I was wondering if it needs to be a certain kind of vellum or if any would work?

    Thank you!

    1. It kind of depends on your printer- I’ve been able to print on basic vellum from the craft store. Good luck!

  62. I love this idea as a gift for grandparents at Christmas – I’m in the UK and am struggling to find vellum paper that I can lay my hands on quickly. I’ve found vellum parchment paper, do you think that would work please? Many thanks!

    1. Hard to say, but you can definitely try!

    1. I don’t know how it would adhere to the vellum/ink, but you could certainly try it!

    1. Maybe, but I’ve never tried, you’d have to experiment!

  63. Hi

    Can something else be used instead of vellum? Something not animal – derived pls? Otherwise awesome 🙂


    1. In times past vellum was made from animal hides. Today, however, vellum is made solely from cotton, wood pulp, synthetic materials or a combination of these things. Fear not! No animals have been harmed to make vellum products sold at craft stores.

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