How to Make Film Canister Holiday Lights!


Extra photos for bloggers: 123

Ever wonder what to do with all those plastic 35mm film canisters after the rolls of film have been developed?

We’ve always thought these plastic containers were bound to be re-used for something wondrous.

Well, the crafty Sarah MacFarlane had the bright idea of reusing clear film canisters to dress up some colorful Holiday lights!

Hang your lights in a window, on a banister or on a wreath. It’s like a photo-love shout out to all the other photo kids on your block!

Bonus: They’d make a delightful gift for yourself or a lucky photographer friend!

Turn Film Canisters into Lights


Bah, Humbug! Why Should I Do This Holiday DIY?

This DIY is pretty dang easy—easier than untangling that ball of Christmas lights you’re gonna want to use with ‘em!

Did we mention this would be the perfect excuse to get some rolls of films to shoot with that film camera like you’ve always meant to?

List of Ingredients:

  • Clear, plastic 35mm film canisters—enough to cover the number of light bulbs on your string of lights
  • String of Christmas lights
  • Sharpie pen
  • X-Acto knife
  • Cutting mat or something you can cut on

STEP 1: X Marks the Spot

before Got all the film canisters ya need?

You can acquire some by hitting up your local film-developing shop, or perhaps by getting a lot of film rolls for your own personal use. Just make sure you pick up the clear, translucent kind, and not the black, opaque ones!

Use your Sharpie marker to mark an “X” in the middle of the caps of the film canisters.

This “X” marks the opening where you’ll be poking the light bulbs through.

As a guide, the “X”s we marked were about ⅜ of an inch wide.

STEP 2: Cut the X Out

before Now take your cutting mat (or whatever material you have to protect your workspace) and lay it under the marked caps, and use your X-Acto knife to cut the “X” on the caps.

If ya gotta lotta light bulbs on your light string and you were lucky enough to score a ton of film canisters to match, now would be the time to put on some Christmas jams to enjoy as you’re cutting away!

STEP 3: Pop a Cap—Err A Light through the Cap

before Now it’s time to get the lights in action!

Take a light bulb from your light string and carefully pop it through the “X” opening in the cap.

If the light bulb is having a hard time coming through the cap, use your X-Acto knife to make the “X” opening slightly bigger.

STEP 4: Can it Up

before Now with the light bulbs all capped, it’s time to seal ‘em up with the rest of the canister!

STEP 5: Plug & Light ‘Er Up!

before Now it’s that moment you’ve been waiting for… turn off all other lights, plug your string of lights in, and enjoy the beautiful light show!

More Enlightening Ideas

  • Print out 1.5” sized of your favorite Instagrams on vellum or clear acetate sheets, and tape ‘em on the outside of the canisters.
  • No Instagrams? Display some photo negatives on the film canisters instead! (See photo above.)
  • Keep your Christmas bright but safe—make sure you don’t leave your lights plugged in for long periods of time or overnight!
  • Got some extra canisters on hand? Get scientific with ’em by using them to make some rad, launchable film canister rockets!

Special thanks to Sarah MacFarlane for providing helpful tips + being the inspiration behind this DIY, as well as SF’s Photoworks for hooking us up with the film canisters for this tutorial! Hope Santa brings ya both somethin’ extra special for being so awesome!

Posted in DIY