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How To Make Kitten Luminary on Cans DIY

Updated on June 13, 2020
Maren Morgan M-T profile image

Maren and her two cats are loving the show outside their windows.

The Cute Kitten Tin Can Luminary

Can you picture a row of these glowing kitten luminaria on a gentle summer's night?
Can you picture a row of these glowing kitten luminaria on a gentle summer's night? | Source


A luminary (the plural is luminaria or luminaries) is a light within a container such as a paper bag or other open-topped vessel. They are fun any time of year. With the availability of inexpensive battery-operated flickering votives, luminaries need not be dangerous or too hot to handle. Although some luminaria are solely a light within a container (this works best with the paper bag variety), others have a container using tiny holes on the sides to make a picture. This craft of creating a luminary with holes outlining a kitten’s image can be done by older children and adults.


Empty, food cans (ranging from 6 ounces to 2 pound size)

Water and a freezer (the freezer can be Mother Nature)

Ruler, scrap paper, pencil

Marker or felt pen which will write on metal

Rag-towels (any thick rag-type fabric which can be bunched under and around a can to hold it in place and prevent it from being scratched by the surface underneath). However, don't use any towel which is precious to you. It may tear or get marked.

Safety goggles

2-inch sturdy, thick nails (not “finish” nails)


Battery votive OR ½ cup of sand and a real votive

Tin Can Supplies

Ordinary food cans in the pantry.
Ordinary food cans in the pantry. | Source
Wash the tin cans thoroughly.
Wash the tin cans thoroughly. | Source
Clean, empty food cans with the top removed.  (Bottom remains.)
Clean, empty food cans with the top removed. (Bottom remains.) | Source


1. After enjoying whatever food came in the cans you have selected, thoroughly soak and wash them with soap. Repeat as many times as is necessary to remove absolutely all the food remnants. You do not want all your beautiful art to be “modified” by bacteria or mold growing on some tidbit in an inner crease. Dry thoroughly.

2. Fill each can with clean water and put in the freezer or put outside in below freezing weather. The purpose of making this inner ice block is to create a temporary solid surface against which to pound the nail making the picture on your luminary.

3. Practice sketching the kitten picture you would like on your scrap paper. The secret to success is in the proportions of body parts. Baby animals are easily identified because they have different proportions than do the adult animals. (This is true for humans as well.)

My guidelines are:

Head height is 4 times larger than eye height. Example: Head 2 inches tall; eyes ½ inch tall.

Ear height is ¾ head height. Example: Ear height is 1.5 inches; head is 2 inches.

Front paw height is “about” ½ of head height (a little less than ½). Example: paw height is ¾ inch; head height is 2 inches.

Other guidelines are to draw a faint line horizontally across the head, bisecting it in halves. Place the eyes completely below this line. Start the ears above the line.

3. When the water inside the can is completely frozen and solid, transfer your kitten drawing onto the outside of the can with a marker. Unless you are using some sort of glow-in-the-dark pen, this drawing will not be seen in the dark when you are lighting and savoring your luminary.

4. Next, take your rag-towels, safety goggles, hammer and thick nails to a sturdy surface which will not be harmed by either melting water or strong impact of the hammering. Outside on a concrete sidewalk could be ideal!

5. Put on the goggles. Really. Your sight is too precious to risk. Starting with the ears, use a nail and hammer to punch a small hole every 1/8 inch (1/2 centimeter) along your lines. If you feel confident and the can is behaving nicely, you may want to make additional holes closer together or even with a smaller diameter nail. However, I recommend using a practice can.for experimenting with nail sizes.

6. When done, place the can upside-down outside or in a sink or tub to let the remaining ice melt and drain away.

Getting Ready to Pound Holes

Sketch of kitten pattern.
Sketch of kitten pattern. | Source
Tin can full of ice.
Tin can full of ice. | Source
A hammer, safety eye goggles, and an old towel.
A hammer, safety eye goggles, and an old towel. | Source

Practical Tips

Smooth cans handle more easily than ribbed ones. My photos show ribbed cans and I will tell you that it is harder to position your nail with them.

Also, as I work punching holes in a can, the marker lines rub off quickly with the handling combined with moisture condensation. Maybe my markers aren't permanent enough? Anywway, please be aware of this - that your guidelines might disappear before the punching is done.

Completed Kitten Luminary

A glowing kitten warms the darkness.
A glowing kitten warms the darkness. | Source

Enjoy your cats - both real and in your art.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Maren Elizabeth Morgan


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