DIY Colored Patio Lights

Here’s a great project for anyone who, like me, enjoys the cheer of brightly colored patio lanterns but doesn’t want to pay a lot for them.

With a few dollar store items, a string of white outdoor Christmas lights, and your neighbor’s drill, you’re all set for a fun and useful DIY project.

Required Materials for Plastic Shot Glass Patio Lights
Required Materials for Plastic Shot Glass Patio Lights

Required Materials:

  • string of white outdoor Christmas lights
  • plastic shot glasses — one for each bulb plus a few spares
  • acrylic craft paint in several colors of your choice
  • craft paint brush — I found a fan-shaped brush quick and easy to work with, but a wide flat brush works as well
  • hand held drill — cordless is best
  • spade drill bit, also known as a paddle bit, sized slightly larger than the widest part of your bulb sockets — I tried several and finally settled on a 7/16-inch bit
  • small rubber bands

Getting Started

1. Plan your color scheme

Divide your plastic shot glasses into equal quantities for each of the paints you have chosen.

2. Paint

Paint the interior of each shot glass. The interior is painted rather than the exterior so that rain won’t wear away at your paint. I’ve only had my lights up through one season, but they weathered it well!

3. Repaint (optional)

Repaint each glass a second time if you don’t like the coverage after the first coat. I actually like the ambiance created by a somewhat streaky finish. You’ll probably still get that effect with a second coat once the lights are on in the dark.

4. Drill

Once your glasses are dry, turn them over and drill a hole through each base. It will take some practice to get the pressure right. You may crack a glass or two before you find your groove. The best position I found was to stand over the drill with the shot glasses on a table. This helped me to control the pressure and maintain a straight up and down angle over the drill. The heat of your drill bit will melt a hole to some extent. Keep a newspaper underneath to collect the plastic “crumbs” that come off as well. Expect it to take up to 30 seconds to drill each hole. The pointed tip of the blade will make a small initial hole and the paddle-shaped portion of the blade will bore a wider hole after the tip has broken through. Wear a mask if you don’t like the smell of melting plastic.

5. Attach to your lights

Slide each shot glass over the bulbs/sockets according to the color pattern you have chosen. If you’ve used the right-sized drill bit, this step may require some twisting and wriggling as it should be a snug fit. To prevent any non-snug-fitting glasses from coming off, wrap a small rubber band around the bulb socket after you’ve slipped the glass on. Your shot glass can rest against the band, preventing it from slipping off.

DIY Plastic Shot Glass Patio Lights
DIY Plastic Shot Glass Patio Lights
DIY Plastic Shot Glass Patio Lights

Voila! Enjoy your summer under the warm, cheery glow of your DIY shot glass patio lights!