Photo Gel Candle

This is such a cool project! We've all seen those gel candles with all kinds of neat stuff in the bottom of them -candies, marbles, miniature toys, etc. But we've taken it a step further and made it REALLY personalized! We've printed photos on inkjet shrink sheets and suspended them in the gel candle! The pictured candle also has a couple of gold and ivory buttons suspended in it that you can't really see from the photo, and there's also a second copy of the shrink sheet photo on the back of the candle as well. We glued the glass candle bowl to a glass taper holder with hot glue, added a gold and ivory candle ring to the bottom - also attached with hot glue, and then topped it off with a piece of gold ribbon around the base of the bowl. We used the same photo as on the wedding invitation set seen on our Custom Work page. The happy couple will use this gel candle as a centerpiece on their table at the reception.

Gel wax is very easy to use. The biggest secret is to make certain that the wax has cooled enough before you begin to insert your shrink sheet photos or other trinkets in order to cut down on the amount of bubbles in the wax. This will allow for a clearer view of the photos. The only preparation for the shrink sheet photos is a coat of clear nail polish on the back to protect the ink from the heat of the wax. Think of the themes you can use for this project! A new baby. A birthday gift. Christmas gift. A wedding gift or favor or, as this couple is doing, a centerpiece!

NOTE:Since the nail polish applied to the back of the shrink sheets makes them flammable, this is a candle that should be used purely for decorative purposes. Burning the candle with the shrink sheets in them may be hazardous, so for the purpose of safety we have altered this project and removed the wick.

FROM Gale Thomas of Crafts by Gale: Place a small glass votive type candle filled with gel and wick in the center of the large candle. That way, the candle can be burned safely and will not destroy the gel with the inserted picture.


Inkjet shrink sheets

Gel candle wax (Available in craft stores)

Gel candle fragrance (optional - also available at craft stores - MAKE CERTAIN THE FRAGRANCE IS MADE SPECIFICALLY FOR GEL CANDLES!)

Glass bowl

Glass column or taper candleholder for base


Candle ring

Trinkets to insert in candle wax - optional (we used some fancy buttons - also available at craft stores)

Needle nose pliers or long tweezers

Teflon coated baking pan

Pencil (for wrapping the wick to hold it in place when you pour the wax)

Candy or candle thermometer


1) Design your photo in your graphics program and print on the shrink sheet. It will take some trial and error to get the sizing correct since the shrink sheet designs usually shrink to about 1/3 their original size. What we did was put three of the same photo on a shrink sheet in three different sizes and saved the file. This way when we finally baked the sheets and came up with a finished photo that was the size we needed for our particular bowl, we could print out a few more to have two for the candle and a couple extra "just in case".

2) Let the shrink sheets set for at least 30 minutes before cutting out your photos and baking. This will give the ink some time to dry. Once they are dry, cut out your design, leaving a thin margin around the edges. As per the manufacturer's instructions, place the cut out photos on a Teflon coated baking sheet with the printed side down. (Do NOT use Silver Stone or any other non-stick pan - the shrink sheets only work right when you use Teflon coated pans.)

3) Bake in a 275 - 300 degree oven for a few minutes and keep an eye on them. First they will start to curl and shrink and then they will begin to flatten out. Once they have flattened, take them out of the over and allow them to cool. Once they have cooled, brush a coat of clear nail polish on the printed (dull) side and set aside to dry.

4) In a saucepan or other pot, place the gel candle wax into the pot and set on the stove at medium heat. Keep an eye on this as well. If you use the entire jar (it took a 23 oz. jar to make the candle pictured), it will take about 10 - 15 minutes to melt completely. Use your thermometer frequently to make certain the wax does not heat to above 250 degrees.

5) Once the wax has melted you can add the fragrance. One half of a 1/2 oz. bottle is all you need for 23 oz. of gel wax. Stir gently to spread the fragrance throughout the wax.

6) Now you're ready to pour the wax. Make sure the bowl is on a heat resistance surface and begin to pour the wax SLOWLY into the bowl.

7) In order to avoid a lot of bubbles in your finished candle, it's necessary to let the wax cool down substantially before you start to insert anything into the candle and to keep the items from sinking to the bottom of the bowl. Once it is merely warm to the touch and feels pretty much like set Jello, you should be able to start inserting your photos and trinkets.

8) Using the needle nosed pliers or a long pair of tweezers, pick up the photos and trinkets from the very edge and slowly lower them into the setting wax. If the wax is too warm and the items begin to sink, you can pull them back up but keep in mind that the more you go into the wax to move things around, the more bubbles you will wind up with. Don't worry about the wax that sticks to the pliers or tweezers when you pull them out. Just toss it.

9) Once you have all your items in the candle, take the column or taper candleholder and the candle ring and using a hot glue gun, glue the ring to the base of the column. Then apply a generous amount of hot glue to the top of the column and set the gel candle bowl on top of the column.

10) All that's left to do now is tie it all up with some pretty ribbon that coordinates with your flower ring! You can also use a dab of hot glue here and there to hold the ribbon is place.

That's it! What recipient of this totally personalized and truly unusual gift won't be amazed at your handiwork?


Photo Gel Candle Instructions

For a print friendly version, click on this link.

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