How to Make Swirled Container Candles

five lit swirled container candles

The Spruce / David Fisher

Overview
  • Total Time: 3 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $5 to $10

The humble container candle has more potential than we often give it credit for. You don't have to limit yourself to just one color wax. You can make multicolored container candles in just about any container that is fireproof and doesn't leak. This tutorial for swirled container candles uses a jelly jar or similar clear glass container, so you can truly appreciate the colorful wax. The swirling technique produces a feathered, marbled, almost tie-dye look in colors of your choosing. The process is fairly easy to learn and only takes a few hours of your time. The best part is each candle is a unique creation that you can personalize with your favorite colors. These candles also make great customized gifts.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Wick bar or plastic straw
  • Hot glue gun and hot glue
  • Kitchen scale (for weighing wax)
  • Pot to melt the wax
  • Thermometer
  • Thin wire or wick pin
  • Toothpicks
  • Heat gun
  • Oven mitt

Materials

  • 1 Clear jelly jar or other heat-safe glass container
  • 1 Candle wick
  • Candle wax
  • Fragrance (optional)
  • Concentrated liquid candle dyes (not dye chips)

Instructions

  1. Prepare a Basic Candle

    Start by forming a basic container candle following these steps:

    1. Set the wick: Use a wick bar or straw balanced across the top of the container to hold the wick and keep it centered. Put a dab of hot glue on the bottom of the wick tab, and press it into the inside center of the container bottom.
    2. Melt the wax: Heat enough wax to fill your container to about 180 degrees Fahrenheit in your pot to melt it. There are online calculators that can help you determine the weight of wax you'll need to fill a specific container size.
    3. Add fragrance (optional): If you want fragrance (such as essential oil) in your candle, add it to the melted wax using about 1 ounce per pound of wax.
    4. Pour the wax into the container: Cool the wax to about 150 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, pour it into your container, leaving a little space at the top. Make sure the wick is centered.
    setup for swirled container candles
    The Spruce / David Fisher
  2. Cool the Candle and Poke a Hole

    Let the candle cool until the wax turns opaque on the sides and about 1/8 inch of a somewhat hard skin forms on the top of the candle. This takes about 30 to 45 minutes.

    Then, holding a thin wire or wick pin against the inner edge of the container, make a small hole in the top of the candle and push the wire to the bottom of the container.

    poking a hole with the wick
    The Spruce / David Fisher
  3. Poke a Ring of Holes

    Continue poking holes with the wire around the edge of the candle. If you want several veins of color running through your candle, poke a ring of around nine holes. If you want less color, poke fewer holes.

    poking the ring of holes
    The Spruce / David Fisher
  4. Add the Color

    Using a toothpick, dab a tiny drop of liquid candle dye into the top of each hole. Use a different toothpick for each dye color you've chosen, and alternate the colors in any pattern you like.

    Note that a little dye goes a long way. You can always add more, but you don't want to add too much or it could make the swirled effect too solid.

    adding a drop of color
    The Spruce / David Fisher 
  5. Finish Your Color Pattern

    Here's what the candle top looks like after color is dabbed into the holes. The candle on the left has three yellow, three blue, and three red dabs of color. The candle on the right alternates between red and yellow dye.

    ring of color drops in the candles
    The Spruce / David Fisher
  6. Start the Swirl

    Using a heat gun, first heat the top of the candle gently, so the dye starts to mix with a little melted wax. From the outside, you'll be able to see that the melted colored wax is starting to seep down the holes.

    heating the top
    The Spruce / David Fisher
  7. Heat the Sides

    Next, heat around the sides of the jar. Move the heat gun evenly up and down along a color hole for about 10 seconds, and then go on to the next hole. The wax down the side should melt and begin to swirl with the dye.

    heating the side
    The Spruce / David Fisher
  8. Continue Heating and Swirling

    Continue heating around the sides of the candle to melt more wax. As more of the wax heats up, it will continue to produce a unique swirl with the dye. You can help the process along by swirling the jar a little yourself (while wearing an oven mitt). You also can use the wire or wick pin to swirl color with the wax. This often can be helpful to push the dye all the way to the bottom of the candle.

    Note that the dye will continue to swirl even after you stop heating the jar. So once you feel dye has been evenly dispersed along the sides to your liking, you can stop heating and manually swirling.

    heating and swirling the candle
    The Spruce / David Fisher
  9. Trim the Wick and Let the Candle Cure

    Let your candle cool for about an hour. During this time, the colors will continue to swirl quite a bit more. Then, trim the wick to about 1/4 inch above the top of the candle. Set the candle aside for a couple of days to cure before first burning it.

    Tip

    Take notes of the color patterns you use for your swirled container candles. If you create a candle you really like, you can try to replicate it. However, be aware that you'll never be able to produce identical candles with this process.

    swirled container candles lit
    The Spruce / David Fisher