Plain 7-day candles are great, but they certainly have that je ne sais quoi appeal when festooned with colorful labels. Most of the readily available labeled ones are of Catholic iconography, though, and buying them makes me feel guilty. There are plenty of specially designed hoodoo candles on the market, which the manufacturers call “mystical candles” or “veladoras místicas“. These are essentially the same candles, only with different labels promising love, luck, and money. They just cost $12-15 instead of $1-3.
If you’re going to go through the process of making your own 7-day candle, you can magically charge the stuff that actually gets burned rather than slapping a label over the same old same old. In fact, you can add herbs, oils, and small stones to the wax if you want. Or, if you’re using the coconut oil additive trick, you can steep herbs in that oil before making the candle so that every speck of wax has a special correspondence with your purpose. But it is awfully fun to have a corresponding label, too. And it’s dead easy to whip one out.
The first thing you are going to want to do is measure your specific candle jar. There are loads of manufacturers out there, and I’m fairly sure each one uses a few different glass molds as I’ve seen the same candle from the same company use slightly different jars. Most of these 8-inch tall jars are straight cylinders, but they have slight bends or tapers at the top and bottom. You just want to measure the straight bit and not any of the bends. It’s easiest to measure this with a sewing tape measure, which is flexible and will hug the glass. Once you’ve taken the height measurement, subtract 1/2 inch. Then measure around the circumference of the jar and add 1/2 inch. For example if the “rectangle” you measured is 7.5 inches tall and 7.5 inches long, the label you create will be 7 inches tall and 8 inches long. The shorter height will leave about a quarter-inch glass border at the top and bottom, which will look nice and give you some fudge factor. The longer length will allow your label to have a 1/4-inch overlap seam in the back, which will help the label remain stuck to the jar when glued.
The other major thing is that you need a picture that is in “portrait” orientation. And this is a case where you would want it to be much skinnier than a normal portrait. If your final image should be about 7 inches in height, you really do not want the image to be more than 5 inches wide. 4 would really be the preferred maximum.
Once you’ve got an image you like either drawn, photoshopped, or simply uploaded and cropped into a rectangle you think looks decent, you’re ready to print it. The easiest way I have found to do this is by using Microsoft Word (I know!) on standard letter paper (8.5 x 11) and manually trimming your paper to the desired size.
Begin by setting your page to print in landscape orientation (see how the icon with the man on his side is darker?) and setting the document’s margins to .5 inches on all four sides. I’m running an older version of Word for Mac, and I know it’s different on the newest Windows OS, but those are the settings you want for whatever version of Word you are using. Once that is set, go to Insert > Photo > Picture from File and select the picture you want to use from your files.
At this point, the image should insert itself into the document and automatically resize itself to fit within the top and bottom margins of a letter-sized paper. We need to re-size it. If your height measurement of your label is 7 inches, then you would likely want something between 6.5 and 6.75 inches as the final height of your image. It is very easy to set the image height in word by simply dragging a corner of your image to shrink or enlarge the image. At whichever corner you click, a little yellow box will appear that will display the width and height of the image, as shown below.
Resize the image to your desired height, then center on in the page, either by selecting the center alignment button in the home tab, or by clicking on the image and hitting command + E for Mac or control + E for PC.
Finally, I like to soften the edges of the image, simply because I think the harsh straight lines look a little weird with candlelight coming through them unless they are a decorative border, and I do not have the skills to fiddle with creating a decorative border. If you want to soften the edges, you just select “Format Picture”, go to “Glow & Soft Edges” and move the bar on the soft edges right from zero. I tend to think somewhere in the neighborhood of 19 points looks pretty decent.
And with that, your need for the computer for this project is at an end. All you need to do is print the image. I prefer to use a translucent vellum paper because it looks a bit like frosted glass on the candle jar, and it lets the light come through the image beautifully. It also “softens” the image, so if you’ve stolen a fairly low resolution image from the Internet like I did here, it will still look decent when it is printed and when light shines through it. Alternately you could use a parchment or even one of those transparency sheets used for overhead projectors. You just want to stay away from a very opaque paper, especially since this label will wrap all the way around the candle. When you print the image, you may find that you will get a cleaner image if you use a laser printer. Inkjet printers lay down strips of ink, and those strips do not always blend together well. When backlit, even the best ones can be fairly obvious.
Once you’ve got your images printed, all that needs to be done is to cut them down to the desired label shape and glue them onto the candle. Cutting can be done with scissors instead of an X-Acto blade if needed, but you will likely still need a ruler with a straight edge to make your measurements and a pencil to lightly mark your cut lines.
Finding the top and bottom cut lines can really be done by eye. If your image is a quarter of an inch smaller than the label height, you just scootch the straight edge up or down the border a small tad, make sure the line is parallel with the paper edge and mark your line. Left and right will require some subtraction and division. If your paper is 11 inches wide and your label needs to be 8 inches, subtract 8 from 11 and divide by 2. You would in this case need to take 1.5 inches off the left and right sides of the paper.
Once you’ve got your label cut, you just need to apply the glue. Choose a washable glue stick, and choose one that is “repositionable” if you can. Washable formulas will allow you to easily wash off the adhesive with normal soap and water when you go to make a new candle after using this one, and the repositionable formula will allow you some fudge time if you really botch gluing the label down the first time. You will lay a thorough smear of glue not only in a few places in the middle of the label (total coverage is not necessary), but along all four edges (where total coverage is pretty necessary). You’ll need to get glue on, not just near, the edges, so protect your surface with some paper before beginning gluing. Wax paper seems to resist the glue and it doesn’t leave any smears on the vellum, so it’s a great choice if you have it.
I couldn’t take pictures of how to apply the label, but you basically line the top edge parallel to the cylinder edge, but a touch lower. Then you sort of roll your hand around to thoroughly glue down one of the two side edges, moving your hand up and down the paper to eliminate air bubbles. Then press the label down as you glue it around the jar, again moving your hand around to eliminate air bubbles. If you’re worried about your skin oils leaving prints on the vellum or smearing the ink, use a clean rag to press down the label. When you get to the overlap seam in the back, make sure the edges meet neatly and make sure you glue it down so that you get no little “ripples” along the seam. If you’re using vellum, it is stiff enough that it will not crinkle or crease, or even move that much along the glass. Gluing it neatly is very easy–far easier than the gluing projects we did in grade school! Once the label has been smoothed down to your satisfaction, let it sit to dry for about 5 minutes, and then you are free to light your candles!
I know it’s a little silly, but I really love the idea of labels. If you were a talented artist, you could draw iconography pertaining to a type of spell you were doing if these were spell candles, rather like Sabrina Underwood or “Sabrina the Ink Witch” has on her line of 7-day candles. And how cool would it be to make a few of these up showing black and white images of our dearly departed? That would make for a gorgeous Samhain altar, especially for a coven. I think the artwork is a great way to add just another level of oomph to whatever working you’re using these candles for.