4th of July Family Craft: Light Painting with Sparklers

Happy 4th of July! Your kids will love this 4th of July craft idea: light painting with sparklers. All you’ll need is a camera, tripod, flashlight, and sparklers. Keep reading to learn how to create this fun, patriotic craft!

My kids LOVE the 4th of July! They love going to carnivals, splashing at the waterpark, grilling out, and watching the fireworks. Another activity they look forward to every year is sparklers. We usually buy a big bulk of sparklers at one of our local stores, like Walmart, and light the sparklers after our 4th of July cookout. 

Last year, my family and I tried light painting using sparklers for a cool nighttime 4th of July craft and we had a lot of fun! If you’re a photography enthusiast, then you are probably already familiar with light painting. For those of you who do not know what light painting means, it is really easy to learn.

4th of july craft idea
Travis and Zhen (age 3 at the time) light painting with sparklers. (Photo credit: Good Life Detroit)


Light painting in photography is a technique where the photographer uses long-exposure to capture moving light. Sometimes you can make objects or words from the moving light. (See our examples in the photographs below.)

You can use many different types of light forms for light painting, such as a flashlight, glow stick, or candles. For the sake of this 4th of July craft tutorial, we used sparklers!

“Light painting is an imaging technique that uses a moving light source to add light to an under-illuminated subject while taking a long-exposure photograph. A scene or object can be brought to life by painting with a beam of light!”

–“What is Light Painting?” Wunderlich, Bruce. Digital Photography School.

4th of July Craft Idea: Light Painting with Sparklers
Michala (age 14 at the time) enjoyed making spirals with her sparklers. (Photo credit: Good Life Detroit)
4th of July Craft Idea: Light Painting with Sparklers
(Photo credit: Good Life Detroit)



  • DSLR Camera

    I used my Nikon DSLR camera (see image below). A point-and-shoot camera can also be used for light painting.

  • Tripod

The tripod I use is a SUNPAK tripod I purchased from Best Buy, but you can also find the SUNPAK tripod brand at Walmart. It works very well for light painting with sparklers.

  • Flashlight

You don’t need a big, fancy flashlight for this project. A simple flashlight will work just fine.

  • Light Sparklers

You can buy light sparklers at your local fireworks tent, a fireworks store, or your local retailer.

  • Ideas for images you’d like to create.

Think of an image or word you would like to create for your light painting photograph before you begin. I recommend making a list of the image ideas you and your family would like to create.

You can also practice with a flashlight or glow stick so that way you don’t waste your light sparklers. But light sparklers are generally inexpensive so you and the kids may enjoy practicing with the sparklers!

Light Painting with Sparklers
Light painting using the 4th of July sparklers is a fun activity you can do with your family. (Photo credit: Good Life Detroit)
light painting ideas
X marks the spot! (Photo credit: Good Life Detroit)


1. I put my Nikon DSLR camera on the tripod and adjusted my settings to 100 ISO, f-stop 8.0, and the shutter speed at 10 seconds.

2. Next, I set my camera to manual so I could manually focus on the subjects. Since the photos would be taken in the dark, autofocus would not detect the subject and therefore, be able to fully focus on it.

3. I used my flashlight to help with manually focusing on the subject. For instance, when I needed to focus my camera, I would shine the flashlight on the subject. Travis or one of the kids stood in as my test subject so I could get the manual focus setting right.

4. I put the camera on a 2-second time limit to reduce shaking from my hands. A shutter remote also works for this.

5. Next, each person decided what image he/she would create before lighting the sparklers. We also practiced the motion of how to move the sparklers before lighting the sparklers and taking the photograph.

6. Last, each person lit the sparkler and then I pressed the shutter button on my camera to take the photograph. The person who was light painting with the sparkler continued their movements until the picture was captured. (I would tell my family when to begin and when the picture was taken.)


And that’s it! It was a pretty easy photography activity and it was a lot of fun, too. Of course, you can experiment with your camera settings to find other ways of capturing the images you want.

For instance, you may want to try it with a flash or adjust your camera settings to the “night scene.” Find what works best for you and the desired image you are trying to create.

There are so many creative and fun ways you can light paint with sparklers! I hope you and your family enjoy this 4th of July craft idea!

4th of July Craft Idea: Light Painting with Sparklers
Making fun images with sparklers. (Photo credit: Good Life Detroit)



Heart (Photo credit: Pinterest)

July 4th (Photo credit: Pixabay)

Stars (Photo credit: Instructables)

I Love You! (Photo credit: Pixabay)

Love (Photo credit: pixoto)


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