The use of prop candles in theatre is very common. Using real candles can set up a special mood that captivates an audience. They can also set off a fire which alters the mood dramatically. A far safer option is to use electric prop candles however these can look very fake on stage if your not careful. Many look like pin lights on a stick or, if they have a flicker circuit, are constantly flickering in a rhythm. Either is no very candle-like.
Realistic prop candles
Here are some simple steps to make your prop candles look more realistic in your next theatre production.
Instead of using PVC tube to make the candle use clear acrylic tube. Candles are usually 25-30mm in diameter but you can make them whatever size you want. Cut a 30cm length of 30mm clear acrylic tube. Cut a bevel at one end to make it look like a candle that has been burning in the wind.
With a hot glue gun liberally apply hot glue around the top angled edge so that the glue drips down the side of the acrylic tube. You can be very creative here to make it look like melted wax.
In the photo you can see only one layer was applied but you can add additional layers over the top of the previous ones to make it look more interesting.
Now spray the tube with an ivory or cream spray paint. Florist spray paint is best for this because you can get good wax-like colours and the paint in not opaque.
Now wire up the light bulb you will be using. Usually a 6V torch bulb is fine running off a battery. Get a piece of masking tape and stick it over the bulb in the shape of a flame. This softens the bright hot spot from the bulb. Now thread the wire down through the tube until the bulb sits just inside the top of the tube.
When the bulb illuminates you will see the glow of the bulb through the paint at the top of the tube. The glow will extend down the tube just like wax candle. It is this translucent effect which adds realism to the electric candle.
You can also fit a light fitting at the base of the tube as shown so you can quickly replace candles in a candelabra. Avoid using flickering electric candle effects. These look really fake because they tend to flicker in a sequence. If you look at a real candle you will see it only ever flickers if it’s in a draft. Usually it is a constant point of light.