13 Types of Candles to Set the Perfect Mood & Ambience

Updated: | Categories: Interiors, Lighting
types of candles

People in the United States alone spend around $3 billion on just various types of candles with 7 in every 10 households purchasing at least one. Candles are among the most versatile objects on the planet, playing the role of light giver, mood setter, ambiance creator, and decor setter.

Think about it—you could put a candle in most situations and have it save the day. In short, candles bring a special feel to any space, elevating its look, which is why electricity could never replace candles.

13 Types of Candles

However, if you thought candles only existed in one shape and form, you have another thing coming! Here’s a 101 on the types of candles that exist for some enlightenment (pun totally intended)!

While you're at it, why not check out our list of candle alternatives that might suit your need as well? You'll find something that tickles your fancy.

Tea Lights

tea lights are the most common candle types

Let’s start with the most popular candle types out there—tea lights! These candles have become the go to for cheap, effective decor, and mood setting, sold in cost-effective packs that can be found anywhere, from local stores to Amazon.

You can recognize tea lights easily owing to their small, round structure, and the metal housing. These tiny candle shapes are loved by everyone.

Naturally, since they’re small, tea lights won’t last you very long, but as mentioned earlier, the primary objective of these candles is not to provide light, but to create an intimate ambiance and set the mood, which makes them great for parties, dinners, romantic dates or even just to help you relax and enjoy some time off.

If you want these kinds of candles to light up the space, group them together—this way, you have enough light without compromising on the ambiance.

Pillar Candles

one of the biggest kinds of candles are pillar candles

Pillar candles, as the name suggests, are like pillars—not only do they resemble them, but they can also stand on their own without a holder, though they may not be dripless.

Due to their relatively massive size, these candle styles can burn for hours (3-4, depending on their girth), while looking all kinds of majestic and beautiful where placed.

Pillar candles can be as short as 3 inches or as tall as 16 inches and can sometimes feature up to 3 wicks, letting you control the intensity of light you want. Generally made of palm wax, these candles are also popular for their ability to burn smoke-less.

However, these styles of candles can be easily knocked over, so they may not be the wisest lighting option for a party or busy dinner. Additionally, ensure that you’re placing these candles on heat-resistant surfaces so that there’s no damage to the surface as the candle burns lower.

Votive Candles

votive candles are slightly different candles than tea lights; they are a bit bigger than tea lights and they burn for long periods

These candles look extremely similar to tea lights, with many folks often confusing the two. However, votive candles are bigger than tea lights, generally around 2 inches in width and 2.5 inches in height.

These short, squat candle types are excellent sources of light and like pillar candles, don’t produce smoke on burning. They also burn for surprisingly long periods, given their tiny sizes.

However, votive styles of candles require a container so that the flame can be easily and safely controlled.

Votive candles, unlike tea candles, don’t come with their own houses, so when they burn all the way down, they burn themselves out, so you don’t have to worry about putting them out or your surface getting damaged or your house burning down!

Flameless Candles

if you have pets or kids, the safest candle types would be flameless candle

If an actual flame is too dangerous for you to have around the house (understandable, if you’ve got pets, kids, and clumsy adults in the house!), you may want to consider flameless types of candles.

Though the flame is electronic, these candles look like the real deal, even sometimes designed to occasionally flicker and move to imitate actual flames and look natural as far as possible.

Some even come with remote controls for easy turning on turning off or controlling the intensity of the light, while yet others can be programmed to turn on at specific times.

Flameless candle types have become extremely popular due to their ability to blend functionality and safety without compromising on any of the advantages or beauty that traditional candles bring.

You can still have that warm, intimate environment sans the worry of the house burning down or someone forgetting to extinguish the flame at the end of the night. Fire hazards prevented and aesthetic appeal achieved—win-win!

Additionally, these candles don’t produce any smoke or heat, but are excellent sources of light. Flameless kinds of candles are typically battery powered.

Candle Lamps

candle lamps

Candle lamps are interesting styles of candles. Sometimes there will be a base warmer, but truly the purpose is to have the wax heated and melted, releasing the scents into the air from the heat of an electric light bulb.

In fact, they look like tabletop types of lamps with a lampshade and everything, just situated over a plate where the candle is seated. These different candles should be centered under the bulb for even melting. You can leave the wick in them too.

Forget all the types of floor lamps and table lamps. These will get that job done plus bring a wonderful scent to the room.

Candle Pots

candle pots

Built for stress-busting and bringing in a relaxing ambiance, candle pots (also container candles) are all kinds of beautiful, practical and functional.

These candles, housed in glass jars or pots, let you have a candle burning without worrying about controlling the flame or the hot wax—this means you can even have one on your office desk, worry-free!

Additionally, due to the fact that the wax is poured directly into the glass jar or terracotta pot as opposed to being made separately and then set inside the container, you don’t have to worry about the candle coming loose or popping out of the container.

You don’t need a candleh older, either—in short, these candles are made ready to light. Another feature that makes candle pots popular is that they come in a range of lovely scents, in addition to a range of colors, sizes, and shapes.

Most of them, especially the scented ones, also come with lids to protect the scent when the candle is not in use. This also makes it easy to store.

These beautiful types of candles are a great addition to just about anywhere! I have many that I don't light and use them as parts of the decor. You can tie ribbon or twine around them, dangle potpourri from them, and more. Get creative!

Taper Candles

one of the most traditional candle styles are nothing else than taper candles, you can see them in almost every house

Taper styles of candles belong to the old school family, having been around for seemingly forever. Despite that, these classic candle styles remain timeless in their beauty and functionality.

Tall, slim, and elegant, taper candles can instantly bring a level of sophistication to the party, making them popular fixtures in romantic dinners and formal, intimate gatherings.

Additionally, don’t let the tall, thin shape fool you—these candles look like they won’t last beyond a few hours, but can burn for as long as 10 hours. In other words, perfect for long meals or parties where you don’t want to keep checking the status of your candles.

One drawback, though, is that taper candles can’t stand on their own, which makes candle holders or a candelabra necessary.

Floating Candles

one of the most unique styles of candles is floating candles; they are designed to float on water

Floating candles are a lovely way to light the space in an innovative, attractive and unexpected manner. These types of candles are simply magical and a great way to make your living room cozy.

Floating candles, as the name says, are designed to float on water and when you do light and float them, the result is strikingly beautiful lighting—even more so if the container is large and deep enough to let the candles move with the water.

Additionally, you don’t have to worry about hot wax spilling onto the surface of people knocking the candles over and accidentally starting fires, making these candles extremely safe options. If you don’t feel like floating them, you can also just set them down and use them as normal candles.

However, since these candles are quite small, they burn out quite quickly—unless you’re okay with replacing them as needed during the party, you may want to skip these for long events (the end result is quite worth it, though, so we don’t blame you at all for still wanting these candle types despite the short burn time!).

Birthday Candles

birthday candles

Of course, what’s a list of candles without birthday candles? Almost everyone can recognize these super small, thin, light candles that come in a range of fun shapes, colors, sizes and designs.

These candles are designed to light up and burn down quickly, lasting long enough for the birthday boy or girl to make wishes but not burn down the cake before they do so!

Birthday candles have evolved over the years and today, they come with many features and in many sizes and shapes—numbers, letters and even trick candles that don’t get blown out.

There's even birthday candles that turn into sparklers on the cake to add super-fun twists to regular birthday cakes and parties.

Gel Candles

even though gel candles resemble classic candle shapes, the material used to fuel the fire is different.

A recent innovation in the candle industry, gel candles use high or low-density gel, instead of wax, to fuel the fire.

These generally come in glass jars and can be as short as 3 mm or as tall as 9 mm—the container’s height determines the candle’s height. They can really fix up your bedroom feng shui if placed in the right areas of the room.

Gel candle styles are lightly scented, more because of the natural scent of the gel than any intentional scenting. These are great options for pool-side or dinner-table decor.

However, the containers that these candles are housed in tend to heat up quite fast; therefore, it’s recommended that you don’t burn these candles for longer than 2 hours.

Cartridge Candles

cartridge candles

Cartridge candles are super-economical and designed specifically for emergencies and vigil. Though available in a range of sizes and colors, these candles can burn for up to 90 hours, fuelled by disposable liquid paraffin.

Liquid Candles

liquid candles are types of candles that are using oil to fuel the fire

Made using soft and pure liquid paraffin, these types of candles can last between 8 and 100 hours, based on how much paraffin there is.

They’re generally transparent and about 2.5 inches thick. These candles are safe to use and don’t leave behind messy drippings to deal with later.

Insect Repellent Candles

insect repellent candles

You may not think of insect repellent candles as types of candles but they count! They often come in small tins and even large pails.

When you light them they disperse into the air the same chemical you would otherwise spray on your skin, and are equally effective.

Usually they're scented though you can get the unscented kind as well. The only time these don't work as great as you'd expect is during a very windy period of the day.

But otherwise, they're great. If you can place several around your seating area to really ramp up the effectiveness. They had candles, but I bet they wish they had insect repellent ones in the various types of castles from the past.

Candle Styles

candle styles

A quick mention of different candles styles to consider boil down to their wicks, wax type, and a couple other things.

When it comes to wicks you essentially have four options, which are your standard cotton wicks, paper core wicks that may burn a little too fast, metal core wicks that slow down the process, and then the newer and very popular wood wicks that may even crackle and pop to add some romance to the atmosphere.

In addition you might want to consider the wax type you use. I don't really care, personally, though some seem to hold more scent than others if that's what you're going for. You'll generally have five options: paraffin wax, palm wax, soy wax, bayberry wax, and beeswax. There's even the new gel candle types now.

The other considerations is if you just want light you should go for the unscented candle types, though I see no reason not to mix in some pleasant scents. There's also aspects such as whether or not the styles of candles you're looking for are dripless so you can leave them less attended.

Types of Candles for Every Occasion

One would think that with the advent of electricity, candles would have lost their popularity and usefulness and become obsolete by now, but these humble household objects have always been around to stay.

As you can see, unless you’re happy limiting decorative candle types to tea lights or just picking up packs of candles to stock for emergency purposes, candles, too, come in a range of shapes, sizes, and colors. Your candle can be just as much a piece of decor as it is a source of light.

Hopefully, with our handy guide, you are now equipped enough to pick out types of candles for each of your needs, instead of just resorting to over-the-counter packages. Let there be light, but let there also be beauty and the perfect ambiance!

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Rick Worst Headshot Rick is a home design consultant and enthusiast, whose life is consumed by all things home and garden. Started as a hobby, Worst Room has grown into an information and inspiration wheelhouse for professionals and home owners alike. Rick serves as owner and editor for our many content contributors. Learn more about operation here.