Candles are commonly identified by their shape — tapers, pillars, etc. Let's review a list of the most common shapes used in candlemaking today.
Container — A container candle is set in the shape of the mold in which it is made by pouring.
Pillar — A popular candle shape, the pillar is a thick candle (usually 3–4″ in diameter). If the pillar is 3″ in diameter and 6″ tall, it is called a “three by six,” and so on. Most pillars are cylindrical, but they can be made in any shape — oval, hexagonal, square, etc. Commercial pillar candles come in standard sizes, but you can make a pillar candle any size or shape you choose.
Novelty — This term refers to odd-shaped, usually colored candles that are made by pouring and/or molding and then sculpting or shaping. Novelty candles are practically unlimited in their possibilities — from bananas to snow balls and beyond. They let you get as creative as you desire.
Tapers — As the name implies, these are tapered candles that most of us think of first when we think “candle.” The most common candle shape — often found on the dinner table during festivities — tapers are expressly made to fit into a candleholder of some sort, whether for a single candle or for multiple candles.
Tapers are made by dipping (the most common method), pouring into a mold, or by rolling, and are generally sized to fit standard candleholders, between ½″ and ⅞″ in diameter at the base. Exceptions are the so-called Danish tapers which are smaller and shorter than regular tapers: ¼″ in diameter at the base.
Birthday candles are also designated tapers (″ is standard, but the home candlemaker can vary the size to suit herself — I personally like a larger, thicker birthday candle as they stay put in the cake better than the store-bought size).
Tealight — Used to keep chafing dishes warm or to fit some novelty candleholders (I have a fat, hollow pink salt candleholder that takes a tealight and gives off a lovely rose-colored glow from within.). Tealights are similar to votives, but they are much smaller, flat cylinders usually only ½″ in diameter.
Votive — The term votive comes from the Latin for “to vow”; votive candles were originally used in church to light in front of an icon or a sculpture of a saint while asking for intercession. In church, they are generally placed on a multiple rack holder and are often in little red glass cups. In recent years, this type of candle has become very popular to be lit at home as well, especially as scented candles of different colors.
Votives are cylinders 2–3″ high, ordinarily l½″ in diameter. Again, the home candlemaker can vary the size — and shape — of votives as he or she pleases. As the votive burns, it melts in its container and uses itself as fuel, so you get a longer burn-time than if you set the votive candle on a plate or other flat surface. Votives are designated by the length of burn-time: ten-hour, fifteen-hour, etc. You can check the burn-time of your handmade votives by burning one down while watching the clock.
Votives are especially useful in small spaces, such as bathrooms, or on home altars. You can use them singly or in groups to get the desired effect. If you color your votives, it's best to use a clear glass holder. Scent them for special purposes.