A shadow box is a craft device akin to a “deep frame” that is used for displaying three dimensional images or items. The craft probably originated centuries ago, whenever leisure time allowed for the assemblage of mementos. It was also used for sailors and army personnel to display their badges, medals and other service reminders. X Research source The beauty of using a shadow box to display items is that it looks neat and finished when hung on a wall or placed on a shelf.
Part 1 : Preparing to Build the Shadow Box
- 1 Gather your supplies. You’ll first need a deep or wide edged wooden picture frame. You can get these from the dollar or thrift stores for next-to-nothing. Your other supplies will be Balsa wood, a ruler, double-sided tape, a pencil, paint or something to mark the wood with, a craft knife, craft glue, and backing paper. Backing paper can just be your standard drawing paper. X Research source
- 2 Decide what you’d like to place inside the shadow box first. The contents will determine the size and shape of the shadow box you end up putting together. You can put whatever you want in there as long as it fits!
- 3 Consider the typical shadow box contents. Many people use seaside objects such as shells, coral, pebbles. Some people make entire doll house/storefront/miniature scenes within shadow boxes. Others prefer nature objects: gumnuts, leaves, herbs, flowers, seeds, pods, etc. Take a look at other potential options below.
- Collectibles: Stamps, spoons, coins, stickers, etc.
- Scrapbooking: The shadow box provides an great display case for scrapbook elements of all kinds.
- Insects: Do you have a butterfly or beetle collection? A shadowbox is perfect for displaying them. Be kind to the wildlife though; a paper or photographic collection can be just as interesting
- Militaria: Medals, insignia, buckles, awards, badges, etc.
- 4 Arrange the objects you plan to put in the shadow box around a sheet of paper. Play around with a design in advance. That way you’ll know where to glue everything in place. Arrange the actual objects on a sheet of paper about the same size as the inside of the frame, or draw the outline of the object onto blank paper to guide your arrangement later.
- 5 Choose a frame that has deep sides. X Research source If it doesn’t have deep sides already, it won’t work well for the purposes of this box. You can buy a shadowbox frame on the Internet or an arts and crafts store. You can even make your own if you want. It’s really just a picture frame. Advertisement
Part 2: Making the Shadow Box Backing Rest
- 1 Remove any wadding or packaging from the picture frame. This will usually be cardboard or press board that sits between the image and the backing. Remove the backing but don’t discard it – you’ll use it shortly. You can discard any clips or holders on it.
- 2 Make the backing rest. The backing will sit at the back of the frame, resting on four pieces of inserted balsa wood. Start by measuring the edges of your picture frame. Now use these measurements to mark and measure out four pieces of the balsa wood. They should fit inside the inner edge of the frame, about 3mm/ 1⁄8 inch (0.3 cm) shallower than the frame sides. X Research source
- 3 Cut the balsa wood. When cutting, make sure the balsa lengths are the same length as the frame. Make the width lengths slightly shorter, as they need to slip inside the two other longer lengths. Trust your measurements. X Research source
- 4 Attach the balsa pieces to the frame. Use the double-sided tape to attach the balsa pieces to the frame so that it will fit snugly in place. The longer pieces should be attached first.Then slip in the width pieces. Advertisement
Part 3 : Adding the Backing Paper
- 1 Cut out the backing paper piece. Measure so it fits inside the frame. Remember that the frame is now slightly smaller due to the addition of the balsa pieces. Use this measurement to correctly calculate the size of the backing paper, then cut the paper to the correct size.
- 2 Make sure that your backing paper can fit all your objects. This is why it is important to plan ahead of time. Try lightly tracing the objects you plan to put on the paper in pencil so you can see how the layout works. Don’t go too close to the edges of the paper or you’ll bump into the frame. X Research source
- 3 Glue the backing paper to the back of the frame. Use a craft glue or a spray adhesive to attach the paper to the backing. Don’t use too much glue or you might make the paper wet and sticky. Advertisement
Part 4 : Creating the Shadow Box Display
- 1 Follow your design plan for adding the objects to the backing. It’s probably helpful to make small markers so you remember where each item was supposed to go. You can either glue or pin items on.
- 2 Attach your objects to the backing. If you’re using glue make sure you allow the glue to dry before restoring the backing to the frame. If you are pinning your items to the backing you might need to add a thin sheet of foam to the backing before gluing the backing paper in place, so that the pins have something to stick into.
- 3 Add any labels, decorative items or border lace/ribbon. This is optional but may fit with the theme of your shadow box. Try to have fun with it. You want the shadowbox to look nice, and now is your chance to add any additional decoration. Advertisement
Part 5 : Fitting the Backing Into the Shadow Box
- 1 Place the backing in the frame. Carefully shift the backing into place inside the frame. Rest it on the pre-affixed balsa wood pieces. Make any adjustments needed so that it sits flat. X Research source
- 2 Fix the backing firmly to the frame. Use a strong tape, such as framer’s tape, brown packing tape, or duct tape. The tape must be able to hold the frame in place long-term. Put enough on to keep it sturdy without ruining the aesthetic of the shadowbox. X Research source
- 3 Hang your shadowbox. Remember, if you are hanging your shadowbox you may need to attach a hanging device at this point, unless one is already in place. Put a nail or a hanging pin into the wall. If there is a portion of the frame hanging open because you’ve removed clips or holders, tape this section shut too.
- 4 Enjoy your shadowbox. Once you’ve placed your shadowbox in its display area you can sit back and appreciate your accomplishment. You can hang, lean or stand the frame up, depending on the type of frame used. Advertisement