How to Create a Shadow Box
So you have a bunch of treasured trinkets stuffed in the drawer of your nightstand or tucked safely in a box in the attic, because you're not quite sure what to do with them (you just know you'll get to it some day!)? Don't let your daughter's footprint, your son's first blue ribbon, or even your own vintage college tee sit in some dark place where nobody can appreciate them. Instead, show off those important mementos in a shadow box. We know what you're thinking: Crafts can take such a long time and they can be so hard to execute properly—plus, you don't have the supplies handy anyway. We're here to squash all of those excuses. You only need a few things to create a shadow box (no, artistic ability is not one of them!). Just gather a deep frame, a few pieces of pretty scrapbook paper (though that's optional!), and the trinkets you already have on hand. So instead of making any more excuses, order that frame online (they come in all colors—white, black, neutral wood, and even bright colors—to suit any style decor) and follow along here. You'll be done in no time. (You can thank us later.)
Gather Your Mementos
The most important thing you can do when creating a shadow box happens before you even begin arranging anything. In order to get the best results, you’ll want to come up with a theme—and stick to it. Whether you’re focusing on sports achievements, memorable trips, or a new baby, the key to success is consistency. Within your theme, items can differ from one another (for example, it’s fine to pair an old passport with photographs from your walk through Paris). But try to avoid putting your child’s first report card with those photographs from the Eiffel Tower—instead, pair it with a drawing your son made in class that year.
Once you’ve decided on a theme, have gathered the items that fit within those parameters, and have narrowed down your choices to the best three to five items (depending on the size of your frame, of course), you’re ready for the fun part—actually creating your shadow box. Before gluing anything into place, set out all of your mementos and play around with the layout. Try layering the elements, so that the shadow box has more depth and intrigue. Some overlap will ensure the shadow box doesn’t look empty, too. Once you’re satisfied with the scene, use glue, pins, tacks, or even brooches to secure everything to the frame’s backing.
Once your treasured tokens are secure, reassemble the frame or close the glass door on the front. Now, take a quick pause to admire your handiwork (it wasn’t so hard, was it?). Don’t give up now though. Instead of leaning your shadow box up against the wall, find a spot for it right away. All you need is a measuring tape, a pencil, a hammer, a nail, and a level. Use the measuring tape to find the right spot on the wall, mark it with your pencil, and then hammer away. Once your shadow box is hanging on the nail, don’t count on your eye to tell you if it’s straight—use the level to ensure it’s not tipping to one side or the other.
Turn Your Keepsakes into Wall Art
Thought you were done? We know you probably have tons more stuff just waiting to be put on display. Now that you know how easy it is to create a shadow box, go back to step one and create a few more. A trio of framed boxes can capture highlights from each family member’s lives—and makes for an intriguing display in a family room or home office. Luggage labels, maps, and postcards commemorate an overseas trip and remind you to take those vacation days, while report cards, badges, and awards intermingle with wooden blocks and varsity numbers to mark childhood memories and inspire creativity. A duo or trio of shadow boxes makes a great Mother’s or Father’s Day gift for parents and grandparents, too.