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How to Make a Shadow Box Frame

Updated on November 19, 2016

Shadow boxes are a great way to show off numerous items. It's a great way to collage several pictures within one frame and add something special that you can't normally add to a basic picture frame.

Picture boxes are generally used to protect and show-off jerseys, uniforms, medals, and other priceless treasures, but you can use shadow box frames for so much more.

I found that when making my shadow boxes, they're really similar to designing a scrapbook page, so if you're a scrapbooker, you won't have any problems creating and designing one of these frames.

What's great about designing shadow boxes, you can add items that you can't add to a regular picture frame. You can see in my ideas below, that I've added army men to my soldier shadow box, copper trees and stone beads to my camping shadow box, and small fire fighting beads to my firemen shadow boxes.

You can design these picture boxes as simple or elaborate as you want, and depending on what pictures you have, stickers you can find, and objects you have to include, your options are limitless.

Shadow Box Ideas

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Lawrence Frames 11 by 14-Inch Black Shadow Box Frame, Linen Inner Display Board
Lawrence Frames 11 by 14-Inch Black Shadow Box Frame, Linen Inner Display Board

The first thing that you'll need is the actual shadow box frame. They come in many sizes, so depending on what you want to put in your shadow box, choose accordingly.


When designing a picture box, you'll want to make sure that you have everything ready. There are so many different things that you may need; I've listed the basic items that I've used throughout different shadow boxes, excluding any decoration that I've added to the bottom of my frames to elicit a more 3D effect.

  • Pictures

When choosing your pictures, you'll want to make sure that you choose pictures that best show the feel of your shadow box. Look for old pictures and any picture that tells a piece of the story that you want your box to show. I've found that pictures that you can cut into different sizes help make it easier to design the shadow box

  • Scrapbook paper

When choosing paper, I've found that depending on what the theme of your shadow box is, the paper will vary, but you want to make sure to use acid-free paper. Most scrapbook paper is acid- and lignin-free. I've used solid backgrounds and backgrounds with pattern. For example, in my camping themed box, I used a solid black background, but I framed all of my pictures in a paper that has trees and bears; for the soldier shadow box, I used a background with stars on it and used a solid color for framing.

  • Stickers

I like using a mix of flat and 3D stickers, but depending on what you're looking for, you may find that one may work better than the other. There are so many different types of stickers that you can find in the scrapbooking section of your local Hobby Lobby, Michaels, Joanne's, and any other craft store you may have in your town.

  • Trinkets

Depending on the theme of your shadow box, you may want to add small trinkets inside it. Check the dollar store for small toys or the craft store for beads that may fit your theme. You can see in the above examples, that I used small soldier toys in the military box and fireman-themed beads in the firefighter box. The trinkets can be glued into place at the bottom of the frame. I've glued flat wooden letters to the inner side wall to create depth.

Glue Dots Ultra Thin Roll, Contains 300 (.375 Inch) Adhesive Dots (05029)
Glue Dots Ultra Thin Roll, Contains 300 (.375 Inch) Adhesive Dots (05029)

Glue dots are easy to use. These are acid-free and lignin-free.

  • Stamps and Ink

You can find so many different stamps, and there are tons of ink colors, ranging from primary colors, secondary colors, pastels, neon colors, metallic, etc. Sometimes adding a stamp to your shadow box, will be just want the box needs.

  • Mounting square

To add a finished look, use mounting squares can be great to use in the corners of your pictures.

  • 3D mounts

For stickers, pictures or any paper that you want sit away from the back paper, use 3D mounts. 3D mounts help create a layered look to you shadow box so that the entire box isn't glued to the back paper. You have an inch or so to play with. Use it.

  • Acid-free glue

Any time you're crafting, you want to use acid-free glue. Overtime glue can damage your paper, pictures, stickers, etc. The acid-free glue will help preserve your project. Acid-free glue comes in many forms - glue sticks, glue dots, glue roller, and liquid glue. When looking for craft glue, always read the label to make sure that it is acid-free.


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    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 13 months ago from Georgia

      Absolutely, these tips would be perfect for scrapbooking. The only exception that I would make is that when scrapbooking, you may not want to use 3D figures and objects, as the book may not close properly.

    • sparkleyfinger profile image

      Lynsey Harte 13 months ago from Glasgow

      Some great pointers here for making a shadow box. I haven't yet made anything like this, but I think I can use a lot of the tips with scrapbooking too! Thanks