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How to Decorate a Shadow Box

Whether you want to commemorate a special event or just keep the dust off mementos, a shadow box is a great way to show off your treasures.


  • Step 1: Choose the items you want to display The best shadow boxes revolve around a theme, so choose items that relate to each other.
  • TIP: To add visual interest, pick mementos that vary in shape, size, and color.
  • Step 2: Buy a shadow box Shadow boxes come in many different sizes. At your local craft store, pick a case that is both wide enough and deep enough for the memorabilia you want to display.
  • TIP: If you have heavy or oddly shaped items, consider a shadow box with adjustable shelves. For delicate items, a box with an acrylic pane will protect them from dust and the sun.
  • Step 3: Personalize the background Many shadow boxes come with a plain wood or cork backing that you can easily remove via metal tabs, like the back of a photo frame, and personalize. Cut your paper or fabric so that it extends a couple of inches past the borders of the surface, then staple or glue it to the far side of the backing.
  • Step 4: Arrange your mementos Lay the backing on a flat surface. Without attaching them, arrange the items until you’ve got a layout you like.
  • Step 5: Get three-dimensional Add dimension by mounting some items on foam or wood blocks with wood or decoupage glue. You can find pre-cut blocks at most craft stores.
  • Step 6: Add flair To complement your design, add embellishments like fabric, silk flowers, or beads to the background and frame.
  • Step 7: Make it permanent Attach your mementos to the backing using staples or decoupage glue. Make sure your items are secure and the glue is dry before replacing the backing.
  • TIP: Depending on your display items, you may be able to stand them up along the bottom without gluing them.
  • Step 8: Display it It's time to show off your creation. Hang your shadow box on the wall, or exhibit it on a shelf. Most shadow boxes include a notch on the back for a nail or picture mount.
  • FACT: According to legend, it was bad luck for a sailor's shadow to touch the shore before he did. Shadow boxes held his prized possessions—and, symbolically, his shadow—until he was safely back on land.

You Will Need

  • Items to display
  • A shadow box
  • Scissors
  • Fabric or decorative paper
  • Staple gun and staples
  • Wood or decoupage glue
  • Foam or wood blocks
  • Embellishments
  • A hammer
  • A nail or picture mount

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