How to Make a Shadow Box for a School Project

frame. finished gold frame image by L. Shat from

Things You'll Need

  • Picture frame
  • Wood pieces
  • Plastic pieces
  • Patterned paper
  • Glue
  • Wood glue
  • Hammer
  • Small nails
  • Small brackets
  • Small screws
  • Paint
  • Scissors

A shadow box is a craft that involves arranging a miniature 3D scene and framing it. It originates from a Victorian tradition of crafting that involved layering different materials and drawings to create a realistic depiction. It has evolved to take on many forms, all involving 3D objects fixed in place behind a picture frame.

Sketch out a plan on some paper. Think about the size and space you have to use in your shadow box. Plan which objects will appear in the background, what will be in the middle plane, and what will be in the foreground.

Make a box with an open top that will fit your picture frame. Firm cardboard can be used to make this box by cutting a piece to size and folding the edges up. Or use wood and small nails or wood glue to form the box. Make sure it's deep enough to fit the scene you've planned.

Place your background materials or drawings in the box and secure them in place. Take your textured paper or shaped materials and affix them to the back of the box with glue. Make sure you've covered all the space, and allow the glue to dry.

Paint any final details you'd like in your background. Use a textured brush for a more interesting effect, or paint objects as decoration on walls. Wait for the paint to dry.

Build the platforms you want to form your scene and place them in the box. Try using platforms at various heights and different depths to give your shadow box an interesting perspective. Build platforms out of firm cardboard, pieces of wood, or flat pieces of plastic. Glue them to your background with a strong glue and wait for it to dry.

Prepare the objects you plan to place in the shadow box. Build the objects that require construction first, such as small furniture or other objects. Also collect the items that only need to be placed in the box, such as a small figurine or container. Allow for the glue to dry.

Place your objects in the box and affix them using glue. Take care to secure the items and arrange them at different depths to create a good perspective. Make sure none of the objects are blocked from sight. Allow the glue to dry.

Place your frame over the shadow box and attach it firmly. You can do this using small brackets and screws to hold your box together. Handle carefully.


  • You can paint textures and backgrounds to add more detail.

    Using acrylic picture frames can help protect your objects from UV damage from sunlight.