What Is a Shadow Box and How Does It Work?

Last updated on November 14, 2023

Simply put, a shadow box is a better version of a picture frame. It adds that extra depth (which drops a shadow, thus the name) to the display item.

The shadow box has a glass front case where items can be kept. They’re a great way to make the decor items in your home look more attractive. It works to display family heirlooms, medals, jewelry, collectibles, and other memorabilia. A group of shadow boxes can be put together to make a gallery wall. And there are many more ideas for using a shadow box.

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Parts of a Shadow Box Frame

shadow box frames

The parts are:

The Frame – This part holds your artwork and can be made from wood or metal. You will need to decide which one you want for yourself. I chose wood because it was more durable than metal, but if you choose metal, then make sure you get some protective coating on it, so it doesn’t rust.

The Backing Board – This board helps support the weight of the artwork and keeps it in place while still allowing light through. If you don’t have this already, then buy one at any craft store. The backing board can be in different materials and colors. It is usually closed behind a front glass.

Artwork Support – This is where you mount your artwork onto. Again, there are many options here. For example, you could glue directly into the backboard or even cut holes in the backboard and insert pins/screws. Or you could lay down cardboard behind the artwork and staple it to the backboard. Whichever option you choose depends on your preference and budget.

Hanging Hardware – These pieces help attach the backing board to the wall. There are many different types available depending on what style you like best. Some people prefer simple hooks. Others go all out and add decorative hardware. Whatever you do, make sure there’s enough space between each piece so they won’t interfere when you hang your artwork.

Light Fixture – A shadow box can be backlit. LED lighting installed inside the frame adds even more decorative interest to the display and makes displaying items during the night appealing.

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How Shadow Boxes Work

A shadow box is essentially just a frame around your precious items. The front panel slides into place on top of the backboard, which sits inside the frame. You then slide the entire assembly into the opening of the frame, making sure everything fits snugly. Once all the parts are assembled, you slip them out again when they’re not needed.

The beauty of a shadow box is its versatility. You can put anything you’d like inside; pictures, paintings, jewelry, keepsakes, even small trinkets. Just remember to keep things safe while storing them away.

The best part of having a shadow box is that it doesn’t take up much space. Most people store their treasures in drawers or cabinets anyway, so why not turn those spaces into storage areas instead? Plus, since it’s made entirely of cardboard, it won’t break down over time either. What Is A Shadow Box Used For?

There are many uses for a shadow box. Here are a few examples: Display artwork or photographs, keep mementos safely stored, create a unique gift presentation, add extra protection to fragile objects, store collectibles, protect valuable documents, organize books and magazines, and more.

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Shadow Box Frame Materials

You have several options available depending upon how much money you want to spend. If you don’t mind spending some cash, you could go ahead and buy an expensive one from a craft shop. However, if you prefer something cheaper but still looks good, you may use scrapbook paper. They come in different sizes and designs, allowing you to customize your design.

You also have the option of buying ready-made frames online. These are usually very affordable and easy to assemble. But be careful because there are lots of cheap ones floating around the internet. Make sure you get quality products before purchasing.

If you want to save money, you might consider repurposing old materials. This includes recycled paper, newspaper, magazine pages, wrapping paper, plastic bags, cereal boxes, junk mail envelopes, corrugated sheets, and other discarded packaging materials.

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Can I reuse my existing shadow boxes?

Yes, you certainly can. This is probably the most common way of reusing old shadow boxes. Remove the contents and replace them with new ones. It works well, especially if you already have plenty of unused boxes lying around. However, if you plan to display photos or artworks, you’ll need to cut holes in the sides first. Otherwise, you risk damaging the picture by cutting through the backing board.

How long does a shadow box last?

Shadow boxes will hold up as long as you treat them properly. As mentioned earlier, these are mostly made of cardboard, so they tend to degrade slowly over time. That said, we recommend keeping them clean and dry. Also, avoid exposing them to direct sunlight.

How big should my shadow box be?

It depends on what type of items you’re planning to place inside. Generally speaking, the size of your shadow box shouldn’t exceed 60 inches wide x 60 inches tall. Anything bigger than that would look awkward when displayed.

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