How to Decorate a Shadow Box

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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.

Did You Know?
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.
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