The Art of Darkness

Tutorial: Easy Shadowbox


Materials:

  • Object or objects to be displayed. This can be just about anything you like, from rubber tarantulas to little vials of “blood” to taxidermy eyes. I used a variety of animal teeth, which can be found online (or collected naturally whilst hiking)
  • Shadowbox or deep picture frame; the thinner the object to be framed, the shallower the frame can be
  • Craft glue, hot glue, or sticky-backed velcro
  • Paper for making labels; I used heavy brown paper that resembled parchment
  • Scrapbooking corner mounts or flat metal beads (optional)
Click the thumbnails for larger images.

 
Teeth and Corners

 
Decide upon the subject matter of your display: The intent is to resemble a museum exhibit, so look for either a small collection of similar specimens (perhaps a few novelty Halloween bats) or a single large item (an oversized spider with an “egg sac” made of fake spider web). The possibilities are nearly limitless: A field guide to Halloween candy, scales from different varieties of dragons, a tuft of fur and teeth from a Yeti, leaves from various mythical plants, or just about anything else you want to display. I decided to do a trophy case full of vampire fangs (a.k.a. fox teeth)

 
Shadowbox

 
Find an appropriately-sized shadowbox. They’re sometimes available very inexpensively at dollar stores or thrift stores, as well as craft stores and picture-framing shops. I got a tall, skinny one. If you don’t like the frame color, carefully cover the glass and spray-paint as desired.

 
Teeth Laid Out

 
Move the specimens around on the shadowbox backing until you’re satisfied with the arrangement.

 
Labels

 
Create and print out labels. I made a big label for the display heading, plus smaller ones with the identity of each “slain” vampire.

 
Add Label

 
Cut out labels and place them beside each specimen. If using scrapbooking mounts, arrange them on the labels. I cut out a wide margin around the display title and then carefully burned the edges to add a little visual interest.

 
Glue

 
When you’re certain that all elements are arranged to your satisfaction, carefully glue everything in place. I found that craft glue was fine for attaching the relatively lightweight teeth and labels, but you can use hot glue for heavier items. If the shadowbox backing is fabric, you can also use velcro to attach the display pieces.

 
Finished

 
When everything is dry, reassemble the shadowbox and display. Easy!

 
Labels

 
But wait! There’s more! I had a bunch of extra mismatched teeth laying around, so I made a second shadowbox displaying some of the creatures in Middle-Earth, suitable for hanging in any mathom-house.

Wikipedia has a list of Middle-Earth animals, so I tried to choose creatures who looked like the might be the owners of the teeth (the dragon is actually an elk; don’t tell). I created labels using a free Hobbit brush hand font, then repeated the same words in an Elvish font.

 
Layout

 
After I got everything carefully glued down I decided I really hated the layout, so I ripped everything back off. This made a mess of the shadowbox’s fabric backing, so I pulled it all off and spray-painted the remaining particle board. Let this be a lesson to you: Make sure that you’re really happy with the layout before you start gluing.

 
Finished

 
I did the same burned-title and scrapbooking mounts as for the vampire shadowbox.

And done. This is a great weekend project since it goes together so quickly and all of the materials are widely available.