Build a Better Shadowbox for Your Fandoms

DIY Featured
Shadowboxing can bring your memories and fandoms off the scrapbook page for everyone to see. All images: Lisa Tate

Keeping photo albums, journals, or scrapbooks is a favorite way for us to store memories from special events or trips, as well as celebrate a favorite fandom, but sometimes we want to hang onto something a little more three-dimensional.

This is where shadowbox memories take things to the next level with little extra effort. Souvenir figurines, pins, magnets, toys, or other small items can stand out beyond the shelf or refrigerator when given a little extra attention in a cool shadowbox display.

The steps are simple:

Pick a “box.” Depending on how fancy the box will be, or how much money you want to spend, start with anything from commercial store-bought shadowbox frame to a shallow cardboard box. Remember those shoebox dioramas? Same idea. I like to go a little in between and use shallow wooden boxes I can paint or decoupage. They are sturdier than cardboard and much less expensive than those glass-covered frames. What matters is what we do with them.

Find a small box to fit your shadowboxing, and place the backgrounds first.

Pick a background. I’m getting ready to celebrate the 80th anniversary of Detective Comics with a Batman-themed shadowbox, so I found old “Gotham” cityscape or old pages from a comic for my background. This works with any theme. A shadowbox showing off a recent trip can incorporate travel brochures or family photos.

Add some layers. Find smaller paper items like ticket stubs or cutout images from larger photos, and attach a small cardboard “tube” to the back. Pieces of paper or plastic straws work great for this. This makes the image look more alive, not just flat.

Use straws or cardboard to help give flat items some layers.

Pick an “anchor” item. What this means is, pick one or two main items to focus on. In the case of my Batman box, I’m using a little plastic mini-figure. LEGO or those “blind box” packs from brands like Funko are also fun for pop culture boxes. Plus, many tourist-friendly attractions have small trinkets that might get overlooked among larger items. Place them front and center in your shadowbox and they’re the main attraction.

Finish it off! This is where we can add some extra smaller items, like pins or keychains, just to give it some extra depth and sparkle. To make these items stand out even more, use a similar technique to the one for the layers. If the items are too heavy for cardboard, glue it to a small, sturdier wooden dowel or square block. Items can also be glued to the edges of the shadowbox.

You can use all kinds of scraps and small items to give your shadowbox some extra dimension.

Now, we just need a place to display it. One of the nice things about shadowboxes is they can work either as stand-up items or on a wall. I recommend putting it in a place with heavy traffic, so visitors will stop and take a look. I’ve also used shadowbox ideas to upcycle used coloring pages or for creepy Halloween décor.


These are a great way to trap guests into conversation about a trip that is still an exciting memory or a fandom they really need to get into.

Next time there are too many memories to fit on a flat page, try putting together shadowboxes as a more “high definition” alternative (or complement) to scrapbooking.

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