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31 Inspiring Shadow Box Ideas To Unleash Your Creativity

First, I’ll explore many shadow box ideas that turn a simple box into a treasury of tales. Whether you’re a vintage lover, travel enthusiast, or family historian, there’s a shadowbox theme to match every narrative.

Then I’ll walk through a tutorial on crafting your shadow box using the beautiful vintage images from Pictureboxblue. You’ll have a stunning shadowbox and a new love for this versatile craft by this end.

The Captivating World of Shadow Boxes

So, what is a shadow box? Simply put, it’s a framed box, often enclosed with a glass front, designed to display and preserve three-dimensional objects. These objects can be anything that sparks joy or holds sentimental value. The list is endless, from old tickets, postcards, and family photos to miniature artefacts, trinkets, and even a feather or seashell you’ve collected.

The Inspiration: Joseph Cornell

My interest in shadow boxes sparked after a visit to a Joseph Cornell exhibition in London. Known for his intricate shadow boxes filled with trinkets, prints, and photographs, Cornell’s skill in turning ordinary objects into realms of mystery and nostalgia was truly inspiring.

His work, dubbed Cornell Boxes, encapsulated memories, dreams, and surreal landscapes within a box, driving me to experiment with shadow box crafting and capture similar depth and emotion in my pieces.

Joseph Cornell 1945 The Hotel Eden
The Hotel Eden, Joseph Cornell 1945

Diverse Shadow Box Ideas

The beauty of shadow boxes lies in their limitless themes. You can create displays that showcase your hobbies, personal milestones, or anything that resonates with you. The choices are endless, from travel mementoes to gardening memories, vintage themes, or personalised ‘Memory Boxes’.

Shadowboxes also make meaningful gifts, encapsulating moments like wedding anniversaries or a baby’s first year. Each box tells a unique story, deeply personal to the creator.

After this list, Inspired by Cornell’s magical world, let’s embark on a shadowbox crafting journey.

the best shadow box ideas pin

31 Shadow Box Ideas

Explore a world of creativity with these shadow box ideas, perfect for personalising your living space. Whether it's vintage trinkets, travel keepsakes, family mementoes, or unique wall art, there is a shadow box craft for you.

Creating Your Personal Shadow Box Joseph Cornell Style

You’ll first need a few materials, which can easily be found around the house or at your local craft store. Choose a theme that resonates with you and start arranging your objects within the box. I’ll guide you through the entire process, ensuring you have a splendid time crafting your shadowbox.

What you need

  • Cardboard packaging for the shadow box frame. You can also buy ready-made boxes at craft stores.
  • Old newspapers or books for decoupage
  • Decoupage glue and glue dots
  • Assortment of knick-knacks and old junk such as keys, shells, feathers, postage stamps and cotton reels. Just hunt around your home or local thrift store and see what you can find to fit the theme of your shadow box.
  • Paper cutting knife and mat.
Empty cardboard box and newspaper

Using Vintage Images & Maps

To add a touch of nostalgia to your shadow box, we’ll incorporate some vintage images. You’ll find a treasure trove of vintage graphics on Pictureboxblue, perfect for adding that old-world charm. Whether you choose an old map, a vintage postcard, or an antique photograph, these images will undoubtedly enrich your shadowbox.

Making The Frame

Step 1: I wanted the shadow box split into four compartments, creating mini rooms for my cherished curios. For this, cut pieces of cardboard to fit and glued them in place.

Putting dividers into the shadow box frame

Step 2: I decoupaged the inside with an old newspaper to add the vintage Joseph Cornell vibe to the shadow box. You can use old books as well for the decoupage.

If you don’t have any old ones, it’s possible to age them by brushing the paper with tea once it’s been decoupaged.

Decoupaging the inside of the shadow box

Decorating the Shadow Box

My shadow box’s theme was four places special to me, one for each compartment.

The first one begins in Hong Kong, my birth and childhood city. A vibrant fusion of Eastern and Western influences, the city has shaped my identity more profoundly than a good cup of Hong Kong milk tea.

Next up is the city of London. Not far from my current home and my favourite city to explore. I visit it most weeks and have yet to tire of the place; I love the history and energy of the city.

The next compartment is an ode to Tavira, Portugal, a charming location where my parents chose to settle. We gather there every summer for a sun-kissed family vacation. Amidst its historical ruins and pristine beaches, Tavira offers a pace of life that’s refreshingly unhurried.

The last space on the box focuses on the stunning landscapes of Norway. Home to my in-laws and the most breathtaking fjords you’ll ever see, Norway’s beauty is the icing on the cake of this shadowbox journey.

Gathered objects for the shadow box

Step 3: To start the decoration of each compartment, I stuck a vintage map to the back of each section. The maps were cut from an old map calendar or printed from the vast collection of vintage maps on the site.

Cutting out map from an old calander

Step 4: I found old postage stamps for some destinations and used them to decorate the compartments.

Gathered postage stamps for shadow box

Step 5: I used other images to decorate the compartments; these included a sulphur-crested cockatoo, a bird common to Hong Kong: other vintage birds and some entomology illustrations. To prepare the images for the shadow box, I first printed them onto watercolour paper. Then I stuck the printed form to cardstock before cutting out the images carefully with a craft knife.

Cutting out the pictures for a shadow box diy

Finishing the Shadow Box

Step 6: Play around with the placement of your objects and images before fixing them permanently to the shadow box. I stuck the cardboard-reinforced pictures to the frame with paper glue. For the 3-D objects, I used glue dots.

My completed shadow box is a cherished tribute to the places I hold dear. Nestled on the mantlepiece of my travel-inspired home office, it never fails to spark a conversation whenever guests stumble upon it.

Close up Norway shadow box

Now, the question remains, which destinations would feature in your shadow box? Or perhaps one of the other shadow box ideas from the previous list has caught your fancy? The world (or box, in this case) is your oyster!

Travel themed shadow box

Other Related Ideas

The thematic possibilities are practically endless with the vast array of shadow box ideas.

Joseph Cornell, for instance, employed a vibrant parrot theme in one of his boxes, similar to the vintage images I used for my parrot decor cloche.

Consider expanding the circus diorama on Pictureboxblue with a wealth of vintage circus images for a lively and engaging shadow box. Many Index of American Design images would be great for a shadow box.

And for those familiar with the site, you know how popular vintage Japanese images are. I’m personally drawn to the idea of a Japanese-themed shadow box. As I’m headed to Japan this year, I’ll be hunting for some unique trinkets to incorporate into my creation.

How to make a shadow box pin


Tuesday 25th of July 2023

Your ideas are absolutely insane !!! Just too good and fantastic. Thank you for sharing


Friday 28th of July 2023

Thank you so much, I'm glad you enjoyed them.

Allyson @ Southern Sunflowers

Monday 24th of July 2023

My goodness, so many different kinds of shadow boxes. Lots of awesome inspiration! Thanks for sharing at the #HomeMattersParty.


Friday 28th of July 2023

Thank you, they are fun ways to display stuff.

Catherine Sokolowski

Sunday 23rd of July 2023

I love all these ideas. I went to check out the pin display. I've been looking for a way to display my pin collection! Thanks for this great post!


Monday 24th of July 2023

Thank you, yes shadow boxes are a great way to display fun collections.

Cara ~ Vintage Style Gal

Saturday 22nd of July 2023

I am so inspired Claire! I have been wanting to work on a map project, but have not gotten around to it. Looking forward to choosing from one of these you have shared!


Monday 24th of July 2023

Thank you, crafting with maps is one of my favourite things to do.


Monday 17th of July 2023

WOW, amazing and cool ideas to use. Pinning it. I visited you via Craftastic Monday Link Party My entries this week = 36+37 If you have not joined us at SSPS yet, this is a personal invite to come and share your awesome post/s with us You will find the linkup information (1) In the Top bar under Blogging: Weekly Senior Salon Pit Stop OR 2nd image In the sidebar. We hope to meet you there virtually.


Wednesday 19th of July 2023

Thank you so much, and thanks for the share.