How to DIY: A Travels Shadow Box.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

close up of a travels shadow box how to diy
I suppose this how to DIY:  a travels shadow box is maybe not super revolutionary nor a new concept.  Hopefully, though, it’s an idea that strikes your fancy or flips a creative switch on in your head.

So yeah, Mike and I took that trip to Scotland, Dublin, and London which was outstanding though the reason we were there was not at all. 

I find, when I travel at least, I somehow amass lots of little bits.  Meaning, I end up with ticket stubs, business cards, coasters, rocks, brochures, random tidbits of whatever and they all make it home with me. 

Why?  Just another way to remember things done and seen in addition to photos.  And, as a former prop master, I do have mmm a wee packrat tendency, what can I say. *shrug*

Anywhooo, so this trip was no different and much to my surprise, I discovered Mike was doing a little collecting too. 

I ran across this shadow box* unintentionally, if you want to skip ahead on DIY steps, somewhere online and thought huh, bingo.  Perfect idea, gotta make this.

Somehow completely randomly I ran into a shadow box frame at a thrift store after we got back which was good because it was less than buying one at say, Joann* or Michaels* or Ikea.  And much easier than building one which was my initial inclination so as to use up more scrap wood

thrift store shadow box frame
Aarrggg darn camera mis-focusing.
In the end, no savings were had by buying thrifty as I had to buy a can of spray paint.

But, definitely feel free to purchase a ready-made frame* anywhere you find one.

Ok, so my plan here was to have a background map of England, Scotland, and Ireland then similar but different from that inspiration, draw our travel route on the glass. 

First, as the glass wouldn’t come out of the frame, I taped everything off inside and out, covered the glass with kraft paper, and spray painted it white.  

taping and papering glass prep
Sadly, I thought I had enough paint but lo, did not, had to run out to the ‘burbs specifically for more.  

spray painting shadow box frame
Next was finding a map that I liked and thanks to Google images, easy peasy.  Actually, I borrowed two from the internet, one that was colorful and one that was a line drawing though in retrospect as you'll see later, I really only needed the former.  

With Adobe Illustrator, I resized the images for ten by ten, the size of the backing of the frame, and knocked down the transparency so it wouldn't be as brightly colorful then uploaded to FedEx Office* for printing.

You should be able to use any image editing software, doesn't have to be fancy.  Or bring the image on a flash drive and ask for assistance at the print shop.  Tell them you're making a cool DIY travels shadow box and they may get excited too!

maps and spray painted shadow box frame
Turns out FedEx Office printed them the wrong size, not the sizing I set up, but eh whatev's it was close enough.

There was some weird foamy fabric gunk on the frame backing so after peeling and scraping that off and trimming the background color image map to fit, I spray mounted* the map to a piece of poster board so it would sit cleanly inside, no weird lumps or bumps or saggy background.
foam fabric on frame backing removal

spray mounting map to poster board
Now ok, here, here I went the long way as again, my brain is not working well.  Then I, as I mentioned last time, near wrecked my computer, losing a bunch of process pictures for this project.  Just as well.  Skip all this whoo-ha next step stuff and do it the way I've outlined after that.

Pulling out my light table* and trying to think in reverse and reverse again, I made life much harder than it needed to be for transferring the route we took onto the glass.  See, I wanted the markings inside the frame so I can clean the outside of the glass and not wipe away the travels route.

using light table to trace maps
Don't hurt your head this way.
Too, I haven't used my light table in eons, figured I should justify its continued presence here but heh....yeah.  Anyway.  We're here for the how to DIY a travels shadow box not packrat issues.

But, in the end, what worked best was clear plastic.  If you have a piece of acetate,* that works perfectly or, do as I did and grab whatever clear plastic you have on hand which in my case was one of those clear sheet protectors.*  Way way easier.

Set that sheet protector or whatever clear plastic over your map, trace whatever travels route you'd like with a Sharpie* or something that won't smear, is more permanent-ish.   

tracing map onto clear sheet protector
Hot tip:  if you trim the plastic to the size of the map/frame or to a corner and edge, it'll be easier to get everything to align visually once assembled.

Next, tape the clear plastic onto the front of the frame, flip it over and using your marker of choice, trace it on the glass inside.  Here I lost those photos to show you, sorry.  And here I went through several iterations of pens and markers, scraping off errors or versions that looked terrible with a razor scraper.*

In the end, I went with paint pens* I believe.  It was tough finding something on hand that wasn't translucent on the glass or looked icky.  In the end too, I'm not terribly excited with my drawn route or the white but it works for now.
a travels shadow box assembled
Lastly, fill up your box with your goodies, close it up, and hang it!

finished travels shadow box on display
Yes, we have a rather full box and it does cover the map background quite a bit.  
left side close up of a travels shadow box
Every once in a while I'll take it down, give it a shake or open it up to reorganize so the things inside get rotated around for a fresh look, fresh memories to remember.

close up of a travels shadow box right side
What do you think?  Does this how to DIY a travels shadow box inspire you to make something cool and fun for your collections?  I hope so!

how to DIY a travels shadow box finished

*The Joann and Michaels links are general affiliate links for each site.  The acetate, spray mount, and paint pens are Michaels affiliate links.  The travel shadow box frame, ready-made shadow box frames, light tables, clear sheet protectors, Sharpies, and razor scrapers are Amazon affiliate links.  The FedEx Office link is a FedEx affiliate link.  Mwah, thanks!  Please see the "boring stuff" tab for more info.

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