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DIY Art Shadow Box Frame With Storage

Is your home overflowing with art projects and school papers? We are raising our hand in this family. Get free plan ideas to build an art display frame & shadow box. Not only does this DIY project display art, but it stores it, too!

DIY art display boxes with removable top

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Currently, we have an old Amazon box that has puffballs all over it as a DIY art storage idea. We love that our daughter is following in the DIY footsteps, but we knew we could come up with a better art display box and storage solution for our kid’s craft room.

What is the best way to frame children’s artworks?

We love these simple frames/art storage boxes that can easily be changed. I also love finding a favorite artwork and putting it in a real frame with a mat. You can easily and cheaply buy these frames and it really can make your children’s artwork part of your home decor.  

However, the problem with this is that only the best of the best artworks get saved and it is difficult to change the frames regularly.

We really needed a daily solution for a place that would not only display drawings but also store the other ones.

What to do with your child’s artwork? 

  1. The classic: display on your fridge or even next to it with an easy art display board.
  2. Create a memory photo book.
  3. Put your favorites in a DIY memory box (we have a great post about a cheap way we do this).
  4. Create a DIY art display box
  5. Frame your favorites in for an art gallery wall (you can see how we mixed art frames or how we used the same square frames in these two different gallery walls)
  6. Let your children create a binder of their favorite artworks

If you are looking for more unique art display ideas you will want to check out these 18 creative art displays or 12+ picture wall ideas from some of our blogger friends.

Let’s say we have covered most of these, even letting an Amazon box sit around our house with 100 drawings in it. But one artwork solution we knew we wanted to add was creating an easy DIY art display box.

DIY shadow box with removable lid to easily change artwork
Our DIY shadow box with removable top

Create A Display With Storage

Let’s face it, you can’t save all of their artworks all the time, but it would be nice if you had somewhere to store and display artwork. Here is where our DIY art display boxes and frames really are going to help us out.

By not attaching the top of the frame, we are easily able to change the artwork or place other drawings behind the one on display. 

Recommended Supplies and Materials

  • 1” deep x 3” wide x 8’ long oak trim
  • Plexiglass or Polycarbonate Sheet (we got a larger piece, but Plexi is expensive so depending on how many frames you are building will depend on the amount of Plexi needed)**
  • Miter saw
  • Table saw
  • Air compressor
  • Brad nailer
  • Jigsaw
  • Wood glue
  • Tape measure
  • Painters tape
  • Pencil
  • Wood clamps
  • Stain
  • Spray poly
  • Sawtooth Hanger
  • Shop vacuum

Other Places To Consider Buying Plexi

Depending on sales you may be able to find precut plexiglass that would work for you. Here are a few places I would look to compare prices (especially if you do not want to cut it yourself).

  • Micheals: 11 x 14 plexiglass with option for 6 different sizes
  • Amazon: 8 x 12 plexiglass (2-pack) that is really reasonably priced (Not sure about the quality, but you don’t really need to use the heavy-duty stuff for this project)
  • Local Frame Shop
two sheets of plexiglass

Plexiglass is in high demand. We were a little unlucky when we chose to create these boxes! Our advice is always to shop around first to make sure you can get the materials you want and it may change the design of your DIY project.

How To Build Shadow Boxes With Storage

Step 1: Decided On Your Design and Size

Decide on the size you would like your shadow box to be.

  • We made ours the correct size for an  8.5” x 11” piece of paper (copy paper size) and also a 9” x 12” piece of paper which a normal construction paper size.
  • The outside dimensions of our boxes are 12 1/4″ x 9 7/16″ for the copy paper-sized shadow box and 13 1/8″ x 10 1/4″ for the construction paper-sized box.

Step 2: Choose Materials

Pick the type of wood you want your frame to be made out of. Our decision was based on us staining the boxes vs. painting them. If you paint them you can use less costly wood such as pine because the grain is not as important.

  • The oak trim we used was common 3” wide x 1” deep x 8’ long. Note that in common boards the actual measurement is less than 3″ and more like 3/4″ deep. Here is the same board in pine (great if you plan on painting and it is a lot cheaper) or oak.
  • Pick the type of material you want the artwork to be seen through (glass, plexiglass, waxed lambskin, etc.) or you could even have it open with nothing, but you may want to add a cut mat for support.

Step 3: Cut Wood Pieces

Using a circular saw or a miter saw cut all of the pieces to length.

circular saw cutting wood to length

Step 4: Cut 45 Degree Angles

Using a circular saw or a miter saw cut a 45-degree corner.

Dewalt saw making 45 degree angle for DIY shadow box frame

Step 5: Cut Groove or Slot For Plexi

Using a table saw, set at a one-half inch above the table saw height and run the wood through/over the table saw to create a groove. This groove will be where you slide the plexiglass and artwork for display.

table saw for groove cut in frame
Here you can see the height of the saw was set to 1/2″

You can see the matching shadow box pieces below.

grooves for plexiglass after being run over table saw

Step 6: Check The Fit

Dry fit the frame together and make sure everything fits. 

wood trim thickness with ruler for shadow boxes

Step 7: Put Box Together

Use wood glue, clamps and brad nails to attach the frame together. Remember, you do not want to attach the top piece.

After you have displayed the art you could then attach the top if you don’t want to change it. The grove in the top frame piece will rest on the plexiglass so that you can easily store your child’s art or change out their artwork.

brad nailer being used to put together mitered shadow box

Step 8: Add Extra Support

You can choose to add extra support of wood across the back of the frame for support and for a place to put your sawtooth holder. Use the brad nailer and wood glue to attach this.

extra support along the back of the frame

Step 9: Cut Plexi To Size (if needed)

Using a jigsaw and a fine-tooth blade (metal blade) cut the plexiglass.

diablo saw blades and jigsaw

Make sure to tape both sides and draw the dimensions with painter’s tape.

plexiglass being cut with jigsaw

Don’t want to cut your own? Just buy “plexiglass” in the size you need like from Amazon or Michaels.

Step 10: Check Fit With Plexi

Slide the plexiglass in and make sure you are happy with it

Step 11: Stain or Paint Wood

Stain with the color of your choice. We thought Red Mahogony would be the same as our favorite Red mahogany (see other projects using this stain), but I have to see it is not as rich or red-toned. 

red mahogany stain used on frames

Now we know.  We thought since they are both Sherwin William based company we would be okay. Stain can also look different depending on the type of wood you use and/or how applied. 

Red mahogany stained being applied to DIY shadow box

Step 12: Add Poly If Stained

Poly your frames. Just to keep this easy we decided to use spray-on poly

Step 13: Attach Hanger

Attach a sawtooth holder to the back of your frame. You want to put them in the middle and the same height down on each art display box. This will make it easier when hanging on a wall.

Step 14: Display Art

Lift the top wood piece and slide plexiglass out. Match artwork up with the plexi and slide back in.

You may need to adjust the paper from the back to fit it in or carefully ease the paper into the bottom groove. We had one school project that was a little beat up, and use just some clear scotch tape on the top edge to help it all fit in the groove easier. 

edge of plexi with artwork slightly taped to fit in groove

Other Art Display Ideas

  • If you want to attach the top, I recommend cutting a mat that will fit your frame size and sliding that in with the plexiglass. You could then place the top on and you would be able to just easily tape artwork on the mat.
  • You could build these as a classic shadow box to display trinkets, etc. You would want to make a fully removable back piece with either wood or even covered cardboard so you can easily design the box.
DIY shadow box art storage with child's artwork in it

If you cut the plexiglass to the right size, then your top piece with the groove will fit right on that slot. We love how easily we can store artworks in this frame and change out new ones when a new art and craft is made.

DIY art display boxes with removable top

Enjoy your DIY art shadow boxes and an easy way to store your child’s artwork.

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DIY shadow box art storage with child's artwork in it

How To Build A Shadow Box

Learn how to build a shadow box with art storage.
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Active Time: 3 hours
Dry Time: 1 day
Total Time: 1 day 3 hours 10 minutes
Author: Erin
Cost: $25

Equipment

  • Tape Measure
  • Painter’s Tape
  • Pencil
  • Wood clamps
  • Shop vacuum
  • Miter saw
  • Table saw
  • Air compressor
  • Brad nailer
  • Jigsaw

Recommended Supplies

  • 1” deep x 3” wide x 8’ long oak trim
  • Plexiglass or Polycarbonate Sheet
  • Stain
  • Spray Poly
  • Sawtooth Hanger
  • Wood glue

Instructions

  • Decide on your design and size.
  • Using a circular saw or a miter saw cut all of the pieces of oak trim to length.
    circular saw cutting wood to length
  • Using a circular saw or a miter saw cut a 45-degree corner.
    Dewalt saw making 45 degree angle for DIY shadow box frame
  • Using a table saw, set at a one-half inch above the table saw height and run the wood through/over the table saw to create a groove. This groove will be where you slide the plexiglass and artwork for display.
    grooves for plexiglass after being run over table saw
  • Dry fit the frame together and make sure everything fits. 
    clamps holding wood shadow box part together on wood table.
  • Use wood glue, clamps and brad nails to attach the frame together. Remember, you do not want to attach the top piece.
    wood trim thickness with ruler for shadow boxes
  • You can choose to add extra support of wood across the back of the frame for support and for a place to put your sawtooth holder. Use the brad nailer and wood glue to attach this.
    extra support along the back of the frame
  • If needed, use a jigsaw and a fine-tooth blade (metal blade) cut the plexiglass.
    plexiglass being cut with jigsaw
  • Check fit of plexiglass in box.
  • Apply and wipe stain. Let dry for 24 hours.
    Red mahogany stained being applied to DIY shadow box
  • Apply spray on poly and let dry.
    DIY shadow box art storage with child's artwork in it

Notes

  • We made ours the correct size for an  8.5” x 11” piece of paper (copy paper size) and also a 9” x 12” piece of paper which is a normal construction paper size.
  • The outside dimensions of our boxes are 12 1/4″ x 9 7/16″ for the copy paper-sized shadow box and 13 1/8″ x 10 1/4″ for the construction paper-sized box.
  • Pick the type of wood you want your frame to be made out of. We used oak based on staining the boxes vs. painting them. You could use a cheaper wood like pine if you are painting the frames.
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