How to Turn Ordinary Items into Art: Mastering the Shadowbox Frame

published Feb 16, 2017
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Think you don’t have frame-worthy wall art? Time to pull out that box of memorabilia and travel souvenirs stashed in the back of your closet. Even menus, paper coasters and postcards you’ve collected over the years can be turned into eye-catching art with the help of colorful paper matting, foam dots and some magical shadowbox frames. By lifting up paper items and giving them depth, shadowboxes turn the most ordinary mementos into masterpieces.

Focus on a Theme: To give your collection a cohesive look, choose items that follow a theme. For our mini gallery wall below, we used paper collectibles grabbed from some favorite local restaurants, including an illustrated menu, a coaster and a postcard. You could also corral souvenirs collected during a road trip or picked up along a hike. Make sure that each item will fit the dimensions of your frame, or look for extra-deep shadowboxes for larger objects.

(Image credit: AT Video)

What You’ll Need


  • Shadowbox frame
  • Foam dots
  • Colorful paper
  • Object to frame


  • Scissors
(Image credit: AT Video)


1. Remove the back of the frame, and trace its outline onto the colorful paper you plan to use for the frame mat. Cut out the mat.

(Image credit: AT Video)

2. Take the item you are going to frame and place several foam dots on it, spacing them evenly so that the object will “float” over the mat. For a rectangular object, place a dot at each corner and at least one in the center of the piece. Then adhere the object to the mat, making sure it’s centered.

(Image credit: AT Video)

3. Slide the DIY art carefully into the shadowbox, then fold down the metal tabs to hold it in place. Assemble your DIY gallery wall where you can admire it every day.