I used to be a professional picture framer and make shadowboxes every day. These are my tips for making your own wedding shadowbox.
Having a shadowbox custom made will be expensive, like $300 and up! The price will vary on the materials used, the number of items in there and the overall size. But it will be GORGEOUS and all of your items will be mounted properly with acid-free materials and UV glass will be used to protect everything from fading. Fabrics fade faster than paper, even if they aren't exposed to sunlight. Even regular home lighting can cause fading over time. Ideally, your shadowbox will look just as lovely in 20 years as it does now when it's custom made.
But, if you can't or don't want to spend an arm and a leg you can DIY your shadowbox. Check out craft and framing stores to see if they have a ready-made shadowbox in a size and color that you like. You can buy them online too.
You can do a few things to help your shadowbox look amazing, even 20 years from now.
- Mount all of your paper items using acid-free/archival glue or tape. Spend a little extra $$ to get the good stuff.
- Mount any non-paper items by sewing them down with a needle and clear or white thread. Gluing or taping down fabric or lace isn't a good idea and sometimes, the adhesive fails over time and your item will fall or droop. It just doesn't stick to
fabric as well as paper. Or the adhesive can leave a gunky residue on your fabrics.
- If you choose to include real flowers in your shadowbox, make sure they are dried or freeze-dried. Try not to seal any moisture in there that could be soaked up by paper or fabric. Also understand that even if you dry them properly, the odds are that in a few years, they will shed some dust onto the bottom of your shadowbox. It's inevitable.
- If you don't like the background that comes with your shadowbox, check out the fabric store to find a fabric that perhaps resembles your wedding gown or your table cloths. And you don't have to lay it flat, sometimes it looks beautiful if it's artfully draped across the backing and then held in place by a few stitches and your mounted items. Sometimes, depending on the shadowbox, you can even wrap fabric around the side walls.
- Don't put a piece of cardboard in the back of your shadowbox. Get some acid-free matboard or foamboard. The acid can seep into your shadowbox and cause some discoloring. It doesn't happen in a few weeks or months, but it will happen over the
course of a few years.
- Buy a piece of UV/Conservation Clear glass for your shadowbox. You will have to go to a custom framing dept or store and have them cut or order it. It will protect your items from fading. Over time, everything will fade if it's not protected.
The salesperson may try and sell you something called Museum Glass. It's wonderful glass that has no glare and looks like it's not even there. If you can afford it, it's awesome and highly recommended. But it's pricey! Some ready-made shadowboxes are
built so you cannot remove the glass, so check on that before you order any new glass. (those kinda tick me off)
- If you are making a really large shadowbox, consider getting Conservation Plexiglass. It will be more expensive than glass but will be lighter weight and shatterproof.
- When you get your Conservation Glass home, clean it with an ammonia-free glass cleaner and a soft towel and make sure that you are careful with it. The side with the writing on the edge scratches very easily. That side will go on the inside of
your box, facing the artwork.
- If you are including a newspaper clipping in your shadowbox, like your wedding announcement, I recommend scanning it and reprinting it on acid-free paper, then put the reprint in your box. No matter what you do to protect it, a piece of newsprint will discolor and fade over time. It's just the nature of newsprint.
- When mounting your items and putting your box together, do your best to make sure nothing is touching the glass. If condensation gets in there, it can cause items to stick to the glass.
- When your awesome shadowbox is all done, be conscious of where you hang it. Don't hang it near a heater vent, in your bathroom or where it will get direct sunlight. Heat causes condensation to form inside the glass and creates a home for mildew
to grow. I once had a customer all ticked off at me because his shadowbox was growing mold on the inside... then we got him to admit that it was hanging right outside the door to his sauna!