How to Make a Travel Shadow Box

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Easy & practical tips to make your own DIY Shadow boxes, including a tutorial on how to turn a favourite travel picture into a picture-word! Gather your favorite momentos and souvenirs - from travel, special milestones, etc- and transform them into a beautiful homemade shadow box. #SpringCreations ad

Every year, I take Ella on at least one big trip.

It’s a family ritual that I hope to continue as she gets older, travelling to more diverse and interesting locations as her interests become more diverse and mature.

Already we’ve amassed a little collection of momentos from our travels (though I try to bring a minimalist approach to our travelling) that up until now have been lying around in a drawer, unseen and losing their significance. I thought it was about time I put together some easy shadow boxes to celebrate our travels.

Of course, taking advantage of any excuse to buy craft supplies, I purchased several Scotch® and Command™ Brand products at Walmart, including:

  • Scotch® Brand Multitask Tape
  • Scotch® Brand Utility Knife
  • Scotch® Brand Permanent Mounting Tape
  • Scotch® Brand Double Sided Tape
  • Scotch® Brand Magic Tape
  • Scotch® Brand Mounting Squares
  • Command™ Mini Hooks
  • Command™ Strips

I also bought a large and small shadow box, but I hope to show you in this tutorial that those are not completely necessary.

I can be really guilty of being a perfectionist when it comes to any type of project, which can often lead to the project going unfinished as I encounter road blocks to my perfectionism. I was determined to not let that get the better of me, so I started small and reminded myself through the process that at the end of the day – these momentos are just things and if anything got ruined in the process, I knew that we would still have the memory (and the pictures!) of those travels.

how to make sand shadow box (2)

How to Make Easy Travel Shadow Boxes

Start off by gathering together your momentos. Organize them in whichever way makes sense to your project – you can make individual photo boxes for each vacation, for each family member, etc. Plan to spend a bit of time reminiscing – this might take awhile!

Next, go through your pictures and print any that you need for your project. You’re not making a photo album so don’t worry about printing off every special memory, and instead focus on the best couple or simply the best picture showcasing a unique feature of your vacation.

Something I did that was fun for each of my photo boxes was create a photo-integrated label for each city with the letters showing the skyline for those cities.

I was inspired to make the photo-integrated text after seeing this cool Photoshop action. I knew that most of you wouldn’t have Photoshop, or want to spend $40 on an experimental font setting, so I played around to figure out a free way to get a similar effect.

how to make photo text

Here’s how to make your own photo-integrated text:

  1. Pick the image you want to use for the background of your letters
  2. Go to – they have paid and free options, you do not need to pay for this project

how to make a picture integrated text (5)

3. Click “design” and then select the size you want your final photo to be (if you have to use custom dimensions, they will be in pixels – I estimated 300px per inch)

how to make a picture integrated text (3)  Click “Apply” to keep your canvas white (colour code “fffff” or just click white on the colour spectrum)

how to make a picture integrated text (1)

5. Click the “Tt” icon on the left hand side to add text. There are some paid texts but a good variety of free texts you can use. Select your text, click “add text” and then type your text into the text box. Click outside of the text box before resizing it.

how to make a picture integrated text

6. Over top of your canvas, there is a little toolbar – select the two sheets of paper with an arrow pointing down to “Combine” your image.

how to make a picture integrated text (4)

7. Click on the “butterfly” icon to add your picture. Drag the corners of the picture to the edges of your text.

how to make a picture integrated text (2)

8. On the pop-up menu for the picture, there will be a drown-down menu called “Blend modes.” Select “Lighten”

9. Make any final adjustments and then save your design to your computer using the top toolbar.

I used pictures that I took on my vacation for an extra special touch. You could even add different pictures for each letter with this effect – which would be really cool if spelling someone’s name or making a large picture spelling out your family’s last name, etc.


how to make sand shadow box (1)

Bermuda Sand Travel Box

Ella and I brought back some pink sand from our trip to Bermuda – Ella’s first international trip – and I wanted something a bit more special than a plain mason jar to display it.

To make our sand-filled travel box, we used:

  • sand from our vacation
  • mini starfish
  • a small 5×7 shadow box
  • a picture-integrated text background with a picture I took of a Bermuda sunset on the beach
  • Scotch® Brand Utility Knife
  • Scotch® Brand Permanent Mounting Tape (you can also use the double-sided tape to place your items first, before permanently attaching them)

I cut a photo-integrated text background (“Bermuda” made up of a picture of Bermuda’s Front Street) with the Scotch® Brand utility knife to fit a small shadow box and then attached it to the back of the box with some permanent mounting tape.

Next I tilted the “box” part of the frame and poured the Bermuda sand into the crease. I sprinkled on the sugar starfish and then secured the back onto the frame.

bermuda wall

I’ve hung this sweet little travel box onto the wall using some Command™ Mini Hooks, alongside Ella’s starfish art and a large canvas of us walking on the beach together. The Command hooks are easy to remove and reposition the pictures later if I decide I don’t like the lay-out, without damaging the walls with nails.

chicago section tray shadow box

Chicago Shadow Box Tray

Feeling a bit more bold, I decided to do a bit of experimenting with the next shadow box.

To make this cool sectioned shadow box, I used:

  • a sectioned tray from a magnet paper doll toy
  • several knick knacks from our Chicago vacation, including
    • a pin from GEB restaurant
    • a jade bracelet from China
    • crayons from Lou Magnetti’s
    • dinosaur beads from the museum
    • ticket stubs from Adler Planetarium & Shedd Aquarium
    • a paper hat gifted to Ella from a cook at the Billy Goat Tavern
  • text-integrated picture of the Chicago skyline
  • a special picture of Ella and I posing on the Skydeck
  • Scotch® Brand utility knife
  • Scotch® Brand Permanent Mounting Tape
  • Scotch® Brand Double-sided tape

Our sectioned toy tray came in this bright purple colour, but you could add a quick coat of spray paint with primer to transform a plain tray.

I played around with the lay-out a bit, using paper clips and the Scotch® Brand double-sided tape to temporarily position items until I was happy with the lay-out. (I decided to leave the top two spots blank so Ella can go through our pictures from Chicago and pick her two favourites, which we’ll print as mini-prints at Walmart.)

I used the Scotch® Brand utility knife to trim the photos down to size and then permanently attached them with the Scotch® Brand Permanent Mounting Tape.


Next, I’m playing around with some “proper shadow boxes” for Toronto and Disney, but for these I want a bit more of Ella’s input because she was older and has her own special impressions and memories from those trips.

I’m using a combination of T-pins and the double-sided tape until we have everything just right, then I will be swapping those out for the permanent mounting tape to ensure everything is secure.

travel shadow box fb

For more Spring Craft inspiration, check out 3M’s Pinterest Board.

What’s on your Spring Craft to-do list?

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  1. This is such a unique idea and seems totally doable! I love PicMonkey! My family and I are going to Disney in September, this could be a great idea to remember the trip. 🙂 #client

  2. Many many thanks for sharing such a super class tips. I really appreciate your wonderful explanation. This site is definitely a goldmine to me!! I will certainly dig it and personally suggest to my friends. I’m sure they’ll be benefited from this website.

  3. I really like how you described your method of making a shadow box you could show off your traveling adventures in! My sister wants to do some from a backpacking trip she did in Europe a year ago and isn’t sure where to start. Thank you for the information about starting small and reminding yourself of how momentos are things and the memories are there to stay, so don’t get mad about mistakes that may ruin some of the items.

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