How to Create a Tin Foil Relief Photo Box

Use chalk shavings and leaf prints to create a distinctive container for photos.
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Materials and Tools:



3-by-3½-inch card stock
school glue
small bowl
heavy-duty tinfoil
black and brown shoe polish
3 sheets of 12-by-12-inch tan paper
earth-tone chalk pastels
cheese grater
spray polyurethane
gel medium
2¾-by-3¼-inch leaf
earth-tone acrylic paints
scrap paper
thin chipboard
utility knife
carpenter's square
squeegee or book bone
bookmaker's glue
power drill
1/8-inch leather strips
2 beads
twig from tree
kitchen sink and water
heavy books


1. Preheat the oven to the lowest setting.

2. Sketch or trace a leaf on a piece of card stock, adding detail and veins. Trace all pencil sketches with a thin line of school glue and place in the warm oven to dry until the glue is transparent, usually 10 to 20 minutes.

3. Fill a sink with about 1 inch of water and gently grate chalk pastels over the water. Submerge a sheet of tan paper completely in the chalk water. Lift the sheet out of the water, depositing the chalk onto the paper. Repeat the process until the desired color is achieved. Place the sheet in the warm oven to dry. Repeat the process with a second piece of tan paper.

4. Once the papers have dried, place them on newspaper in a well-ventilated area (preferably outdoors) and spray them with a thin coat of polyurethane. The polyurethane should dry within a few minutes. Sponge gel medium over the entire surface to seal the paper. Let dry.

5. For the leaf-print paper, place a leaf on a piece of scrap paper, apply black paint to the vein side of the leaf with a sponge and place the leaf¾paint side down¾on a piece of tan paper. Lay a piece of scrap paper over the leaf and gently rub with your fingertips to stamp the leaf onto the tan paper. Repeat the process several times on different areas of the paper. Paint the leaf with brown paint and press the painted side onto the tan paper, filling in between the black leaf stamps. Set aside to dry.

6. To make the tinfoil relief, remove the glue-line leaf print from the oven, dilute glue with water in a bowl until it's easy to spread with a paintbrush, and paint it over the print. Place a piece of tinfoil slightly larger than the card stock — shiny side up — over the glue.

7. Rub over the entire surface to etch the lines into the foil. Then, with a dull pencil, trace around the glue lines, adding detail to the veins of the leaf.

8. Rub a small amount of brown shoe polish over the leaf in several places with your finger. Repeat the process with the black shoe polish. Apply diluted glue to the back of the card stock and fold the foil to the back, gluing it to the back of the card stock. Set aside.

9. To make the photo box, cut chipboard pieces to the following sizes, using a utility knife and a carpenter's square:

  • 4½ by 6½ inches
  • 1 by 6½ inches (two pieces)
  • 1 by 4½ inches (two pieces)
  • 3½ by 6½ inches (two pieces)
  • 2½ by 4½ inches (two pieces)
  • To make the window on the cover of the box, cut a rectangle measuring 2¾ by 3¼ inches in one of the 3½-by-6½ pieces.

10. To assemble the box, place a sheet of chalk-shavings paper face down. Using a paintbrush, cover the 4½-by-6½ piece of chipboard with bookmaker's glue and place it horizontally in the center of the paper. Rub firmly with a squeegee or a book bone on both sides of the piece.

11. There won't be enough paper to completely cover the chipboard pieces; whatever remains will be patched later. Allow a 1/8-inch gap between the pieces of chipboard. This will allow the box to close.

12. Begin gluing pieces, working outward from the centerpiece. Using the 1-by-6½ pieces, glue one piece horizontally above and one piece vertically below, and glue the 1-by-4½ pieces vertically on each side. Place the window piece above and the 3½-by-½ piece below. Vertically glue the side flaps (2½ by 4½) on the left and right sides.

13. Using the utility knife, cut an "X" in the center of the window, starting from each corner, and then cut away the excess paper, leaving a ½-inch border. Apply glue around the window, fold over the edges and glue them down. Glue the tinfoil-relief leaf on the back of the window so that it faces the right side.

14. Cut the excess paper from around the box, leaving a 1-inch border of paper around the chipboard. Using the excess paper and the second sheet of chalk-shavings paper, cut pieces and patch the exposed chipboard, making sure to overlap the papers. Glue the patches in place.

15. Cut four 1-inch-square pieces from the spare paper. Glue the squares to each corner of the bottom pieces of the photo box. From the outer corner of each square, cut diagonally through the 1-inch border of the paper with a utility knife.

16. Fold the paper at the corners over the chipboard at right angles and glue it to the chipboard. Glue the paper borders on all sides to the chipboard.

17. Cut four lengths of leather measuring about 7 inches. Miter the ends of the leather strips.

18. On the top flap of the box, measure in 1 inch from each side 1 inch and ¼-inch from the bottom edge and mark. On the bottom flap of the top of the box, measure in 1 inch from each side and 2¾ inches down from the top.

19. Make a hole through the chipboard at each mark with a drill, and thread a leather strip through each hole, leaving 1 inch of leather on the inside of box.

20. To cover the inside of the box, place the leaf-print paper face down on the work area and cut a piece of paper 6 by 13¼ inches. Cut two more pieces 4 by 4 inches.

21. Apply glue to the left flap of the box and place one of the 4-inch papers over the left-side flap of box, making sure to leave a small border of chalk-shavings paper exposed. Press the paper firmly into the crevices with a squeegee or book bone. Repeat the process on the right-side flap of the box.

22. Apply glue to the top cover flap of the box, place and press the 6-by-13¼ paper, apply glue to the first crevice, and using the side of the squeegee or book bone, press the paper firmly in place. Glue the paper section by section until the box is covered.

23. Lay the box out flat and cover it with heavy books for several hours. Prune a twig from a tree, cut it into two small pieces, drill a small hole in each and insert the lower leather strips through the twigs. Glue beads onto the ends of each leather strip.

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