How to Make a Shadow Box Gallery Wall

Looking to create a unique three-dimensional wall display? Learn how to make these easy and inexpensive shadow boxes for a one-of-a-kind gallery wall.

August 20, 2021
Complete set of shadow boxes on the wall.

Complete Set of Shadow Boxes

Look at how vibrant and stylish these shadow boxes are! A complete makeover to any wall.

Photo by: Clara MacLellan

Clara MacLellan

Tools + Materials

  • 1/4” plywood or 1/8” luan
  • 1x3 lumber
  • primer
  • paint and paintbrushes
  • sandpaper
  • level
  • wood glue
  • nail gun or a hammer and finish nails
  • heavy-duty hanging strips
  • circular saw
  • tape measure

Plan Layout

Determine the measurements and shapes of your shadow boxes and then create your cut list. We opted to create 10 shadow boxes at the following sizes:

  • (2) @ 8” x 18”
  • (2) @ 8” x 8”
  • (4) @ 6” x 6”
  • (2) @ 6” x 14”

Here is our cut list for the above amount and sizes:

  • (4) 1x3 x 18”
  • (4) 1x3 x 8”
  • (8) 1x3 x 6”
  • (4) 1x3 x 14”
  • (8) 1x3 x 6-1/2”
  • (12) 1x3 x 4-1/2”
  • (2) 8” x 18” plywood or luan
  • (2) 8” x 8” plywood or luan
Written out measurements.

Measurements Required

Write out your measurements as well as the shape you'd like to create. This will make things a lot easier down the road.

Photo by: Clara MacLellan

Clara MacLellan

Cut Wood

Use a circular saw to cut the pieces based on your measurements. Make sure the plywood is cut so it covers the entire back of the frame.

Cutting the wood into pieces for the frames.

Cutting the Wood to Make Frames

Cut the wood pieces down to size, we used a table saw.

Photo by: Jacquelyn_McGilvray

Jacquelyn_McGilvray

Sort Wood Pieces

Be sure to keep your pieces organized. By grouping the pieces for each shadow box, there can be no confusion as to which piece goes where.

Varied cut wood pieces ready for use.

Cut Wood Pieces

Varied cut wood pieces ready for use.

Photo by: Clara MacLellan

Clara MacLellan

Sand the Edges

Use sandpaper or a sanding block to smooth out the edges of each piece of wood; this will prevent sharp corners and splinters.

Sanding wood blocks.

Sanding Wood Pieces

Sand the pieces so that they are nice and smooth. This way the paint will look professional.

Photo by: Clara MacLellan

Clara MacLellan

Prime

Apply a layer of primer. This will make your paint color more solid and add a layer of protection.

Priming the wood pieces before adding layer of paint.

Prime the Wood Pieces

Priming the wood pieces before adding layer of paint.

Photo by: Clara MacLellan

Clara MacLellan

Paint

When the primer has dried, move onto the real paint. We chose white for the frame of the shadow boxes and various shades of vibrant colors for the back panels. Let the paint dry before moving onto the next step.

Painting a wood panel red.

Painting Wood Panel

Paint the back panel of the frame so that they pop on the wall.

Photo by: Clara MacLellan

Clara MacLellan

Assemble the Frames

Glue together the four pieces of the frame. The two longer pieces should be glued to either end of the smaller ones, making a rectangle/square.

Gluing the last side fo the frame.

Gluing The Sides of The Frame

Glue together the sides of the frame to keep them sturdy.

Photo by: Jacquelyn_McGilvray

Jacquelyn_McGilvray

Nail the Frames

Use either a nail gun or finishing nails and a hammer to fasten the frame pieces together.

Nailing the sides of the frame together.

Nailing the Side of the Frame Together

Nail the sides of the frame together, creating a square.

Photo by: Jacquelyn_McGilvray

Jacquelyn_McGilvray

Glue on the Back Panel

Apply glue to the backside of the frame, use your finger or brush to smooth the glue evenly on the surface. Place the back panel face down (the painted side) on the frame.

Adding a layer of wood glue to a constructed frame.

Glueing the Back of the Box

Add a layer of glue around the side of the box that the back panel will go on.

Photo by: Jacquelyn_McGilvray

Jacquelyn_McGilvray

Nail Back Panel to Frame

Nail the back panel to the frame, make sure that the non-painted side is facing away from the frame.

Nailing the back panel to the frame.

Nailing Back Panel to Frame

Nail the back panel to the frame with the color facing downward.

Photo by: Jacquelyn_McGilvray

Jacquelyn_McGilvray

Add Wall Fasteners

Adhere the wall fasteners onto the backside of the frame, towards the top. By using stick-on fasteners the shadow boxes will be super easy to hang, and won't leave any holes in your walls. Make sure the fasteners can hold the weight of the shadow box and what you plan to put in it.

Applying wall strips to back of shadow box.

Applying Tacky Strips to Back of Frame

Avoid putting holes in your walls by applying an easy wall strip.

Photo by: Jacquelyn_McGilvray

Jacquelyn_McGilvray

Hang the Boxes

Use a level while hanging your frames to make sure they're even. It's the extra attention to detail that makes them look professional.

Hanging up shadow boxes.

Hanging up Shadow Boxes

Make sure that your frames are level.

Photo by: Clara MacLellan

Clara MacLellan

Time to Decorate

These shadowboxes have so much potential and endless possibilities. Fill them with whatever you like, small trinkets, family photos and plants will all look wonderful.

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