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Shadow box: alternative designs

Can anyone direct me to alternative plans for a shadow box? I barely have room to paint, much less build Marc's shadow box. I'm  thinking smaller or at least a more portable option. Your help is greatly appreciated. Before attempting to solve this for myself, I thought, maybe this had already been addressed. I'm new to the forum.


  • I've seen people use a cardboard box painted black with small objects placed inside. It depends what you want to paint as well :)
  • Get an idea of how your set-up will be lighted. A common mistake is to build the box and not be able to get the right light. Once you determine the lighting you are allowed to use anything to keep the studio light out. Foamcore  and/or cardboard boxes on top of a folding snack table are popular and expedient. some black cloth is also very helpful.
  • Hi @BillG    Welcome to the forum!  Are you in the U.S.?  I go to the Dollar Store and get foam core board and score it - it folds up easily, doesn't weigh anything and takes up no space when you are not using it.  - SUPER easy and cheap - a dollar!   

    P.S.  I also noticed that many of my favorite artists, Richard Schmid, David Leffel, Sherrie McGraw etc. etc. etc....  don't even bother with a box - they use table top and strong light.  So, try not to let that stop you from painting because it can get overwhelming when you see all the "rules".   Glad to have you and hope you'll share your work!

    Will try to find a video for you...……….
  • edited November 2018
    I too have limited room so part of my, not so very big, bedroom is my studio. I got a set of those shelves that look a bit like a ladder. It also serves as my props store. They lean against the wall so they are not fixed (though can be). I then make a box out of black foam board, its extremely light (can buy from art shop). I can set up the box on a higher or lower shelf depending if I'm sitting or standing to paint. The shelves can be a bit narrow, but a board and clamp can change that (as I've done in these pics). All depending on the size of the set up required. 
    I also use black cloth to add to areas.

  • Here are some examples of how I use the cheap foam core board: (please excuse my mess)

    I hope that helps - the possibilities are endless with back draperies, adding another section to make it a true box with a lid - super cheap and easy 
  • @Julianna, what's with all the chicken bones on the easel?
  • Here's an alternative shadow box design that Mark talked about:

    You set up a surface (table?), and on that arrange what you want.  Add a background.  Move lights around to get what you want.  No box.

    Then you set up your easel and palette at the right distance, with 5000K lights that shine on canvas and palette.

    Finally you hang a black curtain between the easel and the subject.  It should hang form the ceiling down low enough that you can't see the lights illuminating the subject, and the painting lights don't shine on the subject.  You should be peering under the curtain.

    What this does is essentially set up two lighting zones with a curtain in between.  You sit in the bright one, and you observe the custom lit subject.
  • dencaldencal -
    edited November 2018

    Welcome to the Forum.

    Ronna has devised a brilliant collapsible PVC shadow box.

  • BillG

    You seem to have inadvertently awarded me an “Off Topic” on the alternative shadow box.
    Touch “Off Topic” again if you wish to revise your opinion.


  • dencal(Denis): I really appreciate the fact that you took the time to point this out to me! Very "on topic"!
  • One excellent still life painter uses this cheap setup.You can make your own modifications such as:

    1. making windows on both sides or the top with flaps so that you can open/close to create specific lighting sources
    2. attach strings in front to make guiding lines
    3. can remove the bottom easily to utilize various bottom surfaces
    4. put it upside down for another type of composition
    5. make sure to color the front side with some darker tone; inside is black. you can have another one with cardboard color or a id-value color.

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