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Shadow Box Suggestions

So my wife gave me the rest of the supplies I needed to start painting for Christmas. I'm almost ready. I've been working on getting everything else together and need some ideas for the shadow box. I've decided to build it into my closet in my study so that I can close the doors and keep it from the kiddos. I've already moved the shelf I intend to use down so that it is at the appropriate height (40 inches). I have a few questions and am soliciting suggestions. Basically my questions pertain to lighting and black.

As for lighting, I do have electricity in the closet and am not averse to cutting a hole in the top shelf for lighting to come down. I just wonder if that is necessary or if I can just mount something within the box shelf itself. Would a typical task type light work if it had the 5k bulbs? Even if I do cut a hole in the top, I don't really have room for a chimney. What is going to give me the best result?

As for the black, I guess I have three options. Line the shelves with black foam board, paint the area black, or use some sort of material to line the whole thing. What sort of material have others found helpful? Of those options what do you all suggest? I suppose If I paint the thing black I will still want to add some cloth material to the background for texture.

Any other observations or suggestions before I get started. The rest of my SDM stuff will not come until January 7th so I have a little time.



  • The thing about lighting is you want to control the lighting inside the box without doing either of the following:

    1) picking up ambient light from outside the box, and
    2) throwing light outside the box and glaring up your palette or canvass (or eyes).

    I'm not sure how effectively you can control the light if it's mounted under the top of one of the shelves (and the subject on the shelf beneath). It might be a bit harsh, but you can certainly give it a try.

    If you don't mind, you might want to remove a shelf and replace it with two slats and then place a light above the slats to shine through. That will let you move the light in any direction. You would then want to lay foam board on the part of top that's open, again to keep out ambient light.

    I think the inside of the shadow box can be anything you want to paint, just be aware of what's reflecting what, where.

  • jdfick

    Foam board works well for me, cheap, easy to cut, easy to install and remove.

    I suggest you experiment with some dim-able LED units within a black cup or cylinder.

  • Hi Jdfick,
    I am in the process of building my box out of a cardboard box. I bought 2 cans of dull black spray paint, but it drys dull dark gray. NOT black. Thinking black craft paint to hand paint the box for real black. Have you read anything here about should the black be dull black or regular (shiny) black?
    As far as your closet situation and "thinking about the poster board appears that it would fit in your closet area so that you do not have to paint the closet black. Or black material could be stapled to the wall/boards easily. Should you ever want to move and sell the house, covering up black paint might be a really problem. So, just covering the white with poster board/cloth would be my recommendation .... thinking about uncertain future events. smile "Retired Real Estate Appraiser"
  • Roena

    Dull black is best. The aim here is to reduce reflection and glare. Dark gray should be fine.

  • Thanks all. I ended up cutting a hole in the top shelf and then creating a small chimney for the light out of an old gatorade container. I went with the foam board for the actual box. Super cheap and easy to work with. I trimmed it out with some old black fabric my wife had in her sewing stuff.

  • Great ideas! I am trying to make the light box for my shadow box. What prevents your light from tipping over? Did you paint the gatorade container black? What kind of fixture is holding your light? Can you share more?
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