Introduction: Photo Frame With Hidden Compartment

About: I love creating. I love ART in all its forms. I am a daughter of the 50s, born in 1992. I had the pleasure to be a Featured Author on this fabulous site, and you can read my interview here: https://www.instr…

In this Instructable I want to show you how to make a double use photo frame.
It looks like a regular frame at the front, but contains a secret compartment in the back. It can be used to hide things or to simply organize little objects or memories that have to do with the front photo.

I dedicate this whole project to my dear cat who passed away on January 28th, 2014.
This is the main reason why I haven't been around much. It's been a hard time and still is, but she's given me the strength to get back to "work" and create this frame for her.
When my bunny passed away, about a year and a half ago, I was in the middle of making a photo frame. For this reason, I immediately decided that THAT frame would have been HIS frame. That's what I did. It's still in front of my bed and looking at it always makes me feel better.
Now I need to add a new frame for my cat.

Even though the secret compartment & doors contest is ending, it inspired me to create the back of this frame. There are some things about my cat that I don't want to lose and I thought that the compartment in the back would have been the best place where I could keep them.
I miss her terribly, but creating this frame made me feel better somehow.

This is also a nice idea for a gift to a loved one: you can insert a photo and put a letter or just a note hidden in the back. It's up to the recipient to find it.
Isn't that sweet? :)

Step 1: What You Need

  • cardboard
  • white paper
  • plastic sheet from a plastic bag
  • red paracord*
  • cutter
  • scissors
  • pencil
  • ruler
  • stick glue
  • hot glue
  • scotch tape
*The paracord decoration is made with the same technique I used for this project: Cords Wall Clock.
When I first made it, I had no idea that those nylon cords were called paracord in English, I apologize :)

Step 2: Make Two Rectangles

The photo that I was going to put in the frame is 18x13cm (7x5.11 inches) so I cut 2 identical rectangles out of cardboard that are 2,5cm (0.98 inches) bigger than the photo on every side. 
These rectangles turned out to be 23x18cm (9x7 inches).

One of these rectangles will be the back of the frame and the other one will be the front, which is the part with the hole for the photo.
So, choose the piece that will become the front and draw a smaller rectangle in the middle that is 0,5cm (0.19 inches) smaller than the actual photo on each side.
Make sure that it's perfectly centered.
If you prefer, you can draw a rectangle that is as big as the photo at first (like I did), then measure 0,5cm from each side and trace the new rectangle.

Cut that smaller rectangle out and keep the frame.

Step 3: Cover the Cardboard

Let's work on the second rectangle now.

Cut a piece of paper that is about 2cm (0.78 inches) bigger than the cardboard and glue that cardboard in the middle of the sheet of paper.
Cut all the 4 angles of the paper out, as if you were cutting little triangles.
Fold the paper around the rectangle and glue it all around the cardboard sides.

This way one side of the cardboard is all covered and white now.

Step 4: A Couple of Strips...

You need to cut 3 strips of cardboard now.

The first strip must be as long as the longest side of the frame. Its width must be 0,5cm (0.19 inches) smaller than the frame's width - this has to do with the fact that the hole in the middle was made 0,5cm smaller than the photo.
It may sound complicated, but I wanted to explain how I came up with it.
If you followed the measures I used since the beginning, this strip will be 23x3cm (9x1.18 inches).

The other 2 strips must be 15x3cm (5.9 x 1.18 inches), which is the length of the longest side of the frame minus the other strip's width.

Now, working on the back piece of cardboard, glue the longest strip on one of the longest sides of the rectangle, and the other 2 strips on the shortest sides, trying to be as accurate as possible.

This thickness you've created will allow you to insert the photo in the frame.

Step 5: Cover the Frame - Part 1

Put aside the back piece now and let's work on the front again.

Draw the shape of the frame, including the middle rectangle, on a big sheet of white paper. Make sure to leave thick borders all around, about 3/4cm (1.18 inches). 
Now cut out that central rectangle making sure to leave about 1cm (0.39 inches) free all around.
Starting from the center, make 4 diagonal cuts until you reach the edges of that smaller rectangle.
You've just recreated the hole of the frame on paper.

Now trace the outline of the whole frame on the back of the paper too laying it with the white side facing the table.
Glue the cardboard frame on the back of the paper making sure to follow the outlines you traced.
Finally, fold the 1cm borders that you didn't cut before gluing them to the internal sides of the frame.

Step 6: Cover the Frame - Part 2

Let's consider the upper side of the frame now.

Trace 2 diagonal lines on the upper angles of the paper, as if you had to cut them out.
Start to cut as if you really had to cut them out, but end the cut in the middle, where the scissors meet the cardboard angle.
Now starting from the other side, make a straight cut following the long side's border so that you obtain a separate strip of paper at the top of the frame.
Fold that strip and glue it on the cardboard frame.

This is extremely hard to explain and I guess my explanation sounds really confusing. Please take a look at the pictures, I believe they are more helpful than my own words :)

Step 7: Compose the Frame

You need to join the 2 pieces of the frame now (back and front).
To do this, simply glue the back part on the 3 thicknesses pieces that you added on the front piece previously. I used hot glue for this.
Remember: all the white sides must remain on the outside of the frame because those are the visible sides. The ones that you didn't cover will be on the inside and hidden.

When you are done, cut 3 new strips of cardboard. 
One must be as long as the longest side of the frame (23cm - 9 inches).
The other 2 strips must be as long as the shortest side of the frame (18cm - 7 inches).
All of them need to be about 1cm thick (0.39 inches).

These strips must be glued exactly on the borders in the back of the frame. They must be perpendicular to them, as if you were creating a thin box.
The longest strip must be glued on the bottom border of the frame.
The other 2 strips must be glued on the 2 shortest borders.

Step 8: Cover the Frame - Part 3

Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about the paper coming out all around the frame!

First of all, measure how thick your frame turned out to be. Mine is 2cm (0.78 inches) thick.
Now starting from the border of the actual frame, measure 2cm (or whatever thickness you have) and trace a line on each side of the paper.
Next, trace a diagonal line on the bottom angles of the paper to create a triangle. The most important thing is that the line needs to meet the end of the lines you traced previously. Please look at the pictures to understand what I mean.

This way you have created a bigger triangle that includes the angle of the paper, PLUS a smaller triangle opposite to the other one.
Now cut away away both triangles on both sides.

Fold all the paper that's left and glue it on the frame. 
The cardboard strips that you added to the back of the frame are now part of the frame too, so the paper must be glued to them too.

Step 9: Last Piece of Cardboard

You need one last piece of cardboard that will close the back of the frame. Yes, I promise it's the last one! :)

The main piece is a rectangle as big as the frame (23x18), just like the first 2 pieces.
Glue it on the back of a new piece of white paper, always leaving some free paper all around, especially at the top.
Above that piece, glue a thin strip of cardboard (1cm thick) and as long as the longest side of the rectangle. Make sure to leave about 2mm (0.07 inches) between the 2 pieces.

Now cut out all the angles of the paper as usual.
Fold all the paper sides and glue them on the cardboard starting from the top one.
The top side is the most important one because you need to be careful at keeping the 2 pieces at the right distance. This way, once the paper has been glued on them, the space in between will allow you to fold the pieces easily.

Finally, glue a paper rectangle on the part of the cardboard that hasn't been covered yet.

Step 10: Close the Frame

The last piece you created will be the back of the frame, the one that will close the whole frame.

Place the top side of the back of the frame next to the top side of the piece you've just created.
Join them together sticking a long piece of scotch tape.

Voilà, the back of the frame has become a little box that is possible to open and close whenever you want! :)

Step 11: Create Some Pockets

I decided to put some pockets in the back of the frame so that you can easily put things inside that little box.

To make a pocket, cut a piece of plastic (from a plastic bag) that is as long as the longest side of the frame plus about 2cm (0.78 inches). Its width has to be about half of the frame's width plus 2cm.

Starting from each side of the plastic, measure about 1cm (0.39 inches) and trace a line.
Cut out all the angles and fold the sides following the lines you traced.
Now choose one of the long sides and glue it. This side will be the top side of the pocket.

Make another pocket just like that one.

Step 12: Glue the First Pocket

Let's start gluing the first pocket to the first half of the box.

First of all, glue the longest side of the plastic in the middle of the frame box. 
Fold the plastic up and try to glue the short sides trying to keep them on the inside. This way they'll be invisible.

First pocket: done!

Step 13: Glue the Second Pocket

The second pocket is placed a little different than the other one.

Glue the bottom side of the plastic on the perpendicular strip of cardboard (the bottom one).
Fold the plastic up again and glue the left sides on the perpendicular sides of the box, always keeping them on the inside.

Second pocket: done!!

The structure of the frame is all done now, let's decorate it!

Step 14: The Double Swirl

The decoration for this frame is made shaping paracord!

The first shape I made is a double swirl.

Using hot glue, glue the tip of the cord on itself, being VERY careful not to burn your fingers!!
This is the way I begin all the swirls.
Now you can start rolling the cord, applying a little bit of glue every now and then to keep the swirl firm. Make sure to put less glue as possible on the front. It will look better this way.
I made about 2/3 rounds.

I figured that I needed about 11cm (4.33 inches) of cord to make that size's swirl. 
So, starting from the end of the swirl you have just made, measure 11cm and cut the cord.

Again, glue the tip of the other end of the cord on itself and continue to roll on the opposite side of the other swirl until they meet each other.

That's it! You've just created your first double swirl :)
Now the number of swirls depends on how you want to decorate your frame.
I made 14 for mine.

Step 15: Other Cord Shapes

I believe that the shapes you can create with cords are endless so have fun experimenting with them!

These are a few of the ones I made:
  • big double swirl: this is just like the double swirl I explained in the previous step. The only difference is that one of the swirls is bigger than the other. 
    I recommend you to start with the bigger swirl since you know already that you need 11cm of cord for the small one.
  • open swirls: these are super simple! Simply roll the cord as usual for different rounds and cut the cord leaving it free. It may be longer or shorter, it is always up to you! 
    These are completely random :)
  • heart: this one is just a composition of different cord shapes. It's hard to explain how I made it, I bet that you can easily understand how I made it by looking at the are free to copy it if you like :)

Step 16: Adjust the Shapes on the Frame

It's time to really decorate the frame now!

Once you have all your cord shapes done, you can decide where you want them to be on the frame.
"Play" with them for a while to make a good composition :)
When you are sure, use hot glue to glue the swirls on the frame.
If you see blank spots that you don't like you can always create new shapes with cords to fill them.

Step 17: Insert the Photo...

The frame is done...the decoration is done...
Insert a photo in it now, fill the back of the frame with memories and objects and enjoy it!! :)

Note: If you are not going to hang the frame, you can even use the cover of the hidden box in the back as foot to keep the frame up :)

Secret Doors and Compartments Contest

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Secret Doors and Compartments Contest

Valentine's Day Contest

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Valentine's Day Contest

Organization Contest

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Makerlympics Contest

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