48 Inch Wide Layered Paper Art Shadow Box




About: I'm an artist, designer and high school teacher. I teach digital media and graphic design. I love to create. I love working with wood, paper, clay, pen and ink, photography, videography and beyond. There is...
How To Make A Shadow Box

My name is Andrew Jones, I am a paper artist, designer, and teacher, and my latest line of creations have me creating artwork from paper. This paper art shadow box was created using a hand-drawn concept, which was then pen-tooled using adobe illustrator, to create the required SVG files, that my Cricut Maker then used to cut the 140lb watercolor paper. This piece took me over 160 hours so far, with still more work to put into it, using my Cricut Maker that I got for my birthday, last year.

I built the wooden enclosure from scratch and designed the concept around my own passion for land, sea, and air. I grew up in the U.K. and had a fascination for castles and galleons. They always seem to proliferate my work.

This piece was truly rushed as it was for an art show, though my next piece like this will push the boundaries of paper art.

This piece is 48" Wide, 27" Tall and 10 -12 " Deep.

This entire how-to, in much more depth, is also available on my website:


or my Youtube channel:


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Step 1: I Split My Design Using the Grid Theory

I split my world into 3, both vertically and horizontally. On every third, I placed an important focal point. On the left upper third grid line, I placed the sun. The right upper third was the end of the land, and the ocean starts. The top third, the sky begins and the lower third is the ocean. I tried to place elements that would balance the overall concept.

Each piece was scaled and placed in accordance with what looked good in comparison to everything else on the layout. I began with broad strokes, then built it up, incorporating texture, depth and keeping in mind how the shadows might work since the light was added.

Step 2: Forced Perspective Designing

I love adding forced perspective to my sculpt by adding visually appealing views of items like the Galleon, the Aircraft. Visually, I look at the photo and design it in layers that visually make sense. Building it up with paper, adding each layer as it makes sense to do so.

Step 3: Creating Ocean Life From Scratch

I have had an idea for an animatronic Jellyfish for a long time but in this piece, I created static beautifully detailed jellyfish to help boost the overall appearance of this paper art shadow box. It was these pieces that began my quest to be known as a paper artist. After creating my first jellyfish from scratch, I realized just how much could be created with this form of art, so I have been designing ever since, to make more and more complicated creations. When I complete my animatronic jellyfish, I'll place it here, as well as on my youtube channel :)

Step 4: Layers, Layers, Layers!

Depth and shadows are beautified and made more majestic by using layers upon layers. When the LED's are turned on, the shadows create incredible depth and richness of texture.

Making sure to grow or shrink the design as it progresses back into the set, gives the overall piece an organic feel, which helps in this design.

Step 5: Detail, Detail, Detail!

The more detail you can add, the better. To help your piece stand out and be more than just a children's paper art piece, attention to detail is key!

I will be making this piece again, from scratch to show the capacity of what I wished I made form the beginning. More attention to detail, better artistry, and craftsmanship.

Come check out my series on youtube, where I will be teaching everyone how to make these works of art and much much more. :) https://youtube.com/artisticbrit

Step 6: Lighting

Finally, I added a 16 feet strip of LED's that changed color. The LED's changed the way the shadow box looked with each color that was showing. LED's are perfect, as it is a low temperature, and is not a fire hazard in any way to the paper. The wood frame sat in front of the shadow box, illuminating from the front, the entire piece, and is quite stunning when lit up.

Thank you so much for reading and I hope this has inspired you to create your own paper works of art.


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    44 Discussions

    menna ali

    7 months ago

    I can't stop watching it's just mazing, inspiring and awesome .I want to see more of projects like this <3

    1 reply

    Question 7 months ago on Step 3

    I was hypnotized watching you work and find it so enthralling. I am curious as to the brand of paper glue you find most helpful for paper sculpture..

    3 answers

    Answer 7 months ago

    Thank you so much. I used Canson 140lb watercolor paper. It is my favorite to date. :)


    Reply 7 months ago

    @HeleneB5 question was what glue do you use?

    I admire your creations. I'd love to see more.


    7 months ago

    Amazing, now that I got mesmerized for a while admiring your art, I need to get back to work, time flew while watching it...

    5 replies
    pierrard UnitedKreative-Com

    Reply 7 months ago

    it's truly beautiful art. Not the kind of instructable I was expecting to see, as usually we see step by step, or how-to, for building tools or useful things, but first time I see purely artistic presentation that is not intended for us to replicate (how could we?).
    Talking about this, maybe you could enlighten us on an easier technique, using wood layers, 5-6 of them, to make a pretty decoration for a child room.
    can you explain how you determine your cuts for the foregrounds, backgrounds, and help us understand how we could then imagine reproduce something similar on a smaller scale to make a landscape?
    Your instructable is beautiful, but without a huge talent and experience, we can't reuse it.
    Many thanks for your post!


    Reply 7 months ago

    Thank you so very much, some lovely words there... I am creating much smaller, easier versions of this for people to follow along with and to make in a Facebook group I have, Though will be placing them on YouTube also. We will be starting with a 12” x 12” shadow box with thick watercolor paper, but could be tweaked slightly for wood or 1/16th wood sheets (so we can get more detail) in fact the Cricut Maker will cut wood sheets up to 2mm thick I believe. I have the blade required, so am excited to try that some day soon, too.

    i think you are right, there is some form of artistic ability that is required for a build just like this one, though for many that have been inspired, I feel they might not have the exact artistic skills I might have, but they have been pushed now to a new understanding, that they can do something wild and imaginative, too. I think often times for people, half of the battle is simply getting started. Knowing that things can be taken to such extremes, is a limit pusher for people. They see something that in their eyes is too hard, but they then scale it back and accomplish something they know they can achieve, though still more than maybe what they might have tried to achieve prior. (If any of that makes sense?) hehe

    pierrard UnitedKreative-Com

    Reply 7 months ago

    I would like to try to follow one of your "how-to" for a smaller project, more accessible to non artists who want to give it a try!
    I'll follow you on Instructable and facebook until such day comes that you can publish your new instructable :)
    Many thanks!


    7 months ago

    So beautiful! I love it! I would love to make a smaller scale of something like this!

    1 reply

    Reply 7 months ago

    I will be making a smaller, simpler version for people to follow along with in my Facebook group. Link is in my YouTube video description I’m sure. :)


    7 months ago on Step 6

    I have wanted to try something like this on a small scale, but your piece, detail to attention and patience has blown me away. I just called my husband down to watch some of your videos. I have signed up to receive your updates. I have been doing 3D photo compositions for years now, cutting and layering depths of fields in photos with standoffs in between. I also do hand cut paper designs, scherenschnitte. You are a true inspiration. Thanks for sharing.

    2 replies

    Awesome! To inspire is possibly the greatest thing, in my mind, for at last people might now try something, or simply start. I love your 3D photograph artwork, too! that’s pretty cool. I think the next piece on a larger scale will also have some hand cut elements in it. Maybe for some up close and personal content. Thank you for your very kind words. :)


    Reply 7 months ago

    Very cool stuff. I've wanted to try scherenschnitte, but I can't seem to handle a scissors. I do make cuttings with a blade though.


    7 months ago

    This is really wonderful! I can't wait to see more!