I know I promised I’d be doing a lot more crafting for the non crafty moms out there, which I will! But I’ll also be sharing some crafty favorites like these self-portrait shadow boxes because they are just so cool I can’t resist. Plus, if you read my last post about paint mixing, I said I’d share what we did with our painted boxes. This is my all time favorite art project to do with kids. It’s a bit of a commitment, but it’s so worth it because it makes the best keep sake. You can hang it on the wall or put it on a desk or shelf. It’s just awesome. If it looks a little intimidating though, I get it. Scroll down to the end and I give some tips to make an easier version. If you’re ready to get your craft on, keep reading.
I’ve posted about self portrait shadow boxes before, but I’ve learned a ton since then and I have some easy updates that will make this way easier and more fun. Also, I couldn’t hold onto these pics another minute. Click here for the full tutorial and keep reading for the updates. I also go over most of the steps briefly below.
I love this project for many reasons. The outcome is amazing, yes, but the process is just as good and the kids feel so crazy proud of themselves when they complete it. We start with the boxes. I had a few extra boxes from the post office hanging around, but you can also use cereal boxes, cardboard boxes or gift boxes. Prepare the box by cutting a rectangle out of one side with a box cutter. Make the rectangle smaller than 8 and a half by 11 so standard transparency paper covers it easily. I prime the box with white gesso before painting but you can skip that part if you want.
Time to paint. One of the things we did differently this go around, is we mixed our own paints for the boxes. All the paint we used was from the 3 primary colors and white. That’s it. Are you impressed? Mixing paints with kids is so much fun in addition to having great learning value. Check out this post on paint mixing with kids for a step by step tutorial.
After the boxes were painted I punctured two holes with a scissor at the top for the handle. When I first did this I spent way too much time trying to insert rubber bands and string and blah, blah, I made it way too complicated. Now it’s super easy. Just make a beaded piece of wire or pipe cleaner and insert through the holes. Stick your hand up through the box and make a little mush of wire so it can’t come out the other side and you’ve got a great handle.
Now it’s time to design your image. Place a photo under the transparency and tape it to the table. Invite kids to find the shapes and lines in their photograph and go over them with marker. I printed pics of the kids in black and white on regular printer paper.
Another change we made this go around was using chalk markers instead of black sharpie. Chalk markers are pretty amazing. Our favorite brand is FunChalk Markers. The colors are crazy vibrant and you can wipe off any mistakes you make and start again. That can be a curse or a blessing with kids, especially if you have a perfectionist in the bunch. I had to set down the law (no erasing aloud, just go with it rule number 57) with one child who kept trying to get it “right.” One great way to present this is to say that often art is whacky. Sometimes it makes you laugh, so don’t try to do this perfectly, just have fun with it. Your face might look really funny/whacky/crazy and that’s ok, just like at Halloween. This usually helps kids understand that it’s ok for it not to be perfect. If you do have a perfectionist in the bunch, stick with sharpies. They can’t erase and just repeat my mantra over and over again “just go with it,” when they want to start all over. I talk about “just going with it” before art projects with kids all the time, including my own 3.5 year old.
Once you have the painted boxes with handles and the transparency and photo, you are ready to construct your box. Glue the photo into the box centered behind the cutout. Place the transparency over the edges of the cutout and tape it down with clear tape. You did it!
They can deliver their self portrait to grandma and grandpa for Grandparents Day. This will knock their socks off. Whatever you decide to do with it, this is a fantastic process from start to finish and I encourage you to give it a shot.
If you’re looking for a simpler version, buy one of these frames, skip the painting, put the photo in the frame and have your kids just do the markers right on top of the frame. Easy peezy and still super cute. See, I kept my promise.
I hope you’re inspired to try some self portrait shadow boxes. You can see some other similar projects like these photo ornaments and these spin art shadow boxes, which you can make in this same way. Have fun! Meri