When I was saving up to go to New York in 2014, I wanted a physical bank to pop a few bills in every payday or any spare coins I had lying around. So as always, I took to Pinterest and came upon a shadow box picture frame project. This particular one is inspired by the DIY Honeymoon Frame by Something Turquoise (note: if you’re planning a wedding, I definitely recommend checking out their site for more great DIY’s like this one).
The first time I made this, I designed it specifically for New York — a photo of Times Square in the background, NEW YORK in big letters in the front. Having a visual definitely gives you more motivation to save up, I find. The beautiful thing about this project is that once one trip is over, you can change the design to reflect your next one, thanks to the use of water-based paint markers. Just wipe the old design off, switch out the background, and start over. I’ve got a couple of trips coming up this year and early next year, so I thought I’d revamp my box and make it a bit more general this time around.
- Top-loading shadow box picture frame
- Water-based paint marker
- Photo for the background
- Optional: design for the foreground
The top-loading frame is a must, as it’s just more practical. I found this 8″ x 10″ shadow box from Michaels about 2 years ago. I lucked out as it was on sale at 50% off then, but typically I’ve seen frames of this kind go for about $20.00 minimum. If you know of any stores that sell them (any size) for less than that, please leave me a comment!
I also picked up a set of Sharpie Water-Based Paint Markers; mine are gold and white, which is a combo that I’m bit obsessed with at the moment. I love the quality of these markers, because they come out boldly and smoothly, and they’re not messy. That’s the most important thing. I’ve had a couple of paint markers in the past that just go all Niagra Falls if the slightest bit of pressure is put on the nib. The worst.
The first thing you’ll need is an idea of what you want your box to look like. I personally like minimal designs, so I simply wrote up some “travel fund” typography onto regular paper for my foreground design. Customize this any way you want, of course. I like doing the designs ahead of time because I’m terrible at freehand, but if you’re brave enough to get right to writing on the front glass, then by all means, soldier on.
I set my design aside and worked on the background design, which will sit at the rear of the shadow box. I found a really simple drawing of part of a world map on Google and replicated it onto some black cardstock with my gold paint marker, and set that aside to dry as well. For this, you can put together a collage (just make sure it’s thin enough to slip between the two rear glasses of the frame), find a photo online, literally anything.
Now the last step is getting your design neatly onto the front glass. I removed the front glass from the shadow box and wiped it down with a cloth just to make sure I was working on a clean surface. I positioned it over my foreground design and traced over it with my white paint marker. No worries if you make a mistake — just use a wet cloth to wipe off the marker, maybe a bit of soap if it’s being extra fussy, wipe it dry and start over.
When everything is dry, simply assemble the box back together (always use extra care when dealing with glass!) and you’re good to go. Start saving that hard-earned money and plan the best trip you can. And try not to take out of it every week for coffee, like I did a couple times. Unless you’re making a rainy day box, which is just one of the many other money-savers you can use this project for.