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Making a Mountain Layered Shadow Box with Lights

Making a Mountain Layered Shadow Box with Lights main article image
Posted on March 9, 2022 by Kate Wilson
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I love learning new crafts…but even more than that, I love learning new ways to craft with items I already use. I’ve been into paper crafts for several years now and mostly stick to greeting cards, gift tags, favor boxes, etc. But recently, I decided to try something new – a lighted shadow box. Layers of cardstock cut out with my Cricut Maker turn into a 3D design when placed on top of each other. The addition of LED strip lights behind the layers adds an extra touch and is surprisingly easier than I thought it would be (I was definitely a little intimidated, though – I asked my husband to plug the LED lights in for me because I was nervous that I hadn’t installed them correctly!).

About the Shadow Box

For my project, I decided to go with a 3D SVG from one of the creators here on Creative Fabrica. Once I saw it, I just had to make it. The area of Virginia that I live in is well known for its mountains, and a lot of the attractions in our area have to do with nature and being outdoors.

The creator is CutLeafSvg, and you can find the file here.

It comes in several different file types – SVG, PNG, DXF, and EPS – so you can use it with many different programs. I uploaded the SVG file to Cricut Design Space, which automatically loaded all of the layers at the same size, grouped together. While I love the colors that the original design comes in, I decided to change a lot of the colors of the layers for it to look more like the mountains near where I live. Simply click on the layer that you want, and then next to “Operation”, you’ll see the current color. Click on that and choose which color you want.


For my shadow box, I chose an 8-inch square box. I cut all of the layers out and then attached them together with double-sided tape (and a little bit of tacky glue in certain stubborn spots). I placed my layered creation in the shadow box, then attached LED strip lights to a piece that covers the back of the frame. The LED strip lights I used came with adhesive on the back already, but I added a little bit of double-sided tape to certain spots for an extra secure hold. I also trimmed a small piece off the bottom right corner of the back cover to allow the LED strip light cord to run through. After that, I placed the cover back on the shadow box and turned the lights on. Note: I purchased the LED strip lights from a local store, but you can easily find them on Amazon and at most major stores.

This was definitely a fun project – one that I hope you’ll try, too!

You’ll Need…

  • A Cricut Maker or Cricut Explore, along with Design Space software, a cutting mat, and a fine point blade.
  • A shadowbox of your choice
  • Cardstock in assorted colors of your choice
  • Double-sided tape.
  • Clothespins or clamps to help hold the paper in place
  • Scissors
  • Tacky glue or papercraft glue, if needed
  • LED strip lights, if desired

Directions:

  1. Upload the SVG from CutLeafSvg into Cricut Design Space. Add it to your canvas, and it will show up on the screen with all the layers grouped together.
  2. If you want to change the colors of the project, now is a good time to do it – click the layer that you want to change and change the color by clicking on the color icon next to “Operation” towards the top left of your screen.
  3. Size the group of layers to the size of your shadow box. For my project, I used an 8-inch shadow box, so I set the size of my layers to an 8-inch square.
  4. Follow the instructions on the screen to cut the layers out of cardstock of corresponding colors. I used all solid colors, with the exception of the layer of the river – I used blue marbled cardstock for that.
  5. Once you have all of your layers cut out, place them in the order that they go. Each layer, with the exception of the last layer in the shape of a frame, has a number in the bottom left corner.
  6. Start with layers 1 & 2 – the sky and the sun. Line the two pieces of cardstock up, making sure each corner meets, and use the clothespins or clamps on the very edges to hold it together and keep it in place.
  7. Using the double-sided tape, cut lengths of tape to go along the sides of the cardstock. Do one at a time, moving the clothespin or clamp as you go. Using these helps ensure that your cardstock is lined up correctly.
  8. Once those two layers are secure, add layer #3 – and so forth – using double-sided tape to adhere the layers together. I added some small dots of tacky glue on particularly detailed, small spots to help them stay down.
  9. Once you have all of your layers taped and/or glued together, and the glue has dried, place your mountain scene in the shadow box, facing outward.
  10. Cut a small piece of the bottom right corner of the back cover off, to allow your cord from the LED lights to hang out of the opening.
  11. Place the LED lights on the back cover, directly behind where your cardstock will go. I attached mine up one side, across the top, and down the other side. The LED strip lights that I used had an adhesive backing, and I added some double-sided tape to make it extra secure (you can cut them to size if your lights have a line at certain intervals or a scissor icon; please make sure to check your brand of lights before cutting into them).
  12. Place the cover back on the shadow box, and plug it in. Congratulations! You’ve made a light-up shadow box.

Please note that it’s hard to photograph something reflective without getting glare or part of yourself in the photo…which is why you can see my reflection if you look closely enough! Haha.

Customizing Your Shadow Box

Some great ways to customize this project and make it your own are:

  • Changing the color of the cardstock, as listed above.
  • Add permanent vinyl to the glass with a saying or word that means something to you – for instance, “Explore” or “Live”.
  • Painting your own shadow box or decorating an already painted one.
  • Use double-sided foam strips instead of tape to give the layers space and more of a 3D look.

Wrapping It Up

I really enjoyed learning how to make a light-up shadow box – and I hope you did too! Are you going to make one? What do you think? Let me know in the comments!


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