Family Tree Shadow Box

I did not do well in the photo example department for this craft and I apologize from the deep depths of my soul. I was trying to be sneaky since it was a gift for my family, so I skipped out on taking pictures... Hopefully I can make up for myself with grammatically correct step-by-step instructions and my clever jokes. Ha. Please ask questions in the comment section below if needed!

-16" by 20" shadowbox (I found mine at Hobby Lobby and do not forget about their 40% coupon)
-Hot glue gun and glue sticks
-Large piece of cardboard or foam board
-Box cutter 
-Acrylic paint
-Black and white wallet photos of all family members
-1 large sheet of regular cardstock
-1 regular sheet of metallic paper
-Photo-safe glue
-Foam double-sided stickers
-Paint pen

1. Remove the back board from the shadow box and place onto your fabric piece. Cut out the fabric using the board as a guide leaving a 2 inch perimeter on all 4 sides. Here you should test that the fabric is thin enough to still allow the board to be placed back inside the shadowbox frame without too much resistance. 

2. Hot glue to fabric to the BACK of the board starting at the top. Pull the fabric tightly as you are gluing being careful not to rip or stretch it. After gluing one side of the board, glue the other side that is parallel to the first. This will allow you to pull the fabric tight while gluing to ensure there are no wrinkles. You should now have a nice flat, fabric background for your family tree.

3. To create the tree, I used a large piece of cardboard. I googled an image (below) of a tree with 5 branches and used that to freehand draw my tree onto the cardboard. (Feel free to print out and trace the tree if you need a template.)

4. I cut the tree out using a very sharp box cutter razor. This is the most time consuming step of the project... I would recommend using foam board instead of cardboard. It will be easier to cut without ripping or tearing. And you won't feel like running away from home like I did afterwards. 

5. Now things start getting fun! I painted my tree with reddish brown acrylic paint to make it look less like cardboard. I then hot glued the tree to my nicely "upholstered" board making sure that is was placed right side up using the hangers on the back of the shadowbox as a guide. Be cautious with the glue gun. First of all, don't burn yourself. Second of all, avoid the dreaded glue "strings" by using small amounts of glue and pushing the tip of your gun down before pulling it away. No one likes glue strings...especially growing in your family tree! Be sure to adequately secure the trunk and most all branches.

6. Next, I cut out and glued pieces of regular cardstock about 1/4 inch larger than my pictures to add some color and a more finished look. I began placing my pictures on each branch based on the ages of the 4 siblings and then their children towards the outer branches. My grandparents were placed in the middle since they are the "trunk" of our family tree. Once happy with my picture placement, I hot glued them to the branches of the trees. To keep the pictures hanging off branches from curling or wrinkling, I placed the double-sided foam stickers under any corners that needed more support. 

7. For the leaves, I cut out small tear shaped pieces of paper using the metallic cardstock. I wrapped the flat leaves around a pencil to give them some dimension before hot gluing to any outer branches that tickled my fancy. 

8. I used a black paint pen to write "2014" near the trunk of the tree. You can be more creative than I was. Write "Love grows..." or "Our Family Tree" or "I love these people. Isn't our tree super cool?" Or don't write anything at all. Really, anything goes here. Do let your paint dry though.

9. Last step. Make SURE your tree is free of hot glue strings! Make sure all pictures look even and are not curling at the edges. Make sure everything is glued securely and will not fall off. Now, check the inside of the glass on your frame to make sure it isn't dirty or dusty. Once all pieces have passed rigorous inspection, place your tree into the frame and secure tightly. 

Now you have a perfectly preserved family tree filled with smiling faces of the people you love. Hang it on your wall and let people "ooh" and "ahh" like my aunt Jami did below! 

Please leave your comments and questions below.


  1. This family tree is just awesome. Double sided stickers work effectively in such activities. These stickers are more cost effective and look more attractive than the other marketing tools.


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