Tuesday, July 24, 2012

DIY Maleficent Shadowbox

I love making little papercraft figures, but when it comes to displaying them or giving them away, I'm always worried they'll get crushed or lost in the shuffle. So this past weekend I made a little display case to house my latest creation, Maleficent by Gus Santome. Check it out:

Isn't she adorably evil? 

She's in a dimensional shadow box with a curved mirrored backing. Here's a side view so you can see inside it a bit better:

The best part is how easy this is to make! All you need is a small cardboard box and a sheet of mirror foil paper from the scrapbook aisle. You can display any kind of papercraft in it, of course, but I highly recommend Gus's designs; they're a great size, and he has dozens of fabulous (free!) geeky characters to choose from, from the Ninja Turtles to the Avengers.

Ok, so.

First, you'll need to print out and assemble your papercraft character:

These particular designs are super easy to make, so they're perfect for beginners.
(Sorry I don't have any size reference here, but she's only about three inches tall.)

Next, find a sturdy cardboard box that's large enough to house your papercraft:

This box was a little tall, which is why I ended up adding the flames. (And now I'm glad I had to, since they're my favorite part!)

Next, measure and mark a half-inch border around the face of your box:

Then use a utility blade to cut out the center panel.
[PRO TIP: Instead of forcing your utility blade all the way through the cardboard, trace your lines lightly with the blade first, then go over the grooves again. It should only take two or three traces to get a perfect, clean cut.]

I was in a hurry to finish this for a friend, so I forgot to grab photos of the next step. Oops. So just visualize with me, if you will: You're taking the box outsiiiiide. And now you're painting it with spray paaaaaint. WoooOOoooo!

If you're making your own Maleficent display, or some other character who would benefit from a ring of paper flames, then print out your paper flames next. I used this graphic:

Just open it in Word or some other image software, and size it so it's slightly wider than your box. (Yes, slightly wider.) Then print it on the color paper of your choice (I used green and black) and cut out your flames:

I used scissors, which is why some of my edges are a little bent. If you use a sharp craft blade instead, you should be able to avoid the crinkles.

Now here's the fun part:

This is a mirror/foil sheet of card stock from the scrapbook aisle. I think it cost 80 cents. Cut your sheet so that it's the same height of your box, but wide enough that it will be forced to curve in a nice arc when you slide it inside the box. Does that makes sense? Imagine the sheet forming the letter C, with the back of the C touching the back of your display box. That's what you're aiming for.

At some point you're going to want to hide the corrugated edges where you cut out that front panel from your box. You could use ribbon, foil tape, more paper, etc. I used silver foil curling ribbon, since it looks just like the mirror backing:

Glue the ribbon so it hangs over the edges just a hair. You can still see the corrugated edge if you look down on it like this, but not looking straight on. (And if you wrap the edges with a fabric ribbon, you can avoid this issue all together.)

I've also installed the paper flames here. To do this, just curve them a little and use a bit of clear tape to adhere them to the side wall of the mirror backing. (You could also install them in a straight line, but I thought the arc looked nice.)

Here's what we've got so far:

Now all you have to do is add your character!

Since most papercraft has a flat/square head and the mirror backing is curved, you'll first need to glue a paper strip like this to the back of your papercraft's head:

(This is looking down on Maleficent's head.)

Fold a tab under on each side of the paper strip, and glue it in place so it gives you a nice curve. Then glue the curved strip directly to the mirror backing in your display. The papercraft may bobble a little if you jostle it, but it's a surprisingly strong support.


You can glue a sawtooth hanger to the back of your display box and hang it on the wall, or just set it on a shelf as-is.

Of course, the final step that I didn't have time for was installing a tiny green LED behind the flames. But just imagine with me for a moment how awesome that would have looked. [imagining] Mmm. Yep. Next time.

This was a gift for my friend Christie, who, in cast member terminology, is "good friends" with Maleficent at the Magic Kingdom. (So give her a wave for me if you ever see the castle show.) That means I have to make one for me next - and I've got my eye on the Evil Queen. What do you think, guys? Make the box edge look like the Mirror on the wall? Eh? Oh! Or I could make Iron Man, with a jet plume shooting out underneath him, like he's flying. Oooh, the possibilities...

I hope this sparks some crafty brain-storming of your own, and as always, please send me photos if you make one yourself! I love seeing what you guys come up with!


  1. I love his papercrafts! I found them when I was planning my nephew's Avenger themed birthday party. The boys LOVED them. It was great to see all those little guys concentrating on creating some funky crafts!

  2. I love it! I've never done papercraft before, but Maleficent is my favorite villian so I may just have to do this one too.
    BTW, I don't know why, but half of the pictures are no longer loading for me. Anyone else complained about this problem?

  3. Those are amazing! I know what I'm doing this weekend...my 4 yr old LOVES TMNT :-D

  4. I made some papercraft Scooby-Doo and his gang for my son's birthday. Now they are just sitting on his bookshelf. Wonder what would work well as a box/background for them? Would have to be quite a bit bigger to fit the whole gang in.

    1. Obviously a giant mystery machine:-) I have no idea how you would do it but it would be awesome!

  5. yumbots?!?!?! why have I never seen these before? Must go search Amazon for yumbots!

  6. Very fun!! I've never done paper crafting. I may have to try it out! I was having the same trouble as Miranda though... half of the pictures wouldn't load for me!

    Looking forward to seeing the Maleficient movie in 2014... :)

  7. @ Miranda & Melissa - Arg, I'm sorry the photos are giving you trouble! So far you've been the only two to mention it, but it sounds like the same problem we had over on CW before we left Blogger. Some workplaces blocked some of Blogger's image hosting servers, meaning any of our images hosted on those servers wouldn't show up. Are you guys reading the site at home? You might try loading the site with a different browser - see if that helps. :/

  8. I would have never thought of this but now I can think of a half a dozen things I want to do it for! It looks fabulous, Jen! Great job!

  9. I really need to make the Avengers for my son, he would flip out over them! Esp Hulk and Hawkeye :)

  10. I made my boyfriend an origami x-wing once; this would be a neat concept for that sort of thing too. Very cute!

  11. Now I have the urge to make a GLaDoS shadowbox..*calls my dad* Oh dad, how do you wire an LED? Sorry, I'm a total moron when it comes to stuff like that.

  12. I'm so excited about this idea, thank you! I'm living in a mostly stark white apartment where not being able to paint is driving me absolutely mad, so I adopted an owl theme in my bathroom to go with my tree shower curtain and put together some little paper owls from 3eyedbear.com (check them out for some awesome papercrafts) for pops of colour. However, they currently sit on top of my medicine cabinet, which I have to close very slowly, otherwise the wind from the cabinet doors knocks all of the little owls down! Shadowboxes would not only keep my little guys from taking a tragic plunge into the bathtub, it would also spare me from another stark white wall as I imagine scattering them around instead of lined up as they are! I see another trip to the craft store in my near future. :)

  13. This is so freaking adorable!! Maleficent is my favorite villain, and one of the digi stamps a blog I work for will be releasing her as a stamp pretty soon. =D Thank you for the awesome little tutorial and the link to Gustavo's blog. I can't wait to create my own little paper army! =D

    xx Star

  14. I love that firebox!
    Thank for the diffusion, i have a lot of visit from here. :)


  15. This is awesome! Quick question, do you just use regular paper, or should you use a sturdier cardstock?

  16. @ Anony - I use regular cardstock for all my papercraft. If you want a nicer image, tho, you can also use matte photo paper!

  17. Oh.My.Gosh! My cousin would love this! He was "good friends" with Maleficent in Fantasmic at Disneyland a years ago. I think I have founf what to make him for Christmas! Thanks Jen!


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