Inner Glow: A Shadow Box Collage Tutorial

Learn how to create a beautiful art journal with a quick and easy binding. The Japanese Ledger binding looks impressive but it’s very simple and can be made with an endless variety of papers and binding materials.


Amanda is a paper huntress-gatherer-weaver, residing near Edmonton in Alberta, Canada. She works under the name Mixed Matter Collage, exploring inner landscapes as a mindful practice towards her mental well being. Amanda believes wholeheartedly in the healing, interconnecting power of art and enjoys collaborating with other creatives. You can often find her in her introvert happy places: with her husband and two dogs, enjoying a walk in nature, thrifting or with her nose in a book.

In this tutorial, Collage Queen, Amanda, will help you reflect on the places, moments and things in life that light you up. You’ll create a shadow box snapshot with a magical inner glow that will fold down neatly into your journal.


  • Paper ephemera, personal photos
  • 2 pieces of 8.5×11 heavy cardstock (light colors will work best for maximum glow)
  • Reflective metallic paper or foil in bright colour
  • Glue (I prefer glue pens for tiny pieces)
  • Foam dots (3mm depth)
  • Double sided tape
  • Xacto knife or scissors
  • Cutting mat
  • Bone folder (optional)
  • Scoring board (optional)
  • Rounded corner punch (optional)
  • Diamond hole punch (optional)”


Hello beautiful Get Messians! Are you ready to get your glow on?

In this tutorial, we’re going to explore the places and things that light you up, then create a snapshot of it all in a magical, glowing 3D shadow box collage! The shadow box will fold down flat to allow it to fit nicely into your journal.

Gather your ephemera


We’re going to start by mindfully looking through your ephemera, photographs, books, etc. and putting aside anything that might answer these questions:

  • Do you have a vivid memory of a special moment you’d like to capture?
  • If you could create a fantastical sanctuary, what would be surrounding you there?
  • What’s your favourite way to spend the day?
  • Where’s your favourite place to recharge?
  • How or where do you want to be living?
  • What do you love about life?

Create the shadow box

I used 2 sheets of shimmery, 8.5×11 white cardstock (176 gsm), lighter coloured cardstock will work best to achieve a vibrant glow. This will create a 4 ½ inch square shadow box, with a depth of 1 inch. If you’d like more depth and more room in your box, you can use larger paper. I also could probably have used a heavier weighted paper, but I chose shimmer over weight. If you’re into repurposing things, an old legal sized file folder would also work great for this.

The first piece will be the front cover and also the background to your shadow box. Place this first sheet horizontally, score right down the middle at 5 ½ inches, then again at 10 inches. Turn the paper vertically and score at 4 ½ inches, use a paper trimmer to cut this score, then discard the smaller piece. Place the paper horizontally again and trim that inch off the right side (where you scored at 10 inches). This piece should now be 10 inches in length and 4 ½ inches in height.

The second sheet will be your shadow box and frame. Place the sheet horizontally and score at 1 inch from the left edge, then again at 5 ½ and 6 ½ inches. Turn the paper vertically and score at 4 ½ inches, use a paper trimmer to cut this score, then discard the smaller piece. This piece should now be 11 inches in length and 4 ½ inches in height.

Use a bone folder (or utensil) to fold and crease both pieces. You’ll see the cover piece has a shorter back (which will be the background to your box). The second piece will form your shadow box.

Lay both pieces flat again. I love a good rounded edge so, next, I used a corner punch to make rounded edges on both pieces (feel free to skip this step).

Now we’re going to create the frame of your shadow box. Place your box piece with the 1 inch crease on the left. On the portion to the right of that inch, I measured a 1 inch border and cut it out (with my x-acto), again with rounded corners (using a chocolate tin). You can get creative here and cut your frame to whatever shape you’d like.

Adding your glow

Now for the magic. I used a metallic origami paper that came in assorted vibrant colours. You can use anything reflective here, foil, tissue, paper, but it’s loveliest if it’s a bright colour. I chose pink for the rosy glow and cheery, positive feelings it invokes.

Place your box piece flat with the frame on the left side. Glue down the metallic paper, covering the back of your frame, including the two one inch flaps on either side.

If you’d like to add a decorative touch to the corners of your frame, cut or punch away! I used a diamond punch for the corners of mine but did that before I added the glow and had to punch again after so I could see through the holes.

Assembling the box

I used double sided tape for this but a good strong glue would work. I‘d also recommend just gluing one side in place first, that will give you a bit more flexibility when collaging.

Place your box piece metallic side down and add tape or glue to the flap on the left of your frame.

Grab your cover piece (placing the longer side on the left) and place it underneath your box piece. Line up the left flap that you just taped (tape facing up) with the crease on your cover piece. Fold down your cover piece (both pieces should be flat). Put a bit of pressure on the left side to ensure the tape is secured. Open it back up and voila, you can see your box taking shape.

Wrap the rest of the box piece around the back of the cover piece and glue or tape in place. Enjoy that magical glow!

Decide which way you’d like to open your final piece, from right to left like a standard book OR from top to bottom. I chose to do mine top to bottom so I’d have some foreground to play around with to add a bit more depth.

Add your collage elements

This part is completely up to you but here are a few preferences and tips:

  • I like to roughly figure out my composition before gluing down.
  • I found most of my elements in these four books. I love the sturdier paper you can find in books as opposed to magazines.
  • I used foam dots of about 3mm in depth to add a bit more dimension to some of the elements within the box.
  • You’ll notice I chose to place some elements outside the frame, I don’t mind that they’ll stick out when it’s closed.
  • I recommend changing out your x-acto blade several times, they dull especially quickly with thicker paper.


I hope you’ve enjoyed getting your glow on with me! If you have any questions, feel free to DM me on instagram or email me at [email protected] I absolutely CANNOT wait to see your creations!!! Please tag me @mixedmattercollage on instagram and use #gmseasonofreflection.

Peace + Love,

Action Steps


create your own shadow box with Amanda’s tutorial