How To: Make Sand Dollar Shadow Boxes

On a recent trip to The San Juan Islands Kyle and I went sea kayaking and had the amazing experience of seeing hundreds of sand dollars under the water below us. Though we couldn't take any home with us we were inspired by all the unique features of being on an island. Sometime later, when at TJ Maxx, I spotted these huge Sand Dollars. They reminded me of that fun experience. I had to take them home! Though we didn't actually buy them while on our trip we will be reminded of that fun memory every time we see them.

I will be showing you step by step how I made a simple shadow box with the sand dollars and all the supplies you will need.

What you will need:

  • Straight edge to cut
  • exacto knife
  • E-6000, A really strong super glue
  • matte board
  • cutting board
  • pencil


  • First things first. I found these white 12x12 shadow boxes at Target They were on sale.$7.50 each
  • The large Sand Dollars were found at TJ Maxx for $1.99 a piece
  • The textured white matte board came from Michael's. I just asked for a “scrap” of matte board it was only $6.50.
  • Don't skimp on the glue! Make sure to get a really good quality that will set up hard. I chose to use E-6000, it worked great. $3.99

Step 1

First, I took the back of the frame out and used it as a guide to mark the shape of the interior of the shadow box. I lightly scored it with the exacto blade or a pencil will work just fine.

Step 2

Next, Using the straight edge to cut the matte board out. Make sure to use several light strokes and a new blade so as to get the cleanest line.

Step 3

Once the matte board is cut out apply the glue over the back of the surface and to the surface it will be adhering to. The E-6000 recommended waiting 3-10 minutes before putting them together to allow time for the glue to set up.

Step 4

While the back was drying, I measured to place the shell on the center of the board. If you are feeling brave you could eyeball it. I did eyeball it and then measured and I was glad I measured!

Step 5

After you have chosen the position for the shell use the pencil to lightly mark the edges of the shell. I chose distinct points that couldn't be visible seen later on.

Step 6

Go ahead and apply the glue on the shell and within the parameters marked on the matte board. This really helped me to keep the glue where it should be, out of site.

Step 7

Finally, carefully position the shell according to the marks you made. The next part was the hardest for me! Make sure to give the shells enough time to dry before you move them and put them in the frames. I waited about 45 minutes and then laid it flat again for another 30 minutes.

In a nutshell that is how to make your own shadow box with shells! Have you made anything similar? We'd love to see pictures! Send us a link or pictures, please do share.

Til Next Time,


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Archived Comments

  • Susan


    WOW! Thank you! I love this. I am going to go do it this very weekend! Very cool!

  • Heidi


    That's cool your artwork will be meaningful to you.

  • Linda


    This is awesome. Thank you. I do have shells that I want to display. Very nice.

  • #4

  • charlotte


    This is a fabulous post. My only comment is that if you are using sand dollars with sentimental value, do not glue them. Sand dollars are very susceptible to breaking when glued (in the long run). In addition, the acid in the glue can cause breakdown. I suggest sewing the dollar on using a transparent yarn, or pinning. All materials used with shells should be acid and lignin-free and all adhesives should be electircal grade, meaning they are formulated for use with copper and silver.

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