How to Display a Beautiful & Real Butterfly in a DIY Shadow Box
While on holiday this past December, we found this beautiful butterfly on our campsite. My 6-year-old picked him up and easily identified him as a Small Striped Swordtail. He was in such a good condition that I decided to take him home with us. And ever since we picked him up, my mind started planning on how to preserve and display this beautiful butterfly. I decided to showcase this butterfly’s beauty in a DIY shadow box.
Now I also want to ask that you don’t judge me and think that I’m cruel. I did not go hunting for butterflies to use as wall art. But if you stumble across a butterfly as beautiful as this one and in as good a condition as this one, you probably would have done the same. And now I’ll take you through the steps of building a shadow box to display a butterfly.
What shadow box should I use?
I had planned on using a store-bought shadow box for this project. But my local craft store only stocked square-shaped ones, and they were quite deep. I wanted a rectangular shadow box and did not want to set the butterfly in too deep. And then our COVID-19 lockdown happened, and all non-essential stores closed in any case. But I’ve become very creative and resourceful lately and came up with a new plan.
I had this picture frame in my stockpile. I liked the texture, but it was a bit dated and I wanted to put it to better use. Then I asked Marinus if he would be able to build a shadow box for this frame, and he agreed to help me out.
How to Transform an Ordinary Picture Frame into a DIY Butterfly Shadow Box
We took the frame’s hardboard backing and cut out a rectangle, a bit smaller than the frame’s glass panel. Then Marinus added new hardboard sides and a bottom to the box with wood glue before handing it back to me.
I primed the box and then painted the box and frame with a very light grey. (The same light grey as our kitchen cabinet doors). I painted the top of the new box part a dark navy-blue as I wanted to create a two-tone frame.
Next, I dry-brushed various colours on the frame, to bring out that lovely texture. To use a dry brush technique, dip your paintbrush into the paint, dab it onto a paper towel until most of the colour is on the paper towel, and then use it on your frame. Wait for each colour to dry before moving onto the next. This allows you to build textures and colours. I started with a navy blue, moved onto aqua, next used a medium green-grey and finished it off with my base colour.
To pin or to glue your Butterfly
I debated this next step quite a bit. Our butterfly was in perfect shape, and I did not need to reshape or open up its wings. If you do need to reshape your butterfly, this site provides useful information on the process as well as other handy tips on display and preserving of insects. I think you would also then need to use pins, to keep the butterfly in the preferred position.
As our butterfly did not need reshaping, I decided to glue him into the box. I was afraid that hot glue might damage him, and used a clear-drying craft glue instead. It worked perfectly. Then I just put all the frame parts back together again and smiled as I saw the end product. I love how it turned out, and I love the contrast of the black outline against the light grey background and the contrast repeating in the frame with the navy-blue line of the shadow box.
Creating Art with Meaning
I love adding art and décor to our home that has meaning to us. This gorgeous butterfly will remind us of a wonderful holiday we had together as a family! Look out for butterflies, maybe in your garden or in your favourite park, and don’t shy away from using them as art. God created everything so beautifully, and if we can showcase this beauty, even in this case, a small butterfly, then why not?
If you are looking for more budget-friendly wall art ideas, I have a few that you can take a look at.
- 8 Budget-friendly Wall Art Ideas
- Free Animal Silhouette Cross-stitch Designs
- Free South African Bird Cross-stitch Designs
- Free European Landscape Printable Set
- How to Frame Decorative Tiles
- How to Paint a Wall Mural
- DIY Marble-look Frames
Have you used butterflies in your décor, and if so, what is your favourite way to incorporate them? I would love to hear from you in the comments below!
Take care and stay safe!