What’s the Difference Between a Shadow Box Frame and a Box Frame?

A frame is the piece that ties your display together, and the right frame can transform an image into the perfect aesthetic element in your home or business. This is why there’s a whole world to explore in framing, as many various types are used to enhance pieces to achieve the ideal environment. Two of these types are shadow box frames and box frames, each popular for their impact and structure that add complexity to a display.

Box frames and shadow box frames have similar shadowing and depth, while the latter offers deeper visuals and is well suited for more expensive or monumental images & pieces. The Picture Factory make available a selection of both types for our clients as the two deliver different benefits to functionality and have their own setbacks that can make them the wrong choice in some situations, which we explore below.

What is a box frame?

To clarify the differences between shadow box frames and box frames, we first need to explore what a box frame is, as a shadow box frame is a part of the larger box frame family. Box frames create a box shape that comes off of the wall when it’s hung up. The depth of the box frame is often larger than the top, bottom and sides, and it’s this depth that controls the height of the box.

When holding a piece inside, box frames add depth and shadow to the piece, providing an attractive and captivating appearance. They’re like most other picture frames but with a larger distance between the picture and the protective glass. They’re often used for smaller but significant items, like certificates or expensive pieces of art because of the impactful visual effect they create.

The difference between shadow box frames and box frames

Both box frames and shadow box frames enhance the appearance of picture displays through their depth and complexity, but with different magnitudes. The differences between the types below can help you decide which to choose for a particular piece in your home:


Box frames typically exist within particular frame dimensions and have an expected depth. Shadow box frames, as mentioned above, are a type of box frame, but with deeper dimensions so the shadow cast on the piece is increased. The sides of shadow box frames slope slightly inwards to create a cave effect which is largely responsible for the captivating shadow cast onto the piece.

Visual Impact

As box frames have a similar effect, but with less depth and visual impact, they’re excellent frames for displaying photographs, drawings and prints where the image details can shine. They’re also usually lighter than shadow box frames so they work well with housing lightweight pictures.

Shadow box frames are fantastic for preserving items in an excluded case frame and making items or prints you have in your home appear more engaging. Due to their greater visual effect, many decorators use them to display more significant items, such as artwork, awards and memorabilia.


Shadow box frames take up a large amount of space because of their depth. This can mean they hang far out from the wall and can be knocked easily, so it’s best to implement them in low foot traffic areas. Box frames take up less space and don’t demand the same attention, so they’re more suitable in busy areas of the home.

For more information on our wider selection of frames, contact us at The Picture Factory today.