Beach Shell Frame

For this project you will need:

  • wooden frame
  • Rust-Oleum American Accents Stone Creations spray (or similar product)
  • Elmer’s glue (or similar)
  • shells
  • photograph
  • paper for mounting
  • cardstock (optional)
  • glue dots (for glueing photo to backing)

Initially, I just knew I had a photograph that I wanted to give as a gift to my son and his wife.  I wanted to frame it, and that was the sum total of my concept.  I thought about it for a day, and decided that since I had a new wooden frame I had bought for some long ago project that had never even been out of the package, I would start with that.  I had some vague idea of decoupage and paper, since I have those materials on hand.  Maybe some cut outs with my Cricut.  But nothing was really saying anything interesting to me.

Then I remembered I still had a can of spray paint that I used to make a sand base for my shell frames.  The frame was too large to even consider doing a complete shell frame, which would be too much for this photo visually (in my opinion) and would take more time than I had if I wanted to have this for this Monday, BUT I could do something a little less ambitious, perhaps.  So, with just a hazy notion of shells and sand, I set out.

Wooden frame

First, I sprayed the frame with Rust-Oleum American Accents Stone Creations.  The one I used looks like light colored stone, or sand.  I have had it a long time, but I am sure you can buy it at any hardware store.  It took 2 coats to get a good coverage.  Be sure to spray the edges, both the outside and the inside edges (where the picture goes)! Follow the directions on the can.  Be sure to let the frame dry well before you begin gluing your shells on (the can says 4 hours).  Be sure to spray this outside, because of course there are fumes (the can warns to use in a well ventilated area) and because it’s messy as all get out.

Photo and backingWhile the frame was drying I mounted the picture on some scrapbooking paper, which just happened to be the exact size of the cardboard insert for the frame, and the color complemented the colors in the photo.  I actually thought it worked out really well, even though it was all made up on the spot.

Picture with mat

A piece of cardstock provided a nice finished edge for the picture before it was mounted on the paper.  My husband cut that for me, as I don’t have the steadiest hand with an exacto.  I think buying a mat would be easier, but all of this was done with things I had on hand.  Of course, maybe not everyone has such a vast array of paper and such in their arsenal!

Select shells

Now for the fun part!  I started picking shells and items from my shell assortment that I thought would fit in both shape, size and color.  I knew I didn’t want to fill the entire frame, and I had a sense that I wanted to just do one corner.  I’ve done a number of shell frames, so I have an idea of how many it takes, but I got more than I thought I would need, and also knew that I could rummage through the bag for more, if need be.  I just wanted some to start with.  One thing I wanted was for the colors to complement the picture.

Attach shellsNow, I needed an anchor piece.  Something larger, that I could work off of.  I didn’t have anything, but my husband came up with the perfect thing, a piece of driftwood that he had found last year and put into our shell bowl that we keep on the table.  Don’t let him fool you, he has an eye!

Next, I lay some shells out to find what would be a pleasing arrangement with the shells I have.  It’s a very organic process.

Attach shellsAttach shells

I never know until I start doing it.  You are going to find what suits you as you go.  Don’t be afraid to just jump in there and do it.  If you’re a little tentative, lay them out without glue first.  Be sure to use plenty of  glue.  You want them to stay where you put them, but don’t use so much that you have it squishing out.  A little won’t show much, but a lot will be unsightly.

In addition to shells, I like to use coral and I also use partial shells, which tend to lay nicely.  Also other beach debris and beach glass make nice additions, if you have any.  By the way, if you aren’t lucky enough to live near the beach you can buy shells, so there’s no excuse not to try this!

Shell detail

After gluing down the bulk of the shells you want you can fill in the open spots with smaller shells.  I like  a very filled in area, without much of the frame showing through.  Usually I will work a little and then leave it for a bit and come back and look and work a little more.

I just kept layering and adding until I felt finished.  I took several photos so you could see the progression.  To me it has the feel of shells washed up on the beach, sort of random and natural.

I was even more delighted with the finished project than I was with my original plan.  And I really like when that happens!


  1. Shane says:

    Very cool!

  2. LDSVenus says:

    Very cute idea, and I love the picture!!! How apropos!!!!!

  3. Lau W says:

    Oh great ! Susie, you always have great ideas !

  4. Kyle says:

    We sure have enjoyed ours!

    • Susie says:

      I think yours is a little different than this one. In fact, I should do another one like yours and blog it. But it was a LOT more work. 🙂

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