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Unread 06/26/2010, 06:18 AM   #1
euromomtx
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My Shadowbox Background Project

I was trying to decide if I should go with painted background, adhesive vinyl or gel-ed on paper background when I realized neither one of them seemed all that appealing.
I sort of liked the black vinyl backing option the best since it would bring out the colors nicely but my temporary tank has a black back and it makes things seem so boxed in.
Then I came across this picture:

I knew right away that that was the winner. I love the illusion of depth this background gives.
Aaron who posted this on RC also had a schematic to go with it but no further info:

The schematic explains that the back portion is painted/airbrushed hardfiber board. He has rock models made out of cork in the foreground that he painted transparent blue and a blue T5 bulb above it.
That's it.

Somehow I didn't think I would have the skills to paint well enough to create that 'hazy in the distance' illusions so I decided to use a modified approach.

I am making a more traditional shadowbox with a frame, background and acrylic viewing panel in front.
My fake rocks in the distance will be thin slivers of spray painted pukani and paper.
Initially I thought frosted plexiglass would be the answer but was worried the frosting would render it too milky/white.
So the final winner ended up being tinted acrylic that I 'frosted' myself.

Here are some pictures of the test phase:

You can see one side is clear and the other side is treated with superfine steel wool. The steel wool side is definitely more convincing and hides the detail on my crummy painted rocks much better


here's a little detail of how the frame will be constructed so that the 1/8" acrylic panel can just slide in. If I get tired of the color I could replace it later.
The top board of the frame won't be screwed on. I want to be able to lift it off and replace the bulb, etc.

I think with a spray painted background and the pretty blue acrylic different colors of T-5 bulbs may give very different looks.
I'll try it out and take pics of course. I am imagining actinics to end up looking more deepsea in this arrangement, etc.

The box is for my Caribbean inspired 215g DSB tank.

Next up: pictures of the box, background, etc...


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Unread 06/26/2010, 06:46 AM   #2
dainiusiva
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interesting,though only good if you have large space behind your tank.will be watching how it turns out for you


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Unread 06/26/2010, 08:11 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dainiusiva View Post
interesting,though only good if you have large space behind your tank.will be watching how it turns out for you
i dont think he has to use a 2x4 as a frame...it could be done likely with as little as one inch of space over all...as you dont have to use real rocks in the box, though it does give a far better effect...


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Unread 06/26/2010, 08:14 AM   #4
euromomtx
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We're using a 4" frame. The tank isn't even here yet. We'll mount the box first. Then when the tank gets delivered we put it right in front of it.


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Unread 06/26/2010, 08:56 AM   #5
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Saw the original thread and was wondering when someone would try this. Looks good so far, keep the updates coming.


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Unread 06/26/2010, 09:39 AM   #6
Kyle555
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Looks great


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Unread 06/26/2010, 09:59 AM   #7
billdogg
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The only downside i see (lol?) is having to keep the back glass spotless all the time.


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Unread 06/26/2010, 11:34 AM   #8
dogstar74
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Quote:
Originally Posted by billdogg View Post
The only downside i see (lol?) is having to keep the back glass spotless all the time.
Not a downside as I see it, because I hate a crusty back glass anyway! Nice work! I believe a simple picture of LR behind the frosted pane would suffice. You can get photo paper of a LR background from most LFS. You then can cut out the rock structure you want and glue it to a white background to get a similar effect, but I bet you will get a really nice effect with what you're doing! You may think about cutting a couple of the "rocks" flat and glueing them to the front side of the frosted pane, to really break the planes and bring the rock work back into the front. Just a thought.

Aaron


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Unread 06/26/2010, 01:29 PM   #9
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Interesting idea Aaron! I'm not sure I have enough space between the tank glass and the acrylic sheet but I could put some right by the glass I'm sure.

As far as cleaning goes Eheim is coming out with an electric algae scraper on a stick!


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Unread 06/26/2010, 08:26 PM   #10
Almenmarine
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Maybe you can find a Coral reef poster or something and put it behind the blue tent. or print out a photos. idk


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Unread 06/26/2010, 09:02 PM   #11
euromomtx
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My goal is really to have something less distracting rather than have more focus on the background. Just blue 'water' with some rocks to repeat what's already in the tank, etc.
The tank is going to be filled with Caribbean gorgonians and 4 Vortechs will create a constant wave so there will be a lot of movement and life to watch.
No need for background pics.

I learned a couple of things today:
-painting plywood looks terrible -the hardfiber board is really the way to go
-cutting nice 45 degree angles in long boards is not as easy as it sounds.

Will upload pics tomorrow but my design would change if I had to do it over.
Since the plywood is not usable as background I'd probably do the next box with just a few boards as bracing in the back instead of plywood and make a groove for the hardboard that has the background paint on it. (The hardboard is 1/8" in thickness just like the acrylic sheet)


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Last edited by euromomtx; 06/26/2010 at 09:08 PM.
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Unread 06/26/2010, 09:29 PM   #12
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The pic you posted of your inspiration to do this looks amazing. The only advice I would have for you is find a way to incorporate the surface rippling at the water line and have it go back perpendicular to your tank's water line so it gives that feeling of being in the reef and looking up into the surface.

I tried to explain that as best I could


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Unread 06/27/2010, 10:19 AM   #13
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I think I know what you mean!

dark on bottom, lighter on top, towards the surface the ripples like in the above picture.
Only I have no idea to spray paint ripples... I'll try. I can always paint over it...


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Unread 06/27/2010, 06:04 PM   #14
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euro, that's 100% what I meant!

I think you should be able to paint maybe a white background over it, with some blue, and then some white again? Or vice versa.


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Unread 06/27/2010, 06:18 PM   #15
euromomtx
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Well here's some pics from this weekend:
steel-wool-ed the acrylic sheet:


completed the box:


found out that spray painting plywood is worthless:


went back into town to buy hardboard:


painted hardboard - oh about 4 times (here's one with me trying to create water ripple reflections on top):


got sidetracked because somebody wanted a birdhouse made with the scraps:


also experimented with some fake rocks made from pet litter...


I think I'll have to repaint the hardboard again. Ultimately I won't know what it looks like until the light fixture is here but I don't think it's the best it can be (yet)


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Unread 06/27/2010, 07:38 PM   #16
GhostCon1
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Lol at the birdhouse, spray painting and the litter.

I do not know if it is because of the trees, but the ripples you managed to create look good to me.


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Unread 06/27/2010, 07:40 PM   #17
euromomtx
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Thanks. In retrospect out of 4 tries that was actually the best one.
Got to buy more spray paint tomorrow. I am all out!
I need a break! I look like a sunburned smurfette: blue feet, rest is sunburned red...


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Unread 06/27/2010, 09:38 PM   #18
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For this would carving the rock from pond foam and then sealing sand to the outside of it work? Same principal as covering a fake rock backdrop in the tank


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Unread 06/27/2010, 09:55 PM   #19
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For the surface ripples you could try dry-brushing with a bit of white or light blue. This is where you get some paint on the brush, then work most of it off, so when applied, you get barely any coverage. Should leave some streakish white paint on the background, which hopefully will look good through the diffused acrylic panel. Worth a try at least. Should be tons of guides on it online for home painting applications.


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Unread 06/27/2010, 10:54 PM   #20
euromomtx
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daemonfly I think you're right. I've been studying ripples tonight and they have such defined edges/contrast I don't see how they could be done without a brush or a stencil or something. The spray cans just have too much diffusion and look more like clouds.
I'll give ripples another try tomorrow with a brush.
If it still looks bad I may just go for regular gradient.


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Unread 06/28/2010, 12:33 AM   #21
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Cool project! I just can't imagine trying to keep the back glass clean too.. How do you do it?


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Unread 06/28/2010, 06:20 AM   #22
euromomtx
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I was thinking of getting one of these:

Quote:
The Eheim Powerscraper is a motorized algae scraper that borrows from the technology of powered toothbrushes and razorblades.
But this thing is really cool too:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBh6F...layer_embedded



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Unread 06/28/2010, 06:31 AM   #23
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I say scrap the ripples, you won't get their full effect unless you make them harsh, remeber that ou are backlighting a smoked out pane of plexi in front of it.


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Unread 06/28/2010, 06:37 AM   #24
euromomtx
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Sharpie I think you are right on. I'd have to use a brush because unless you have very defined lines the things look more like clouds than ripples and even if I paint them with a brush the whole thing will be diffused by the steel-wooled acrylic, probably softening it too much to look good.
Good point. Thanks!


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Unread 06/28/2010, 01:00 PM   #25
euromomtx
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couple of pics from today:
new hardboard painted and fake rocks in place


blue acrylic in front:


not sure that I like the rocks. I may simplify even further and just go without rocks...
Or paint rocks onto the background
Or switch from blue acrylic to clear but heavier frosted...
Not sure


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