Explosion boxes are exploding all over the internet. This fun-to-make DIY project does have quite a few steps and requires a good amount of materials, but that shouldn’t put you off. With the right instructions (which you’ll get in this extremely detailed tutorial article!), and my tips on how to source your materials for cheap, you’ll have a great time making this gift.
I made my explosion box, which I used to photograph for this tutorial, for my husband, for our first year wedding anniversary. This worked out very well, since the first year wedding anniversary is paper-themed, so I imagine that many of this article’s readers will have the same idea. It really is an ideal first year anniversary present, if you have a little bit of time to invest.
An explosion box makes an excellent gift for anniversaries, graduation, birthdays, friendversaries (thank you, Facebook!), weddings, Valentine’s Day, and, if you’re crafty (see what I did there?), will cost you nearly nothing but your time.
Of course, it is possible to simply purchase a pre-made explosion box and personalize it from there. But that doesn’t really have the same meaning or feel to it, does it? If you really want to impress the recipient of your gift, get out your craft paper and scissors (well, and a few other supplies that we’ll get into shortly!), roll up your sleeves, and make your own DIY explosion box from scratch!
Your step-by-step guide to making your own DIY explosion box
So, you’ve decided to make your own explosion box. How exciting! I hope you have a good few hours set aside to complete it — the project is much more fun when it isn’t rushed (not great for those people who are terrible at remembering birthdays and anniversaries!).
Beyond a few hours, here are the other materials you’ll need to get started:
Materials you’ll need for your DIY explosion box
|For your DIY explosion box, dig deep in your craft box for fun scrapbooking-type accessories. Be creative! Old Scrabble pieces, stamps, glitter paper — you name it!|
- 12 X 12-inch card stock: Choose simple black like I did for a classy finish, or have fun with different colours for a more vibrant look — we like this pack of black cardstock by American Crafts
- Scrapbooking accessories: Get creative with this one. Dig through your craft box for fun items you could use as part of your explosion box. Old birthday cards and gift wrapping can easily be recycled to help decorate your box, for example. Or, simply purchase a scrapbooking accessories bundle from Amazon. We like the SICOHOME Scrapbooking Supplies Scrapbooking and Cardmaking kit.
- Craft scissors — we like these Singer 4.5-inch Pro Series Detail Scissors
- Ruler: Make sure it’s at least 12 inches, and metal is best for this project, since it weighs and holds the paper down more effectively — we like this Westcott 15” Stainless Steel Office Ruler
- Metallic pens: Try to get colours that match the craft paper you plan to use for your explosion box, or get a set of all the colours of the rainbow — we like this set of 12 premium metallic marker pens
- Multipurpose glue — we like the AmazonBasics Washable School Glue
- Mementos: Look through your memory box or the drawer you put items you don’t want to throw away, for old letters, photos, ticket stubs, etc., that you can use to make your explosion box even more special.
- Photos: Get them printed or print them yourself on glossy or matte photo paper. I printed my own photos but as the paper was not high quality, they didn’t look as good as they could have. If you’re making a three-tiered explosion box, you’ll want to print at least 20 photos, around 3 X 2 inches each, though your sizing can vary slightly (bigger photos for the bottom layer, smaller for the top).
- Crafting paper trimmer: I didn’t use one of these, but I can definitely see the value in it! It would make the job of measuring and cutting the paper far easier. Many of them also score paper as well, which is ideal for this project — we like the Letion Titanium Scrapbooking trimmer
- Scoring pen: You can just use the pointy end of your scissors for this, but a real scoring pen would of course be better — we like Fiskar’s Dual Tip Embossing Stylu.
Your step-by-step guide to making your own DIY explosion box
Now that you have all your materials ready, it’s time to get started on your explosion box. Here is an easy-to-follow tutorial on how to make your box.
1. Measure and cut your paper to size
Take out three pieces of your card stock, along with a pen and ruler, and measure and cut according to the below instructions:
Sheet 1 — Leave as is
Sheet 2 — Measure 10.5 inches vertically and horizontally
Sheet 3 — Measure 9 inches vertically and horizontally
|Sheets 2 and 3 of your card stock will look something like this, once you’ve measured and marked them.|
💡Tip: You can make as many tiers as you like. Here are the measurements for making more tiers:
Explosion box measurement and scoring chart
You’ll notice that for this version of the project, I used measurements for layers 1, 3 and 5 of this chart. Feel free to do the same, or add more layers if you like!
|Cut carefully along your lines, and discard the excess paper (remember to recycle!).|
Now that you’ve measured and marked your paper, it’s ready for cutting. Use your crafting scissors and cut carefully along the lines you drew, or even better, use your crafting paper trimmer (if you’re lucky, you may also be able to use this to measure your cardstock). You can either discard the excess stock, or save it for your next project (I’m a big fan of reusing off-cuts).
|Once you’ve measured and cut your two pieces of cardstock paper, you’ll be left with three pieces of paper in a gradation of sizes, as pictured here.|
2. Score your paper
|If you don’t have a proper scoring pen, simply use the pointy end of your scissors to score your paper.|
Measure and score your paper according to the below guide.
Sheet 1 (12 X 12 inches) — Score 4 inches in on each side
Sheet 2 (10.5 X 10.5 inches) — Score 3.5 inches in on each side
Sheet 3 (9 X 9 inches) — Score 3 inches in on each side
(or, if you’ve included more layers, refer to the “score” column of the above explosion box measurement and scoring chart)
Match your scores up with your ruler and score along the measured lines, so that your paper looks like a big tic-tac-toe diagram or hash symbol (though obviously this will not be glaring since you’ve scored your lines, rather than drawn them).
3. Fold your paper along your scored lines
|Bend your paper inwards, being careful to stick to your scored lines.|
Now you’ll use the lines you just scored as a guide for folding your paper. Each time you fold it, you’ll unfold it once again, but of course the bend will remain. Do this to all three of your sheets.
4. Take your four corners and bend them in on themselves
|This step may seem tricky at first, but it’s quite simple once you get the hang of it.|
Now, you’re going to fold your four corners in on themselves. Here’s how: look at your piece of paper. See there are four corner squares? You’re going to fold each of those in half by pushing the tip of the square inwards and bringing one corner over to meet the other. Have a look at the photo above for a visual representation of this.
5. Make your heart template
|Draw a line from the tip of your corner to the opposite side of your square, and then draw two humps that the line dissects in the middle.|
Now you’re going to make your corner heart template. Take a new piece of cardstock and fold it into a tic-tac-toe or hash symbol like you did the others.
💡Tip: If you accidentally messed up a piece and discarded it like I did, use this one for your heart template, as it’s already pre-folded!
Use a ruler to draw your line (which you’ll notice I did not do at first!) from the tip of one of your corners, through your square, so it cuts your diamond in half. Next, you’ll draw a hump from the left corner in to the center line, and repeat from the center line to the far right corner, so it’s symmetrical. Cut out your square, and then cut along the humps, so that you’re left with something resembling a heart shape.
|Your heart template will look something like this.|
💡Tip: After I cut out my heart template, it looked a bit boxy to me. So I used my scissors to round the heart’s edges (the end of the humps you drew and cut) a bit to make it more closely resemble a heart.
Take your heart template and line it up to the four corners of your largest piece of cardstock (the bottom layer). Trace the humps only. Once you have all your humps drawn in your four corners, use your scissors to cut along the edges towards the humps, and then along the humps. When you’re done, your bottom layer’s corners will all look like hearts that fold in on themselves.
|This is what your bottom piece will look like once you’ve traced and cut out your hearts along all four corners.|
6. Cut out the corner squares of your top layers
|This is the one time that it’s actually required to cut corners 😉|
Put your scissors to work again, this time on the smallest and middle-size pieces of paper. Cut out all four corner squares on each piece.
7. Glue your bottoms
|Glue the bottom of your center squares to the base.|
Now you’re going to pick up the smallest piece of paper and flip it over. Apply glue to the center square, and glue it to the front side of the center square on the middle-sized piece. Then repeat this step with the middle piece on the largest piece of paper.
There is no need to glue the back of your bottom layer, because this will form the base, or outside of your box.
|Once you’re finished, your three pieces of paper will be glued together, and will look something like the above photo.|
8. Make your lid
|If you have colorful cardstock in your craft box, use it to make a vibrant, eye-catching lid. If not, your black cardstock will do!|
We’re going to switch, just for a moment, from inches to centimeters — just because centimeters are a bit more accurate for this measurement.
Measure and trace a square of 17 cm on each side. Cut it out.
Next, measure and score an inner square 3 cm inside of the larger square. Fold along those lines, like in the photo below.
|Fold your scored sides in on themselves to make your lid.|
Then, snip just one edge of each of the corners, as pictured below. Do not cut the corners off completely, because you’re going to need them.
|Snip one edge of your corner squares, creating tags on the end of each corner.|
You’ll now be left with tags on each corner. Fold these up, and glue the backside of them, as pictured below.
|Fold and then glue the underside of your tags on all four corners.|
Attach the glued tags to the adjacent sides of the lid, so that your lid looks like…well, a lid. Like this:
|Once you’ve glued and attached your tags, your lid will finally take shape.|
💡Tip: If your tabs aren’t sticking to the other side because the glue is still wet, tape them down on the inside to help them adhere better. Be sure to only tape on the inside of the lid, keeping the outside clean for decorating.
Now that your lid is formed, it’s time to decorate it. Do so with some glitter paper, or even make a collage with your photos. Feel free to get creative here!
I simply used the lid as a stencil to draw a square of the same size on glitter paper, cut it out, and glued it to the top of the lid.
|Get creative and decorate your lid any way you’d like. Glitter is your friend.|
9. Get your photos ready
|Cut your photos from your photo paper.|
Now you’re ready for your photos, so get your prints and cut out your photos. You may wish to adjust the sizes and/or cut around shapes. It’s your baby, and the fun is just beginning!
💡Tip: I used a simple A4 template on canva.com (I have a free account) to line up all my photos onto just three pages.
|Organize your photos into different themes.|
💡Tip: Try to have a different theme for each layer! I had my bottom layer wedding themed, then the middle layer was pregnancy-themed, and the top layer was — you guessed it — baby-themed!
10. Make your bobbles and accessories
For this step, you get to get even more creative, making your box’s interactive accessories. I’m going to walk you through making a photo door, as well as an envelope, but you can also come up with your own other ideas for extra personalization.
10a. Making your photo door
The photo door is simple. Select a square, and measure it. It will either be 4, 3.5, or 3 inches on each side if you only did three layers. If you did more layers, refer to the above explosion box measuring and scoring chart.
Take a piece of colorful (or as I did, glittery) cardstock, and cut it into a rectangle. The small sides should be the same length as your square, and the long sides should be double that length.
So, for example, if you chose a square on the top layer of your three-layered box, your rectangle would be 3 X 6 inches.
Next, you’ll fold the sides of the rectangle in, making the ends meet in the center.
|Your glitter photo doors are taking shape.|
Measure a ribbon that’s about four times the length of your square (in this case, 12 inches). Then, glue the ribbon to the center of the back of the card stock, and apply glue all over this back part, and attach it to your selected square.
💡Tip: Don’t tie your ribbon into a knot like I did. My husband was unable to untie the knot and ended up having to cut it open. This obviously isn’t ideal. I added extra length to the measurement guide above for your ribbon, specifically so you’d have enough slack to tie a bow.
|Your photo doors will look like this when finished.|
Inside these doors, you’ll place a series of photos, perhaps from a special day or event. The recipient will be able to untie the ribbon and remove the photos, flipping through them, and then replacing them as they like.
💡Tip: To stop your selected photos from falling out of your photo doors when you fold your explosion box into a cube, cut out a rectangle from thick card stock, the same width as your square, and 1 inch in height (in this case, 3 X 1 inch). Fold it width-wize three times, and glue the top fold to the bottom of the inside of your photo door. This will create a base that will hold your photos in when the side is vertical.
|The base of your photo door will look like this when you’re finished, and will conveniently stop your photos from sliding out when you fold the sides up to put your lid on.|
10b. Making your envelope
Select a square for your envelope.
💡Tip: Choose a square on a different side and different layer to the side and layer your photo door is on, as well as those of other stand-out accessories, to balance your explosion box (in terms of both weight and visuals!).
Cut out a square using glitter paper or another colorful piece of cardstock. It should measure double the length of your selected square. Let’s say you chose the middle layer of the three-layer design (with 3.5-inch sides) — then your square would measure 7 inches on each side.
Now, turn it so it makes a diamond. Fold the sides in so that the corners touch in the center. Now fold the bottom corner up towards the middle, and push it up a little bit more so that the bottom tip actually goes past the center. Next, you’re going to unfold your bottom layer and carefully apply glue to its inner edges, being sure not to get it anywhere else, or your envelope won’t work.
Fold it back into place, checking to make sure no glue has spilled over where it shouldn’t have, and put something heavy atop it to allow the glue to set.
After five minutes or so, the base of your envelope should be sticking together. See how the tip of your bottom corner now sticks up past the center? Fold this down, so it not only doesn’t stick up anymore, but also acts as an extra anchor to hold all the corners together.
|Fold the corners of your diamond into the center and glue to create a makeshift envelope.|
Now all you need to do is fold your top corner down, tucking it inside the other three corners, which are now glued together.
💡Tip: I found this worked much better if I cut the corners off the sides of the top part, as you can see in the above photo. It simply removed some of the bulk and made the fold much easier.
Apply glue to the bottom of your envelope and attach it to your chosen square. Decorate your envelope with a postage stamp, hearts, or whatever you like, or leave it plain like I did.
💡Tip: Keep some elements simple. Beautiful design has a good balance of space and business.
Now for the fun part: filling it! You can handwrite a note or love letter and put it inside here, or use it to hold some of your other memorabilia like ticket stubs or other trinkets.
💡Idea: I went through my WhatsApp messages with my husband and took screenshots of the ones where we were a bit soppy. Since we talk a lot, so there are a ton of messages, I did this easily by searching the phrase “I love you”. This took me to our sweetest messages, which I then printed out, cut out, folded up, and placed inside the envelope.
11. Glue your photos onto your explosion box
Now the fun really begins! Get creative and match your photos with the right color of wrapping paper, stickers, quotes, and other bobbles. Have fun gluing them to your squares!
|Have fun gluing your photos onto various squares in your explosion box, and decorating them with cardstock, quotes, wrapping paper backgrounds, stickers, and more. This part is really up to you!|
Here is some inspiration for you!
|On one square, I glued down a quote, put a sticker on the border, and selected a photo to go with it. I folded the photo in half, and then traced the outline of the rectangle the folded photo made on a printed piece of cardstock. I then cut out the card stock and glued it to the outside of the folded photo, so that when opened, it revealed my photo. Finally, I glued the base of the photo to my square.|
|This is what the finished product looks like!|
|Not every square needs to be interactive. Some of them just had a simple graphic base, quote, photo, and were then topped up with a matching sticker.|
|Here’s another example of a cute square design I put together.|
💡Tip: See in the above photo how my round (heavily pregnant) belly in the photo matches the circle in the graphic underneath, as well as the curve of the heart? Try to keep an eye out for shapes and match them when decorating your squares, for extra design flair!
|Another sweet square I put together with matching background, quote and stickers.|
|This is another square I made with an interactive element, with the graphic on the right opening up to reveal another photo.|
|This is the photo it opens up to.|
💡Tip: The quotes I used for this project were a little cheesy. If I were to do it again, I’d search for quotes with a bit more depth.
12. Put a lid on it
Finally, the moment we’ve all been waiting for: putting it all together.
|It’s time to put a lid on this project.|
Gather up three of your sides with one hand, as pictured above, and then with the other hand, pick up the lid and use it to bring in the fourth side at the same time as you place the lid on the box. This may take some creative squeezing and adjusting, but if you’ve done all your measurements correctly, you’ll get there!
|The finished explosion box, ready to give to one lucky recipient!|
Write a little message along the sides of your lid and/or on the box itself. You could even decoupage more photos onto the outside of the box, decorate it with stickers, cover it in glitter, or whatever you like!
Finally, select a matching ribbon and tie it around your explosion box.
Here is a video of your interactive explosion box:
|Just an example of what your explosion box could look like upon completion. Results will vary, and honestly, you will get out as much as you put in to this project, so take your time and have fun!|
OK! Your explosion box is now ready to give as a gift. Get the camera ready to shoot the expression on your recipient’s face when they open the box, and explore the interactive elements within it.
Have a box of tissues ready — they’ll likely need them!
This explosion box is not only an excellent present, but will make a fun, interactive memento for years and, if preserved right, decades to come.