Celebrate the month of love with a Rococo Valentine’s Gift Box upcycled from a used Christmas tin found at a second-hand store. Featuring the lush romance of French Rococo art and gorgeous gilded frames. A downloadable PDF is available inside the tutorial. Sending you lots of love this Valentine’s Day!
Rococo Art and Old Tins
Hey! It’s February already. The month of love (and my birthday!). We’re taking used Christmas tins found at the second-hand store and transforming them into tokens of amorous affection. Ever since taking a basic art history class in college I have had a love affair with Rococo art. It is so lush, so playful, so intensely romantical — and so, so French. It’s perfect for expressions of love. So, what could be better to feature on our Valentine’s gift boxes?
Old World Finish
These boxes have what I call an “old world finish”. To create something that looks old and worn takes layers. Sometimes many layers. So I’m just giving you some heads-up that this project is a little intense and requires a lot of materials. I completely understand if this is too much. You can just peruse and enjoy the photos or you can purchase a ready-made box from my Etsy store.
Purchase Rococo Valentine’s Gift Box on Etsy
While working on this blog project I created some extra boxes and will be listing them in my Etsy store. I would appreciate the support to help pay for projects developed for this blog. And, you can enjoy products that come from my heart and soul.
Let’s Get to Work
If you’re still here and itching to get started, gather the following materials and off we go!
- Tin Box
- Gray Chalk Paint (I used a mixture of Kilz “Toasted Poppyseed” and Waverly “Mineral”)
- White Chalk Paint
- Air Dry Clay
- Clear Wax (liquid)
- Dark Antique Wax (puck)
- Prima Marketing Redesign Trinkets Mold (Amazon)
- Prima Marketing Redesign Keyhole Mold (Amazon)
- IOD (Iron Orchid Design) Frames Mold
- Antique Gold Rub’n Buff
- Gilding Size
- Gold Leaf
- Baking Soda
- Mod Podge
- Sea Sponge
- Gorilla Clear Grip Glue
- Painting Tape
- Steel Wool
- 1/4″ Lace or Trim
- Glue Gun & Glue Sticks
- Rounded Artist Brush
- Bristle Brush
- French-inspired Scrapbook Paper (heavy)
- Heavy Cardstock
I just happened to find tins in the shape of treasure chests but I’m sure this project would work fine with regular tins as well. And, you do not have to use the exact same molds that I did. As long as the frames and decals are in proportion with the box then it really doesn’t matter.
Step #1: Painting the Tin
- First, take the painter’s tape and place it around the rim where the lid meets the bottom of the box. We will be using a heavy paint mixture on the box and the lid will not fit nicely over thick paint. So we will take care of the rim later with a lighter paint.
- Take a couple of spoonfuls of a medium gray chalk paint (I mixed Toasted Poppyseed and Mineral) and add baking soda until you get the consistency of whipped sour cream. Don’t overthink it, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Be sure to mix in the lumps so it’s smooth. Using a bristle brush, begin painting the outside of the tin box.
- Let the paint dry thoroughly. Sand the paint with a super light sandpaper (120 or lighter) with the purpose of leveling bumps. Don’t sand too hard or too much or you will sand back down to the tin.
- Add another layer of paint to ensure good coverage. Let dry thoroughly. This completes the first layer of the old world finish for our Valentine’s Day Gift Box.
Step #2: Adding the Air Dry Clay Molds
- First, lightly brush the keyhole mold with cornstarch. This will act as a releasing agent so that the clay will come out of the mold easily. I forgot to take a photo of this step but it’s important for getting a clean, detailed mold that’s not mushed from man-handling. I used the keyhole mold from Prima Marketing Redesign.
- Press the clay firmly into the mold, making sure to get into all the crevices and reaching all the edges. I used the air dry clay from IOD (Iron Orchid Design). It’s the first and only time I’ve ever used air dry clay so I can’t give an objective review, but I didn’t have any issues. I do know that IOD produces very high quality products so I would suggest using them when you can.
- Gently agitate the mold to release the clay.
- Apply the Gorilla Clear Grip glue to the back of the released keyhole mold and stick to the front of the box. You can mark center with a pencil or just eyeball it.
Step #3: Adding the Trinket Mold
Repeat the same steps for adding the trinket mold to both ends of the tin box.
- Lightly brush the mold with cornstarch
- Push the clay into the mold and rub off excess
- Agitate gently to release the mold
- Add Gorilla glue to the back of the trinket mold
- Apply to one end of the tin box
- Repeat these steps for the second trinket mold and apply to the other end of the tin box.
Note: I used the Prima Marketing Redesign Trinket Mold and IOD Air Dry Clay
Step #4: Adding the Frame Mold
Our Valentine’s Gift Box is beginning to take shape. Now we need to add the picture frame to the top of the lid. For this I used the IOD Frame Mold. These molds are very high quality and super easy to use. The ridge around the frames makes it so easy to remove excess clay and get a clean mold. I do not get any benefit from suggesting this product. It’s just a good product.
- Repeat the process from the steps above for creating the frame mold.
- Carefully, add the frame mold to the top of the tin box lid. It’s a large, heavy mold so it will be tricky to position without squishing and mishaping. Don’t stress too much because the imperfections will only add to the old world finish. However, the straighter you apply it, the easier it will be later when you add the image.
- Leave the molds to dry thoroughly before moving on.
Note: I apologize for not having a photo of applying the frame to the lid. Sometimes I get distracted by the project and forget to document my progress. But it should be pretty self-explanatory. You can scroll to the finished Valentine’s Gift Box photos below, if you need a visual.
Step #5: Another Layer of Paint
Remember those layers? Many, many layers? Well, we are going to add another layer of gray paint, but of lighter value.
- But first, it’s time to remove the painters tape from the rim of the box.
- (Please disregard the paint color I am using in the photo. I was experimenting and didn’t like the results.) Use the same color paint that you used on the box in the first step, but do not add the baking soda. Carefully, paint around the rim without getting paint on the inside of the box. When it dries, apply a second coat. Let dry.
- Now, using your original paint color (but no baking soda) add some white chalk paint until you have reached a desired lighter color. Maybe 50% of the original value. Using a moist sea sponge, lightly dab the light gray paint onto the tin box.
Step #6: Adding the White Wax
We’re getting to the finishing and polishing of our Valentine’s Gift Box. This step is adding a white wax. It’s totally fine if you add an already existing white wax but I like to control the color so I make my own. Skip to the application if you prefer to use store-bought white wax.
- Squeeze a little clear wax into a bowl and add a smaller squeeze of an antique white or off-white or white linen paint (can be acyrlic or chalk). Just so it’s not a stark white color. Mix thoroughly.
- Using a moist sea sponge, gently dab the custom white wax over the box.
Step #7: Applying the Antique Gold
We’re now ready to antique those beautiful mold elements that we added to the Valentine’s Gift Box.
- Squeeze a little Antique Gold Rub’n Buff onto a protected surface or paper plate. Dip your paint brush into a little acetone (nail polish remover) and dab it into the Rub’n Buff to dilute it. It makes it easier to work with. Repeat this often to keep the antique gold workable and not too thick.
- Brush onto the frame mold, trinket molds, and keyhole mold. The coverage doesn’t have to be perfect. Allowing some of the dark gray color to show through only adds to the appearance of depth and aging.
- Let dry.
Step #8: Embellishing the Underside of the Lid
Holy moly! It just keeps on going! Yes, it does. We’re adding some more depth to the project by decorating the underside of the lid. It’s a pleasant, and beautiful, surprise when you open the lid to find something charming inside. We’re going to add another Rococo element here.
- Take some pretty scrapbook paper (floral, fleur de lis, damask) and trace the shape of the lid. Using Mod Podge, glue the paper to the underside of the lid. I wouldn’t use hot glue because it can leave ridges and bumps showing through the paper. Mod podge the top of the paper, too, to get a nice, clean finish. Note: I used a heavy paper for more stability.
- Using the IOD Frame Mold, create an oval frame mold to apply (with Gorilla glue) to the center of the underside lid. Let dry.
- To finish off the edges of the paper we will be adding 1/4″ lace (or whatever you have on hand). Whatever you use to trim the edges, it must allow the lid to close all the way. Add the lace with hot glue.
- Apply a generous amount of Mod Podge to the lace to create a hardened texture and add longivity. Let dry.
- When the oval frame mold and lace are dry, apply the Antique Gold Rub’n Buff to both.
Step #9: Adding the Rococo Art Images
This is the most exciting step: adding the Rococo painting. We were already transforming this discarded tin box into something wonderful, but these images are what elevates this box into piece of art. Just in case you are curious, I chose an 18th century Rococo piece called “The Swing” by Jean-Honoré Fragonard. It’s one of the most famous and iconic pieces of the Rococo genre. A masterpiece.
There are three pieces of “The Swing” that we will be adding to the box. Each image should have an indication for placement on the downloadable PDF. But, if for some reason, you don’t see it. Here is where to place each image:
- Top Lid Frame: “The Swing” painting
- Underside Lid Oval Frame: Closeup of The Cupids
- Bottom of the Box: Close-up of the Woman on the Swing
Download the PDF by clicking the image below and then scroll down to continue the tutorial.
Adding the Top Lid and Underside of Lid Images
Add each image one at a time, following the instructions below. Unfortunately, I am missing photos for the application of the top lid image, but the process is the same as for the underside of the lid.
- Print the PDF on high-quality printer paper and cut out each image. (If you used different sized molds, you may have to adjust the size of the images.)
- Apply an even coat of Mod Podge to the inside of the frame.
- Carefully place the corresponding image onto the glue, centering, and begin smoothing. Using a straight edged tool, like a flathead screwdriver or ceramic tool, push the edges of the image firmly down.
- Let dry and then apply a top coat (or two) of Mod Podge.
- Repeat for second image.
Adding the Rococo Image to Bottom of the Box
- Using a heavy piece of cardstock (not quite the thickness of cardboard, but heavier than regular cardstock). Trace out the shape of the bottom of the tin box. Cut both the heavy cardstock and the Rococo image to that shape.
- Glue the cardstock and image together with Mod Podge, matching edges evenly.
- Using hot glue, apply the Rococo image (and its cardstock backing) to the bottom of the tin box. Press firmly all around the edges and in the middle to ensure that the image is adhered well. You are welcome to add some trim or lace around the edges if they need finishing. I decided to leave it alone.
Step #10: Adding Dark Antique Wax
We are so close to the end, I promise. But if you’re like me, this has been so fun watching something transform. Now, we will add some dark antique wax to the box. It doesn’t really matter what brand you use but I suggest using a puck wax as opposed to the more liquidy stuff in the bottle. You don’t want to overdo it and sometimes the liquid is hard to control.
- Load a bristle brush with the dark wax and then offload it onto a paper towel or piece of cardboard. This means to brush off some of the excess wax so that you don’t apply too much on the first brush stroke. Lightly add the wax to the outer edges of the box and then work your way in. Don’t cover the entire box in wax. Look for ways to create the appearance of wear and tear, of age and depth. If you add too much somewhere, take a lint-free cloth and wipe it off.
- Add wax to the gold frames, too. These will deepen the old world appearance.
- I also added a tiny bit of wax to the images. Just a wee bit. This brought the whole piece together.
- Wipe off anything that you don’t like, or that is overdone.
Step #11: A Gilded Valentine’s Gift Box
A French-inspired Valentine’s gift box must have a gilded element to it, or it just isn’t right. Rococo and gold leaf go together like Audrey Hepburn and Tiffany’s. If you haven’t gilded before, don’t worry, it’s not that hard. Please be aware that you cannot use regular glue to gild, you must use gilding size. We will be gilding all of the mold elements on the box (frames, keyhole, and trinkets).
- Using a rounded paint brush, dip into the gilding size (glue). Holding the brush horizontally, roll the size onto the high points of the frames, trinkets, and keyhole. Do not attempt to cover everything, just certain points. We still want some of that existing antique gold and gray color to come through.
- Do not allow the size to puddle anywhere. Keep a smooth application.
- Let the size come to tack (15-20 minutes). The size should not be wet but should pull lightly when touched by your ring finger. This is tack.
- Remove a sleeve of gold leafing from the packet. Don’t remove the leafing from the paper. Rather, turn the paper over, gold side down, and use the tissue backing to rub the leafing onto your elements. The more you rub, the more you will burnish the gold, which is good. Really Good. Continue to move the tissure paper around to each element until you have used your gold leafing.
- Using a clean, dry bristle brush, brush off all excess gold leafing from the elements. Don’t worry about the waste. It’s part of the process. Brush away everything that isn’t solidly adhered to the box.
- Take some steel wool and gently (gently!) rub each element. This will completely polish off the antiqueing process as you watch the gold turn a burnished color and some of the other colors start to peek through. If you rub too hard you will entirely remove the gilding, but just enough and you will have achieved a charming old world, French country aesthetic.
Step #12: Revealing the Rococo Valentine’s Gift Box
You’re finished! And that was not easy. So many layers, so many steps. But it was all worth it because now you have something truly beautiful to share with someone else. Or maybe you’ll keep one for yourself — hey, no one is judging. This Valentine’s Gift Box box does not have to be pigeon-holed into one specific holiday. Maybe it becomes a treasure box, or a jewelry box, or a place to store seeds. I can see it used in a little girl’s room, as well as a mature, sophisticated woman. Really, it’s classic enough to be used for many different applications. Your imagination is the limit.
Final Thoughts on Valentine’s Gift Box
Congratulations! You made it through this post. This was a long one. Don’t forget that if you are loving this Valentine’s gift box, but don’t want to go through the hassle of making one, you can visit my Etsy store to purchase one. I only have three available.
Although Valentine’s Day is not my favorite holiday, I really enjoyed making these Valentine gift boxes. Rococo art makes everything better, even a kitschy holiday. I hope you enjoy some love this month, whether romantic or not. We all need a little love. Sending some your way! Until next time. 🙂