Big box DIY advent calendar

DIY advent calendar using a canvas and boxes for the gifts!I recently got a passel of paper mache boxes from AC Moore. I don’t use paper mache that much, and now I’m wondering why because it paints and decoupages wonderfully. Anyhoo, I laid my boxes out on a table, thinking about what to do with them – then it came to me. DIY advent calendar! Sometimes crafty ideas just land in your brain, and that’s exactly what happened. I can honestly say that this is one of the most fun projects I’ve ever done. Read on to see how I decoupaged it and view more pictures. I’m getting caught up in the holiday magic, what can I say?

Gather These Supplies

IMG_3107First of all, you have a big canvas to cover! What I suggest is to take your FolkArt paint (I used Yellow Citron) and create a wash. To do this, pour some paint into a bowl and add water until it’s soupy. Paint the entire canvas with several coats. If you do this, you’ll only have to use two bottles of paint rather than ten. Allow the canvas to dry.

IMG_3120Lay your canvas onto a table and spread out your 25 boxes. At this point you need to decide the layout and then take a picture of it so that you can remember where each box goes. Let me tell you that I almost fell off a mini-ladder taking this photograph. Please photograph your advent calendar boxes at your own risk.

IMG_3124Lay out your papers on top of the boxes, cutting small pieces for the smaller boxes. Arrange the papers so that no two that are alike are right next to each other. I would estimate that I used about 12 sheets of scrapbook paper – remember that the smaller boxes only use small pieces, so you can use scraps for those.

IMG_3127This next step takes some time, so settle in with your favorite Christmas movie. For each piece of paper, lay the corresponding lid down onto the back side and trace with a pencil. Do one lid at a time.

IMG_3129Use your ruler and craft knife to cut each sheet of paper to fit the lid. Work through all 25 boxes and then clean up your big paper mess. Or if you are like me, don’t clean up until paper is everywhere and it takes twice as long to clean up.

IMG_3133Decide what color you are going to paint each box. This is where the mini sticky notes come in handy. I wrote down the color for each box on a sticky note, placed it on top and then checked to make sure I didn’t have all the pink boxes right next to each other. I made a few adjustments on color choices after I laid the whole thing out.

Once you’ve made your decisions, paint the boxes. You don’t have to paint the entire tops of the lids, but you should paint the inside so that it’s pretty when you open it. I’m watching you. I will know if you don’t do it!  Paint all of the boxes and allow to dry.

IMG_3161Decoupage the papers down to the tops of the boxes. Work one box at a time. Spread a medium layer of Mod Podge on the top of the box and then smooth down the paper thoroughly. A brayer helps a lot in this situation. Wipe away any Mod Podge that comes out the sides of the paper with your brush. Allow to dry for 15 – 20 minutes.

IMG_3163Mod Podge the lids of ALL of the boxes on top of the paper, then decoupage the boxes themselves. I wouldn’t Mod Podge the insides, because it’s really not necessary. I wanted to show you this close up of the fun Making Memories Noel paper on box #25 – isn’t it awesome?

IMG_3182Paint your wood or chipboard circles with your coordinating paint colors. Why did I add circles? It gives the boxes some interest and texture, and also provided a place to put the numbers on some of the boxes with busier patterns. Allow your circles to dry and then Mod Podge them.

IMG_3188Use your craft glue to add ribbon to some of the boxes. Again, you are adding interest. Not all of the boxes need ribbon, just some of them. I added ribbon across the tops of a few lids as well. Allow the ribbon to dry.

IMG_3227I had a BLAST with this part. I have a Sizzix eclips machine, and I absolutely love the Look at Me font from the Tween and Look at Me cartridge. Again, the mini sticky notes will come in handy if you want to tag your boxes with the color of cardstock you are going to use AND the number. Then you can make sure your colors and numbers are spread out evenly. As you can see, I put my eclips to work. What you don’t see is me doing the hamster dance is the background because I don’t have to cut out a jillion numbers in various sizes by hand.

Tip: If you don’t have a fancy machine, use clip art to cut out the numbers or buy them at the craft store.

IMG_3232Place a bit of Mod Podge on the center of each box (or wherever you are placing the numbers) and lay the numbers down. Mod Podge over the top and allow to dry. You can get creative with your placement. As you can see, I didn’t put everything in the center.

You are about to get serious with some hot glue. I used several large sticks gluing all of the boxes down. If you have a hard time remembering where the boxes go, remember that you took a photo at the very beginning of this project, so that should help.

IMG_3237Some of the boxes deserve some floral embellishments. That’s where the craft glue and Prima flowers come in. The little container I bought also had some leaves – perfect.

IMG_3238Add rhinestones and buttons where desired with your craft glue and let the entire calendar dry.

DIY advent calendar using a canvas and boxes for the gifts!You can really have fun with where you put this advent calendar, and with all of the things you can put in it. That’s why some of the boxes are big and some are small. Candy can go into the smaller boxes and fun gift items into the larger boxes. #25 is the biggest box for that reason!  Would you like to see a few more shots? Here’s a detail shot and then me finding a surprise in box #14. Happy Holidays!

Big box DIY advent calendar

Big box DIY advent calendar

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  1. says

    AMY!!!! – can you hear me squealing like a little girl all the way from Woodstock???? THIS IS THE MOST FABULOUS PROJECT!!! I wish we had A.C. Moore stores here in GA so I could completely rip off this idea and show it on my blog — j.k. – I will show a snippet and give a link if that’s o.k. with you?

    You are friggin brilliant! A.C. Moore is awesome too, especially since they buy my Sizzix dies!

  2. Amanda says

    I’m with Brenda – squealing like a little girl!! I LOVE THIS!! I haven’t got an AC Moore, but I’m off to scavenge…. 😀

  3. says

    This is officially the coolest project you have ever done. Hands down! I am in LOVE! Can you send it to me via fedex? Please? Begging here. Please. I’ll give you some extra hugs. I swears.

  4. Chrissy :-) says

    I love this idea and am planning my trip to ACMoore right now! Can you tell me about how much it cost you to make this?

  5. Brenda says

    Ooh, ooh, ooh you have just given me the best idea ever. YOU ROCK. I hope you can come visit my blog in a couple days and view my version. Thank you thank you

  6. Michelle L. says

    Oh, wow, that is SO MUCH FUN! I love your idea, and love the beautiful harmonious-yet-eclectic look.

  7. inday_adin says

    Oh boy that is really creative. I love the designs, the color combos and everything about it. Thanks for sharing!

    Adin B

  8. says

    Thanks everyone!

    Chrissy, I don’t exactly know, unfortunately. I had the paint, the canvas I purchased with a 40% coupon and then I can’t remember how much the boxes were. I’m so sorry! I would say it definitely wasn’t cheap, but it wasn’t outrageous either. You can always downsize it to a smaller canvas to fit your particular budget – and the boxes come in all sizes!

  9. thatgirlblogs says

    I just used MP in a fall garland and linked back to you (just click on the word ModPodge in my post)…

  10. Becca says

    Oh how I miss AC Moore…
    We had it in NC, but not in TX. I love this project. I’ve been brainstorming an advent project, but haven’t come up with anything yet. Hopefully I figure out something soon.

  11. breanna82 says

    I love Advent calendars. I think I might make one next weekend for my nephew. I think he might really enjoy this.

  12. Dawn_Homemade says

    Oh boy, I’ve been saving the prettiest of Christmas cards I’ve received for years, waiting for the perfect project to recycle them into. This may be it :)

  13. Heather - says

    Oh my gosh, Amy. This is so freakin’ cute.

    How did December get here already? I don’t have time to post about all the great advent calendars I’m seeing!

    Love this!


  14. gabby says

    OMG — I LOVE this idea! I have a large piece of wood waiting for a craft to be done. I think I might just use it to do this great little project. Thanks for sharing! I am going to share it with my readers now at

  15. Amy Lynn says

    I love this idea and have *almost* finished making my own, but I’ve run into a problem. My lids are sticking onto my boxes! I have tried sanding them down, but even so many lids are not fitting anymore and others are fitting very tightly. I’m holding off on gluing the boxes down for fear that the lids will never come off to reveal the surprises to be housed inside.

  16. von Hand zu Hand says

    that’s awsome. i want to have one!
    and i’m curious to know what surprises the boxes are hiding.

    I linked to your tutorial on my blog – thanks for sharing!

    doro K.

  17. Two Shades of Pink says

    This is really genius…and what a perfect idea for a advent!!! This is truly inspired and I absolutely adore your crafty brain! Plus I love that I could use the tiny boxes I always save for that someday usefulness I hoard things for.

  18. annadicus says

    This is so wonderful! I would love to do something like this one day!
    Bucket list!! :)
    Thank you for sharing!


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