How to Make Silhouettes

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A silhouette is a drawing of a person or an object in which only the outline is drawn, and the space within the outline is filled in with a solid color. This type of portrait has roots as far back as stone-age cave drawings and was used extensively in classic Greek culture. In the modern world, the silhouette is a popular craft project for both children and adults.

Things You'll Need

  • Large sheet of white paper
  • Black construction paper
  • Colored paper(s) for accenting
  • Bright light source
  • Masking tape
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Glue stick
  • Frame (optional)
  • Mount the sheet of white paper to a wall at the height of the person or object you will be silhouetting.

  • Place the silhouette subject 2 to 3 feet away from the wall in front of the paper, leaving enough room next to the paper so that you can draw on it easily.

  • Place your bright light source so that it will shine on your subject and cast a direct shadow onto the white paper. Turn on the light, and turn off any other lights in the room.

  • Use the pencil to trace the shadow's outline onto the white paper. Remove the paper from the wall.

  • Cut along your tracing line. Tape the resulting white cutout onto the black construction paper and use it as a template to cut out the silhouette on the black paper.

  • Glue the black cutout onto a piece of the colored accent paper. Use additional colored and/or patterned paper to mat the piece, add a border, or accent your work in a decorative manner.

  • Frame the finished piece, if desired.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you are silhouetting a person's head, you will achieve the most interesting shape if the person turns to the side to cast a shadow in profile.
  • If you are working with an object such as a vase of flowers, turn it at various angles until you find the most attractive shadow.
  • If you need a sharper line to follow, consider using a brighter light, move the subject closer to the wall, or move the light source closer to the subject. The latter two adjustments will affect the size of the shadow.
  • Bright lights have a tendency to get hot even when on for only a few minutes; handle with care.

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