Artful paper cutting originated with the ancient Chinese and is still practiced in the 21st century. Cut-out silhouette profile portraits were popular in the Victorian era. They faithfully recorded a likeness of a child's or adult's features in an age before cameras were commonplace. Silhouettes of children or adults made from black paper or cardboard were quick, inexpensive ways to make portraits. Making your own silhouettes is a fun pastime for the whole family.
Things You'll Need
- Bright light
- Drawing materials
- Black card stock
Tape a large sheet of white paper to the wall. Sit a child sideways on a stool in front of the paper. Shine a bright light on his face so a profile is projected onto the paper – use an unshaded lamp or the brightest light you can find.
Adjust the distance between the light and the child until you get a sharply defined shadow. Sit the child closer to the light source for a clear silhouette. Make the silhouette any size you want by repositioning the child and the light source. Experiment with moving the child and the light back and forth until you find the right spot.
Trace the contours of the child's face on the white paper with a pencil or sharpened charcoal. Follow the exact outline of the profile. Include all the small details of the hair and clothes that appear in the shadow. Draw with a sure hand, using a smooth line. Work quickly before the child becomes restless and starts to move around.
Finish the outline, then remove the paper from the wall. Get a piece of black cardstock or heavy black construction paper for the cutout. Paint a piece of watercolor paper, print paper or any kind of thick paper black to make the silhouette. Use any kind of material as long as it cuts easily and cleanly. Tape or lightly glue the profile drawing onto the black paper with the outline side facing up.
Use a pair of sharp scissors to very carefully cut around the outline. Rotate and move the paper into the scissors as you cut or hold the paper still – whichever method you find most comfrotable. Cut out the profile as carefully and accurately as you can for a recognizable portrait.
Remove the white paper from the silhouette. Glue the silhouette onto a piece of white paper for a background. Mat and frame the picture before displaying it.
Tips & Warnings
- Let the kids try making silhouettes of each other.
- Be careful around strong lights – the bulbs get hot.