How to Make Shadow Silhouettes

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Silhouettes are featureless profiles of objects, similar to shadows.
Silhouettes are featureless profiles of objects, similar to shadows. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

A silhouette is a drawing of an object that shows the object's outline, but none of its features. Silhouette portraits were very popular in the 19th century and were made by cutting the outline of a person's profile from thick black paper. The origin of the silhouette lies in the traditional, pre-photography practice of tracing shadows on paper or even walls in order to draw objects more accurately. While the practice is no longer common, anyone can make silhouettes from shadows with light and some paper.

Things You'll Need

  • Black construction paper
  • Poster board
  • Pencil
  • White chalk
  • Flashlight
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Glue

Ask the person whose silhouette you want to draw to sit in a chair with his profile parallel to and 3 feet away from the wall of a dark room. If you are drawing a silhouette of an object, place it on a table or other stand at the same distance. The wall of the room should be smooth and flat so you will be able to draw against it.

Place the flashlight on a table with the light going slightly over the edge. Turn on the flashlight and direct it toward your model so it casts a shadow against the wall. Adjust the distance of the table and the light until the shadow is the same size as the model.

Tape the black sheet of construction paper to the wall so the model's shadow is on it. The paper should be taped at least once on each end so it will not shift when you draw on it. Also, so you will be able to clearly see the outline of the shadow, do no use overly dark paper.

Trace the outline of the shadow on the black paper with the white chalk. If you prefer to have a thinner line, you can substitute a Liquid Paper pen for chalk. In order not to block out your model's shadow with your own, trace the shadow one half at a time on either side of the paper.

Cut out the outline of the shadow you traced on the black paper. Using its size as a reference, trace an oval on the poster board and cut it out. Paste the the black outline to the oval, completing the shadow silhouette. If you want to go one step further, you can add a border to decorate your background.

References

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