How to Make Silhouette Cutouts From Photos

Written by cath savage
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How to Make Silhouette Cutouts From Photos
A classic silhouette (Lady Silhouette image by jonnyed from Fotolia.com)

Silhouette portraits are fun and easy to make using just a few common items, and, of course, a photograph. Ideally, the photo (traditionally taken of a person's profile) should be taken in a well-lit area to emphasise the outline and details of the subject. Hats, hairstyles and interesting shirt collars can add interest to your final portrait. Framed silhouettes make wonderful gifts. And for scrapbooking fans, they will add a special touch to your pages.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Photograph
  • Tape
  • Tracing paper
  • 1 Soft lead pencil
  • Black photo mounting paper or black construction paper
  • 1 Hard lead pencil, very sharp
  • Sharp utility knife or small scissors
  • Glue or spray adhesive
  • Mounting board (optional)
  • Frame (optional)
  • Black permanent marker (optional)

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Choose a photograph to use for your silhouette. If it is smaller than you would like, make an enlarged photocopy of the picture and use the photocopied enlargement to create your silhouette.

    How to Make Silhouette Cutouts From Photos
    A traditional profile portrait works well for a silhouette. (cowgirl profile image by Lisa Eastman from Fotolia.com)
  2. 2

    Tear off a piece of tape about 2 inches longer than the photo and lay it on a flat surface, sticky side facing up. Place the photo, face up, on top of the tape, so that 1 inch of the tape extends from both the top and bottom edge of the photo. Place a sheet of tracing paper over the photo and align the tracing paper so the tape holds the paper firmly in place.

  3. 3

    Using a soft pencil, trace the outline of your silhouette on the tracing paper. When finished with your outline, remove the tracing paper from the photograph, taking care not to tear your drawing.

  4. 4

    Remove the tape from the back of your photo and set the photo aside. Turn your tracing paper drawing face down. With the soft pencil, trace over your drawing, making the lines a bit thicker and using as much lead as you can without distorting the drawing. With your drawing completed on both sides of the tracing paper, you are ready to make your silhouette.

  5. 5

    Lay the tracing paper over a sheet of black construction or black photo paper with your original sketch facing you. Secure the tracing paper with tape so it doesn't slip. Using a sharp, hard pencil, trace over the drawing once more, pressing hard. When finished with the outline, lift the tracing paper and you will have transferred your drawing to the black paper.

    How to Make Silhouette Cutouts From Photos
    Black photo mounting paper works well. (Black Book image by Nedda from Fotolia.com)
  6. 6

    With a sharp utility knife or small scissors, carefully cut out the drawing. Mount it to a backing board or a scrapbook page using spray adhesive or glue.

Tips and warnings

  • If you don't mind sparing the photograph, try cutting it out and colouring the back (white) side with a black permanent marker for an instant silhouette (reverse of your photo).
  • Make several silhouettes using pictures of pets, your home or any object with an interesting shape, and arrange them to make a group silhouette.
  • Add background shapes using pre-made templates.
  • Instead of using black paper, try another colour for a different effect.
  • Always work carefully when using utility knives to avoid injury.

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