How to Make Great Hand Shadow Puppets

Updated February 21, 2017

Making hand shadow puppets is a fun, if mostly useless, skill to have. However when the lights go out and all you have is a candle to entertain you, knowing how to make hand shadow puppets can be a life saver. Although hand shadow puppets don't appear challenging to make when viewed, once you try doing it yourself you realise that there is definitely a level of skill and practice involved. There are some basic tips to keep in mind when working on your hand shadow puppet creations.

Set up a candle or lamp on a table about five feet from a wall. Ideally the wall itself will be bare and flat, so the shadow cast is as clear as possible.

Sit or stand between the light source and the wall. The closer you are to the wall the smaller your shadow puppet will appear. Conversely, the closer you are to the light source, the larger your shadow puppet will appear. Smaller shadow puppets are clearer than larger ones, which can look slightly blurred.

Create interesting shadows using your hands and fingers. Do some experimenting with organic shapes before you start trying to make shadow puppets.

Try making some common hand shadow puppets such as the bird with its wings stretched, which you make by joining both hands at the thumb and outstretching your palms and fingers (see top image of this article for visual reference).

Another popular shadow puppets is the dog or horse's head, which is made with one hand opened sideways and the other hand clasping the open hand between the thumb and forefinger. The thumb acts as the animals ears and the pinky moves to resemble a mouth.

Keep practicing making hand shadow puppets. Other puppets you can practice making include a turtle, a bear, a goose's head, an elephant's head, a rabbit and a snake.

Buy or rent an illustrated guide book to help you through the steps of making each of these shadow puppets. By following the illustrated steps you should be able to master the hand puppet making skills and begin making great shadow puppets.

Make a story out of your hand shadow puppets. By narrating a story with your puppets you create an environment in which the puppets can establish their own characteristics and personalities. This will make them more interesting and the whole scenario more entertaining for any audience members.

Things You'll Need

  • Hands
  • Light source
  • Light-coloured wall
  • Illustrated hand puppet guide book
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About the Author

Ariel Phillips is an editor and writer living in Portland, Ore. He has written for "n+1 Journal" and "The Rumpus Magazine," among others. He maintains an interest in a variety of subjects, including art, culture, the environment, media, the sciences and sports. He earned bachelor's degrees in art and philosophy from the University of California, Santa Barbara.