How to turn a picture into a silhouette

Written by lauren vork
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How to turn a picture into a silhouette
Even a black and white picture can tell a story. (silhouette 2 image by Nathalie P from

Silhouettes are an artistic rendering of an image in solid black on a white background. In addition to being an elegant, though simple Victorian-style decoration, a silhouette with recognisable images is a fascinating novelty. Transform your own personal photographs into recognisable renditions of faces or create silhouette art of basic inanimate shapes. Achieve success in your art by recognising and enhancing shapes that lend themselves well to this style of image rendering.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Photograph
  • White card stock
  • Scissors
  • Chalk or silver pen
  • Black paper
  • Glue stick

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  1. 1

    Choose a picture that's well-suited to a silhouette. For best results, the image should have a distinct outline, such as a side profile of a head rather than a frontal view of the face. Also, the image shouldn't have many fine, thin details protruding from the main shape, such as tiny tendrils of hair.

  2. 2

    Cut a piece of white card stock of the same size as the photo, or large enough to encompass the parts of the photo you want to reproduce.

  3. 3

    Make a grayscale copy of the picture. This colour scheme helps you see the basic shapes in a manner that will help you identify the lines you want; look over the grayscale image to see where the darker or lighter colours of the image stand out in relation to the contrasting shade of the background items.

  4. 4

    Cut out the objects in the picture you want to feature. Trace their outlines with your scissors and exaggerate the shape of the lines slightly to emphasise dips and curves, making them slightly more pronounced than they are in the photo. Trim away any protruding shapes, such as small hairs on a head, that aren't necessary to achieve the shape you want.

  5. 5

    Place the cut-out objects upside-down on black paper. Trace them using the silver marker or chalk. Cut out the shapes. Flip them over to hide the tracing lines.

  6. 6

    Organise the cut-out objects on white card stock. Arrange them in the same positions as in the photo, but don't glue them yet. Make light pencil lines to mark the positions of the objects. Use a few short lines or dots on the card stock, instead of completely tracing the objects.

  7. 7

    Paste the black pieces to the card stock using the glue stick.

  8. 8

    Erase any pencil lines that are still visible on the card stock.

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