How to make a silhouette panel prop

Written by robyn tindle
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How to make a silhouette panel prop
A screen panel and a gobo can create a stunning stage sihouette. (woman silhouette image by dip from Fotolia.com)

It is easy to make a silhouette panel stage prop so that actors can play in shadow. All you need to do is to make a wooden frame, stretch over some thin white fabric to make the panel screen and shine a bright spotlight behind it; with the actor caught in between to be viewed in silhouette. You could even get inventive and make a portable hand screen prop, to create silhouettes of hand animals during a performance without an actor having to go behind a panelled screen.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • Wood, 3- to 5-inches wide and 1 inch thick, various lengths
  • Saw
  • Wood adhesive
  • Hammer
  • Long nails
  • Screws (optional)
  • Screwdriver (optional)
  • Drill and drill bit
  • 4 wooden dowels
  • Mitre block or box
  • Chisel (optional)
  • Thin white fabric (muslin, calico or paper)
  • Staple gun
  • Spotlight

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Decide how big your silhouette panel screen should be. Write down your chosen panel measurements so that know how many thin lengths of wood to buy. Get your wood cut to size for convenience, if preferred. You will also need extra wood for the feet, so that your frame can be free-standing. Get thin strips of wood between 3- and 5-inches wide with a thickness of at least 1 inch.

  2. 2

    Make the wooden rectangular frame for your silhouette panel. Using a saw, trim two long pieces of wood to the required length for the two standing sides of the panel. Cut two smaller lengths of wood for the top and bottom widths. Join the ends of woods together using glue to initially fix in place. Hammer in some long nails to secure. Use screws as an alternative.

  3. 3

    Attach the wooden feet to the silhouette panel so it can stand upright. Cut two lengths of wood at least 1 meter in length. Drill two holes into one end of each piece of wood. Drill another two holes exactly the same distance apart at the bottom, joining the corner of the frame and the back of the screen panel. Squirt some glue into the holes. Insert wooden dowels into the holes to join the two pieces of wood together. Repeat to attach the second foot on the other side to balance the frame. The bottom of the frame and the feet should sit flat to the ground.

  4. 4

    Strengthen the panel with wooden hinge brackets. Cut two lengths of wood about a quarter of the standing length of the screen panel. Each end of the wood needs to be cut at a 45-degree angle to be able to fix diagonally across from a vertical to a horizontal piece of wood. Use a mitre block or box to saw the ends of wood at a 45-degree angle. Glue each end in place to create your hinge bracket. For a firmer grip, chisel out a section of wood at the joining points, about 5mm deep and of the same width as the ends of the wood pieces, to form a perfect mitre joint.

  5. 5

    Stretch a thin white material tight over the screen frame. Use a material like muslin, calico or even paper will do. Attach the fabric or paper over the frame by pulling it tight around the sides to the back edge of the frame and pinning the material in place with a staple gun. Make sure there are no ripples in the screen.

  6. 6

    Direct a bright spotlight behind the panel and you're ready for the actor to walk into silhouette behind the screen.

Tips and warnings

  • Make a hand-held panel screen prop by stretching fabric over a picture frame. Or hang a white sheet over a line of cord to be used as a silhouette screen. Create some interesting effects by projecting gobos onto the screen.

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