DIY Silhouettes

9th January 2015

In January & February, I always get in the mood for Victorian anything.  I want to drink from teacups on doilies, read Oscar Wilde and – you know – just generally loiter in Gothic Revival architecture.  So weird because you feel the exact same way, right?  Well I have an inspired project for us today.  I looked back through my archives and I found something I did two years ago that we can revisit on this cold January day.  DIY Silhouettes.


We have these old built in shelves in the kids’ playroom.  I put all their favorite art supplies on the shelves and wanted to hang pictures of them over each side.  But not any pictures – silhouettes.  I got to crafting and hung these a couple days later.  Once they were up, friends asked me, “who did your silhouettes?”  I told them (beaming), “I did.”  They looked in amazement and wonder.  Because of course, they assumed I sat down with a pair of scissors and freehanded some EXACT likeness of my kids essentially out of thin air.  Err. No.  I have a little trick for you.  And I promise, I’m not a fabulous artist nor are my cutting skills much better than your average 3rd grader.


  • a couple sheets of black cardstock (Michaels – buy it by the sheet – a couple bucks)
  • white textured paper for backing your silhouette in the frame (Michaels – buy it by the sheet – a couple bucks)
  • a pair of really sharp scissors – embroidery scissors work well
  • oval or round matted frame ($20 on Amazon)
  • access to a camera and printer
  • glue stick


1.  Take a profile shot of your subjects against a lighter background.  Try to take a photo without shadows.    This is probably the hardest part – getting your subject to hold still, look straight ahead and look like themselves without slouching or being stiff.  Here is a picture of my oldest kiddo that worked really well.  Don’t like the traditional poses?  Try something out of the ordinary like people giving each other a high five or one person doing one of their favorite dance moves in a full body action shot.  Silhouettes actually do a really good job of capturing the likeness of someone so just have your subject do something that is THEM.


2.  Flip your picture horizontally so you have the mirror image of it.  (I’m on a Mac and using my photo preview program I go to Tools>Flip Horizontal.)


3.  Print it out and mess with the print scale until you have it the actual size that you want your real silhouette.

4.  Using your glue stick, very lightly glue it onto the back of your black card stock.

5.  Using very sharp small scissors, cut out just the profile of your subject in a single motion.  The thing that makes the silhouette special is the attention to smaller details.  Include those wisps of hair.


(At that time I made this, my little one had this messy curly hair that always stood on end.  It kind of rose off her head like a big poof of spun sugar.  We knew it would be gone soon when she grew it out so I wanted to capture it forever.  She’s two years older now.  That wisp is long gone but the silhouette still makes me smile and remember.)  Take extra time around the nose, lips and forehead – this makes a big difference in whether the silhouette really looks like the subject.  It might take a couple tries if you’re rushing.

6.  Position the cut out silhouette in the frame on the white backing paper.  Paste and hang.  I liked the matted version – it felt finished to me, looked a little bit more modern and meant that I didn’t need to do the traditional cut out around the bust.  If you want you can also do an unmatted frame  – round, oval or square – and hang it.  Here are some more examples of silhouettes with traditional bust cut-outs.

Really simple right?  It was so simple to do the two girls that I did one of my bulldog Lola too and pointed her face in the direction of her bowl.  To get her to pose, I had my husband hold her favorite treat for her and got her standing at attention.  See how every muscle looks taut!  Silhouettes really can capture the essence of someone or somedog.


Check out those silhouettes in the kids playroom.  They make a great present for new parents or grandparents if you can sneak a profile shot of the kiddo on your phone when they’re not looking.


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