Brooklyn based lifestyle blog by Lauren L Caron

Homemade Silhouettes: How To

CREATE, VINTAGELauren Caron2 Comments

This weekend I spent a little time on my apartment working on a few projects that had built up on the "To-Do" list.  A few weeks ago I purchased two frames from the Housing Works in Park Slope. They were small and inexpensive ($10 each) and slightly odd, but I could see that they could be put to good use.


Having two of these frames and two "children" I thought it would be fun to create silhouettes of my dogs, Rita & Max. It only took minutes to whip up their outlines from a profile picture in Illustrator and to print them out on an off-white paper. It's such an easy way to have personalized art for your home.

Read the How-To After the Jump!

Here's how:

1. Choose your frame - Flea Markets and Thrift Shops are good places to start looking and smaller ones are sweeter. 2. Choose your image - In order to have a successful silhouette you must find an image that is taken of the profile. It is also very helpful to use an image where there is a strong contrast between the subject and the background.

3. Measure the size of your frame and based on that, decide on the size of your silhouette subject.

4. If you are lucky enough to have the Illustrator program on your computer than you can easily trace the outline of the face and fill the outline in black, transfer it to a new document and adjust to size, then print.  If you do not have Illustrator, than you must do it the old fashioned way and here is how:

5. Continue through steps 1 & 2 and 3.

6. Print your chosen image to the appropriate size of the frame. 7. Very carefully, cut out your subject around the outlines of the profile.

8. Trace your cut out silhouette onto a black piece of paper with a regular pencil - the lines will faintly show. 9. Cut out the shape you have traced and flip cut out over - this way no remaining outlines will show. 10. Mount on an off-white piece of paper - this will be your background. The last step is to cut the background to the shape of the frame and place in the frame. For the last bit of added detail, use a pretty ribbon with a bow.

11. Hang your framed masterpiece, then Voila!

A little history on silhouettes:

The term "silhouette" came into use in the early 19th century, although cutting portraits in profile from black cards began during the mid-18th century. The word "silhouette" derives from the name of Étienne de Silhouette, a French finance minister who, in 1759, was forced by France's credit crisis during the Seven Years War to impose severe economic demands upon French people, particularly the wealthy.

Silhouette became well known for anything done or made cheaply and so with these outline portraits being the cheapest way to record a person's appearance, the name stuck.

In the 18th and early 19th century, “profiles” or “shades” as they were called were made by one of 3 methods: (1) painted on ivory, plaster, paper, card, or in reverse on glass; (2) “hollow-cut” where the negative image was traced and then cut away from light colored paper which was then laid atop a dark background; and (3) “cut & paste” where the figure was cut out of dark paper (usually free-hand) and then pasted onto a light background.

Source: Wikipedia :)