A simple, quick, and inexpensive project for your home. Learn how to make classic silhouette portraits in mere minutes!
I love small, simple, and sweet home projects that I can easily do in an afternoon. Without taking a lot of time or effort, they can add so much personality to a home.
These handmade silhouette portraits are that kind of project. They are easy and quick to make, and there’s nothing better than seeing the sweet profiles of my girls turned into artwork. Your children—or anyone in your life, for that matter—will love seeing their silhouettes on display, too!
I fondly remember my grandma having silhouette portraits of my sister and me hanging in her hallway. When my girls were little, I knew I wanted to make their silhouettes for our home.
I made these little portraits of Adalyn and Aniston when they were little, to hang on their fabric pin boards. Silhouettes are a classic type of art that adds a timeless touch to any space.
For more DIY art, try my tutorials for DIY pressed botanical art, small framed pictures printed on book cloth, and framed recipes kitchen art. Plus learn how to make your own fabric pin board for displaying special art and keepsakes.
What Is a Silhouette?
A silhouette is a dark shape or outline of an object or person, layered over a lighter background. Silhouette portraits are also called profiles, shadow portraits, and likenesses.
Silhouette art has been around since the 1500s, but it got its name in the 1700s from the finance minister of France, Étienne de Silhouette. He enjoyed cutting out profile portraits as a hobby. Over time, the art form took on his name.
Profile portraits were both hand painted and cut from paper or cloth. They were extremely popular during the Regency Period in the early 1800s. Silhouettes were an easy and inexpensive way to have their likeness taken. Not everyone could afford to have an artist paint their full portrait, after all!
It must be their long history—spanning hundreds of years—that gives silhouette portraits such a classic, timeless, nostalgic feeling.
Tools and Supplies
Here’s everything you’ll need to make your own DIY silhouette portrait:
- Digital camera
- Plain white paper—for tracing image
- Black cardstock—for cutting out silhouette
- White cardstock—for background
- Small pair of cutting shears
- Picture frame
How to Make a Silhouette Portrait
With the help of modern technology, making silhouette portraits has never been easier! It is a simple, quick, and inexpensive project that will add beauty to your home.
For the full tutorial, see the printable how to card below.
- Use a camera to take a side profile photo of your subject. Position them against a light background, such as a solid colored wall. Make sure to kneel down to their level, so the perspective will be straight on.
- Upload your image to a computer, and open it in your photo program of choice. Zoom in or out to enlarge or reduce the image to the size you want.
- Hold plain white paper up to the computer screen and position it over the image. Lightly trace the image onto the paper using a pencil or sketch pens.
- Optional—You can print the image instead of tracing it. Make sure to resize the image to your desired size before printing.
- Use pointed scissors to cut out the image. Make sure to leave details such as eyelashes and any loose hair you want to keep.
- Trace your cutout image onto the back of your black paper. Flip the image over backwards before tracing. Once it is cut out of the black paper, from the front it will be facing its original direction.
- Using a small pair of shears, cut out your silhouette. Mount onto white cardstock or a light-colored fabric with double stick tape or a small amount of glue. Insert into a frame and hang according to the frame’s instructions.
A few simple tricks will make this project even easier than it already is.
- Put long hair up into a bun or ponytail. This shows off the neckline better and creates a simple and beautiful silhouette.
- Curly hair can be difficult to photograph, trace, and cut. If you’re having trouble getting the look right, find an image of a silhouette with similar hair online. Trace that hair onto your silhouette image. Google images has many options for different silhouette hairstyles. It will end up looking just like your little one’s actual hair.
- To make tracing easier, you can underexpose your photo by placing your child in front of a bright window. The background will be brighter and your child’s profile will be darker.
- Include the neck and part of the shoulders in your silhouette. Finish it off by adding a slight curve (see photos for examples). This will make your portrait look more authentic.
In just a few minutes, you’ll have a sweet, personal work of art that will last for years to come. It’s these little details that really make a house feel like a home!
Love this bedroom? Be sure to come check out the more grown up version in this Blush Pink Bedroom post!
Seeing my girls on paper made me realize just how fast they’re growing up! I love these portraits now, but I have the feeling I will love them even more as my girls grow older.
Silhouette Portrait Variations
There are so many ways to make these even more personal to you and your style! Here are just a few ideas to get your creativity flowing:
- Fabric—Mount your silhouette onto a neutral, textured fabric instead of white paper.
- Color—I love the classic look, but you can definitely make these more modern by using colored cardstock instead of black.
- Full silhouette—A silhouette is any dark shape against a light background, so technically it doesn’t have to be turned sideways. Follow the same steps to make a silhouette of your child striking a pose or in an action, such as running, jumping, or shooting a basketball.
- Family pets—For all of you animal lovers! Take a profile photo of your favorite pet and make a silhouette. This would be a sweet way to immortalize your furry companions.
More Wall Art Resources
- 20 Easy DIY Wall Decor Ideas for Your Home
- Free Art Sources
- Styling an Art Wall
- How to Choose Framed Art
- How to Frame a Picture Professionally
- TV that Looks Like Art
How to Make a Silhouette Portrait
- White tracing paper
- Black cardstock
- White cardstock
- Double stick tape
- Picture frame
- Use a camera to take a side profile photo of your subject against a light background. Kneel down to their level, so the perspective will be straight on.
- Upload image to computer and open photo preview. Zoom in or out to enlarge or reduced to desired size.
- Position plain white paper over image on computer screen. Lightly trace image onto paper using a pencil or sketch pens.
- Optional—Print the image instead of tracing it. Resize the image to your desired size before printing.
- Use small pointed scissors to cut out image. Make sure to leave details such as eyelashes and any loose hair you want to keep.
- Trace cutout imagine onto back of black cardstock. Flip image over backwards before tracing. It will be facing original direction from the front of the final silhouette.
- Use scissors to cut out silhouette. Mount onto white cardstock with double stick tape. Insert into a frame and hang according to the frame’s instructions.
- Put long hair up into bun or ponytail for a simpler silhouette.
- For difficult to trace hair, find similar image on Google images, and trace that hair onto your silhouette instead.
- Variations include using colored cardstock instead of black and/or mounting to textured fabric.