silhouette tutorial

We all love a good silhouette. Especially of sweet little faces.  So {as promised} I’ve put together a tutorial on an easy way to make one.  Now, easy may be relative so bear with me.

But first, a little silhouette inspiration:

silhouettenecklaceetsy-e1280465023109 stella & hodge etsy


Blue-Painted-piece image


decor pad

Feeling inspired?

Here we go :

First, you’ll need a camera, a subject, a computer and some type of photo editing software {photoshop, picmonkey,}

When taking a photo of your subject {in my case my No.2}, use a background that contrasts with the skin {in my case a dark background}.  Be sure to get a good profile shot from the top of the head to below the shoulders. Keep in mind that this was in the morning {hence the p.j’s} and I stuck some gel in his too-long hair and it looks very funky.  I swear he’s a cute kid.

So, first up, open your photo in your photo-editing software.


Change the image to black and white


In the adjustments drop down menu, select brightness/contrast and adjust so that there is a greater difference between light and dark in the photo.

You may have to play around a little with this to get it right.


Now, using the Magic Wand tool {see the one that is blue in the Tools bar on the left}, click on the background. This will highlight everything that is that color on the photo. You can see a tiny dotted line where the outline is.


Now delete what you’ve just selected {press delete on your keyboard} and the background is now transparent.


Using the eraser tool {again, the blue one in the Tools menu on the image here} erase the extra stuff in the background that was not deleted. I also shaved off a little bit of #2’s hair and cut off his shoulder.


Now, use that Magic Wand tool again to select the background.


Then in the edit menu, select Invert Selection so that just the silhouette is selected


Again in the Edit menu, select Fill Selection.


With the eraser tool, make any adjustments to the silhouette


And you’re done!  Before saving, I cropped mine using the Rectangle Select tool


and then that cropping tool that is blue in the top menu bar {the jaggedy square – that’s the technical term}. Now save the image as a .png {so that the background will remain transparent} and you are finished!


If you want to get a little bit crazy, here’s another thing you can do.

Figure out the size of your image {go to Image, then Resize and this menu will show. Look at both the Resolution and the Print size}.


Then open up another image of some type of background paper. This one is a free download found here. You’ll need to adjust the size of this to a slightly larger size than your silhouette image {for example, my silhouette is set to 300 resolution and 4 inches by 4.3 inches. I resized the background to also be 300 resolution and 5 inches x 5 inches}.


Now click on your silhouette image {up in that top right section where the pages you are working on are held} and use the Magic Wand tool to select your silhouette


Now copy


click over to the background image {again in that top right spot} and Paste as a New Layer


You’ll have this


Now in the Layers menu, choose Layer Properties and change the Opacity to 0. This will make your silhouette layer transparent but you’ll be able to see the outline {can you see it?}


Press that same jaggedy square cropping tool and you’ll get this:


If you copy and paste it to a new background, you’ll have this:

b yellow

Super cute.

Here’s another:


And just for fun, one more:

isabella {That’s my niece who is perhaps the cutest child I’ve ever seen}

So as you can see, it is not a hard thing to do, it just takes a lot of steps. I hope I haven’t thoroughly confused you.  I know there are about 25 other ways to make a silhouette, but this is one way to do it.

Happy silhouetting!

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87 Responses to silhouette tutorial

  1. Faith March 25, 2011 at 10:50 am #

    I was wondering how to do this when my daughter has black hair…I have been messing around with the program, but can’t seem to figure out how to keep her black hair with the silhouette and not delete with the rest of the background?? Any suggestions. I even tried taking her pic against a lighter background, but then her face disappears?!?!? Please help!!

    • kay elle bea December 11, 2011 at 7:11 pm #

      I don’t know if you’ve had an answer yet but try the same thing Hollywood does: green screen. Maybe not literally green but try a bright color that won’t be anything close to your daughter’s hair or skintone. Hope this helps, I’m going to have to try this method too, we all have very dark hair so black won’t work for us either.

  2. Lauren @ Daisy Cottage Designs April 17, 2011 at 2:32 pm #

    Oh my! This is the cutest thing ever. I honestly can’t wait to give it a try. If only they had for Macs :( I’m going to have to find another program that will allow me to try this. I want to do this and hang it in my craft space… if only my 1 year old will sit still long enough for me to take a picture of her profile :)

  3. Kelly@Bungalow Blue April 22, 2011 at 7:49 am #

    This is amazing! Thank you so much fo sharing in such great detail! Can’t wait to try!

  4. allison April 30, 2011 at 1:26 pm #

    THANKS so much. I was able to do this & put it in my antique locket. Love it!

  5. Emilie June 18, 2011 at 7:28 am #

    Can anybody suggest what kind of software to use for a Mac to do this?

  6. Kara AP June 27, 2011 at 7:01 am #

    Just did this and LOVE the results! Thanks so much for the great tutorial! I did have a little problem smoothing the edges the silhouette (probably due to the original picture). If anyone else is having this issue, go to Effects, Noise and then Median to play around with that.

    • Sarah B. March 3, 2014 at 10:42 am #

      Try using PicMonkey…may not be similar to this program, but you can probably accomplish the same thing.

  7. Jennifer Morical July 21, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

    Another fabulous idea! I actually did this one for my daugther’s room by printing out the image in black and white from my computer, tracing with a sharpie around the edge and cutting it out with an exacto blade. No sofware needed = )

  8. Susanna August 8, 2011 at 9:21 pm #

    Thanks for the great tutorial Emily! I’m so happy with how the silhouette’s of my three kiddos turned out using your wonderful instructions.

  9. Wendy August 16, 2011 at 3:44 pm #


    I have 3 boys and only 2 silhouettes! Now I don’t need the nice old man at the Fairhope (AL) Arts&Crafts Festival! I CAN DO MY OWN!

    Poor youngest children of the world…they are always the ones with the incomplete baby books, thinnest photo alblums, and no silhouettes.
    Thank you for coming to the rescue!

  10. Katie September 3, 2011 at 7:26 am #

    can you use photoshop actions on

  11. Beth September 9, 2011 at 11:00 am #

    This would have been so easy if the software for Mac was the same! For Mac you can download Gimp for Mac but it is different from how it was described above. Maybe I will have more time later to figure out how to do it because I love the idea!

  12. Rosemary Salmon September 23, 2011 at 1:50 pm #

    Thank you so very much for these wonderful craft ideas. I’m going to attempt to make these silhouettes of each of my 14 grandchildren. My 25 year-old granddaughter, Taylor, sent me the hyperlink to your web site. I LOVE it. Taylor is also making silhouettes of every child in her mom’s fourth grade class for her.

  13. Jennifer October 3, 2011 at 5:31 am #

    hey… I did this on my mac using gimp. Look it up. Whatever program she used must be pretty similar to it bc I followed her steps and found the same stuff…

  14. Shaie October 4, 2011 at 7:26 pm #


    I haven’t done this yet. But with your daughter having black hair, maybe you could just change her hair or whole silhouette to a different color first and then it wont blend in with the background and then make her silhouette black. Just an idea.

  15. Tanya from Dans le Townhouse October 6, 2011 at 11:35 am #

    Great tutorial! I have a collection of vintage & antique silhouettes and now I have no excuse not to make some of my own!

  16. Ceelo November 2, 2011 at 2:24 am #

    I found you through Pinterest. GREAT tutorial and I’m so glad to see someone using for once!

  17. adrienne December 26, 2011 at 2:04 pm #

    Where are these necklaces from? I’ve been searching and can’t find anything like them!

  18. alexa April 29, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

    any suggestions on good backgrounds for girls prints? where could I find the hair accessory in the isabella print?

  19. Jennifer May 8, 2012 at 6:23 pm #

    I want one of the beautiful necklaces!! Where do I find them? It is just my style and nothing is more perfect than wearing my sweet babies around my neck!

  20. Lesta July 18, 2012 at 8:59 pm #

    AWESOME! I have already too! Now I just need some more grandkids for that necklace! Thanks!!

  21. Lauren August 28, 2012 at 6:45 pm #

    How cute is that! No kids yet, but have been wanting to make a silhouette of our sweet pup! Thanks!

  22. Shelby January 17, 2013 at 6:30 pm #

    I stumbled on your website by accident about 3 hours ago (and yes I am still here). Wanted to tell you your blog is awesome and being aDIYer myself I love it. Was just wondering if you could do a tutorial on keeping a 14 month old still so I could do a silhouette? ;)

  23. Christina March 21, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

    has anyone had troubles downloading

  24. Yvette Perez October 31, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

    This is an absolutely awesome IDEA!!! I love how you show step by step how and what tools to use. Thank you soooo much for this great post!


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