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, paint.net}

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!

77 Responses to silhouette tutorial

  1. Lauren J June 24, 2017 at 8:35 pm #

    I love it. I did it for my son, and now I want to do one for my dear friend of her daughter. How did you manage the one with the bow on top of the silhouette?


  2. 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!

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

    has anyone had troubles downloading paint.net?

  4. 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? ;)

  5. 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!

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

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

  7. 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!

  8. 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?

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

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

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

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

  11. 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!


  12. 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.

  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. 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.

  15. 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!

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

    can you use photoshop actions on paint.net??

  17. 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!

  18. 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. http://tsbundy.blogspot.com/2011/06/silhouettes.html

  19. 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 = )

  20. 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.

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

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

  22. 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!

  23. 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!

  24. 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 paint.net 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 :)

  25. 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 paint.net 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.

  26. mary March 9, 2011 at 8:51 am #

    LOVE this! just wondering where you get the adorable little necklace frames??

  27. Brie Oshiro February 28, 2011 at 10:26 pm #

    This is so great! Thank you for directing us to the free program too! Photoshop is waaay out of my budget. Now, if you have any tips on how to keep an 18 month old still long enough to get a side shot… :) Oh and I love the idea from someone above to make it with a coordinating pattern for a room. So cute :)

  28. GLORIA February 24, 2011 at 3:29 am #

    I did want to make something with silhouettes but never started ! Now, this lovely post encourages me to start this sort of ..venture!! thank you and have a nice day, gloria

  29. Angela P January 30, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

    I have done a very simplistic version of this with my school children. Take their profile picture. Download and print (on regular paper) the desired size. Attach the photo to black paper (glue, staple, etc.) and cut the photo and black paper at the same time. The cut silhouette is beautiful when mounted (only showing the black side). We did this for Christmas gifts this year and every child was able to cut out their own silhouette. They loved it.

  30. Fieldstone Hill Design January 13, 2011 at 2:09 pm #

    I remembered this post… just finished the grueling process of taking pics of my kids. I will let you know what I come up with!

  31. Sarah December 16, 2010 at 11:27 pm #

    trouble downloading paint.net…love this idea and planning to do it for my christmas presents…but i was wondering if you could point me to a good site for it. I’m afraid im downloading spammy software and not the real deal. thanks.

  32. aimee October 27, 2010 at 6:26 am #

    Thanks for the tutorial! I LOVED this idea and featured it here. So clever!

  33. Yvonne @ StoneGable October 15, 2010 at 7:51 am #

    WOW! This post is a true keeper! I can do this with your wonderful directions. ANd your little subject is just adorable!
    Thanks so very much. I’m so happy to find you.

  34. Chrissy September 9, 2010 at 7:58 am #

    Unreal!! Amazing! I absolutely love this idea!!! THANK YOU FOR SHARING!!!!!!!

  35. lisa September 8, 2010 at 10:41 am #

    Emily – oh, bless you! As someone stated earlier, I bless you for showing us ‘masses’ your ‘how-to’s’ – thank you for your open hands and heart! You are a special lady who God is using/will use mightily! :) Ok, 1 question: can you just leave it black and be done with it? Do you just print it on good paper from your printer? This will be such a delight to my family! Thank you again for helping us ladies out!

  36. Susie M September 7, 2010 at 6:30 pm #

    I love silhouettes. They have a certain elegance to them. I am loving the fact that I can now make personalized silhouettes of my own kids. Thank you for this excellent tutorial. I can’t wait to try it out.

  37. Clare September 7, 2010 at 3:12 pm #

    I love silhouettes! Also, thank you so very much for sharing the link to the photo editing site! I have longed to do something like this but Photoshop is not in the budget right now. Free definitely is!:) Thanks again.

  38. Tammy September 7, 2010 at 12:56 pm #

    Love this! I’ve always admired Silhouette art, now if I can get my one year old to sit still so I can get a profile shot.

  39. janae cairns September 7, 2010 at 10:23 am #

    I L O V E Silhouettes! Where did you find the awesome necklaces?

  40. Jennifer September 6, 2010 at 4:58 pm #

    I have wanted these for so long, but have been putting it off….I CAN’T wait to try this!! Perhaps tomorrow??!!

  41. Robyn September 6, 2010 at 11:22 am #

    WOW thank you soooo much for sharing, you are a doll!
    I am going to take pics today and then play tomorrow when everyone is back in school!!! :-) Smile….

  42. iLa September 6, 2010 at 9:03 am #

    That’s a great How-to tutorial!
    I’ll make sure to keep it in mind for some fun ;)


  43. Dana September 5, 2010 at 6:00 pm #

    Thanks Emily for sharing this! You are a genious! I have wanted to learn how to do this for the longest time and now I can’t wait to give it a try!

  44. karn September 4, 2010 at 12:25 pm #

    Thank you SO much for the tutorial! I have wanted to do silhouettes of my girls for a long time now and this is just what I needed. I just finished them and they are perfect!

  45. angela September 3, 2010 at 7:23 pm #

    i did it! it took a little more tweaking on the brightness adjustment as my kids have darker hair and light skin, but i figured out how to fill in and it’s all good! i can’t wait to print these out and frame them! merci!

  46. Erica Teodoro September 3, 2010 at 3:00 pm #

    Hey Em! Thanks so much for posting this! I’ve always loved when you use them and wondered how you did it! I was so inspired I whipped up a super cute version of Gav with some of the fabrics that coordinate with his new bedding! I’m on my way to hang it in his room right now! <3 you

  47. Samantha September 3, 2010 at 12:04 pm #

    I love Mary Katharine’s idea of not just doing a standard silhouette. I am not a fan of how I look from the side, but I think I might do one of “our kiss” from my wedding! I think that would be unique and add a romantic element to our bedroom! Thanks for the tutorial!

  48. mary katharine September 3, 2010 at 11:26 am #

    How fun is this?? I’m thinking silhouettes of children playing would be fun to do, too!
    This is a craft I just might have to try.

  49. Kristi Ross September 3, 2010 at 7:41 am #

    I have never succeeded in any of the silhouettes I have attempted. Now I know the secret! Thanks so much for all of your inspiration and insight. I must say I am more than a little obsessed with your blog lately.

  50. Alex September 3, 2010 at 6:36 am #

    Thank you so much, I have been attempting and failing to do these for so long, after reading your tutorial I have done three in one morning! xx

  51. cailan September 2, 2010 at 8:40 pm #

    Wow – bless your heart for mapping out all those steps! I’m so excited to make my own. Thank you!

  52. meghan neuenschwander September 2, 2010 at 7:37 pm #

    hooray! thanks so much for sharing this! i’ve tried to figure out on how to do it before, but your way is MUCH easier.

  53. Jill September 2, 2010 at 7:13 pm #

    Oh my gosh!…I love you! I have always wanted silhouettes of my kids but never wanted to pay to have them done. I am SO going to do this! Thank you, thank you!!!

  54. Nicola September 2, 2010 at 6:07 pm #

    Thank you, thank you and again, thank you!
    I am totally stumped by photo editing technology and yet your tutorial makes complete sense! – so much so that I downloaded the free software and am going to tackle some silhouettes this weekend!
    Thanks for sharing, and have a great weekend!

  55. angela September 2, 2010 at 3:32 pm #

    oh my goodness! this is awesomely easy. i am so doing this tonight. or maybe this weekend. regardless, it’s happening! thank you for sharing your widsom. i thoroughly enjoy your blog. you are a very gracious host. xo

  56. Jenn September 2, 2010 at 2:27 pm #

    I could seriously cry. #1 because it is an amazing idea, #2 because I DON’T have Photoshop, or the like, and I wouldn’t have any idea how to do this with anything else, and #3, you gave DETAILED pictures. I could kiss you! Well, you know what I mean…not literally…anyway. THANK YOU! Quite possibly the BEST tutorial EVER!!! (Please let me clarify that I am not a crazy stalker…) :)

  57. Ashley September 2, 2010 at 1:31 pm #

    Thank you for the info! Can’t wait to try it! The one of your niece looks like my niece and I’d like to make one for my sister. How did you put that flower on her ponytail? LOVE IT! You can email me the tip if you dont feel like posting it, much appreciated!!

  58. Chrissy September 2, 2010 at 10:51 am #

    Yay! I was hoping you would post this soon. And it really is easy peasy! Thank you for sharing. I follow your blog religiously and love everything you do.

  59. kim September 2, 2010 at 10:48 am #

    thank you! i was hoping you would give this tutorial soon. what a nice surprise to see it this morning – i’m just finished posing my daughter for her photo ;)

  60. Sarah September 2, 2010 at 10:36 am #

    Solved my own question!! In the newest version, to convert to black and white, just go to the COLORS tab (to the right of LAYERS) and choose DESATURATE. Perfect!

  61. shelley. September 2, 2010 at 10:18 am #

    Great tutorial. You know one of things that I totally respect and appreciate about you? That you teach what you know. Instead of hoarding your secrets. And worrying about any decline in profit by someone doing it at home, rather than buying from you. I once heard a successful businessman attribute the secret of his business success to your same sharing what you know attitude. Living openhandedly, even in the business world, is a brave but awesome thing. So refreshing!

  62. Amoreena September 2, 2010 at 10:14 am #

    I so excited to try this. Thanks so much for sharing. My husband did one of our dog on Photoshop, but Photoshop is overwhelming and scares me, so I will try paint.net.

    Thanks again!

  63. Tessa September 2, 2010 at 9:59 am #

    I CANNOT wait to try this! Oh, my the possibilities. You are my hero. I’ve said this before, but your projects are going to help me give the most amazing Xmas gifts this year. So brilliant! Off to down load the software…

  64. Sarah September 2, 2010 at 8:49 am #

    Emily –

    Thanks so much! I’ve been doing silhouettes of the kiddos in my child care program as the graduate and move on to preschool but I’v been using scissors and it’s TOUGH!

    One thing, I just downloaded paint and the tabs available are different than what yours show. I can’t seem to find the tool or tab that will allow me to convert the whole thing to black and white (your first step! Yikes!) Any tips? Is there a different version?

    Thanks again!!

  65. Caroline September 2, 2010 at 7:48 am #

    Thank you so much for posting this! I’ve been thinking that I would really love to make a framed silhouette of my little munchkin. Now I can.

    Also, I won’t laugh at you for using paint.net. I usually use gimp ;)

  66. dwellingsbydevore September 2, 2010 at 7:24 am #

    This is awesome! Thank you so much for sharing, I love silohuettes and have just the project in mind for one! Love your site!

  67. fancythis September 2, 2010 at 7:19 am #

    this is so great!!!! one day, when I have kids I’ll have to give it a try! :)

  68. natalie g September 2, 2010 at 7:16 am #

    what a beautifully written tutorial!!!! thank you so much!!! i can’t wait to sit my girls down and take their pictures!!!

  69. Heather September 2, 2010 at 7:05 am #

    I’m downloading paint right now! Thanks for the tutorial!

  70. Amanda M. September 2, 2010 at 6:47 am #

    I love these. I would never have thought to do the print! So cool.

  71. MelanieElissa September 2, 2010 at 6:43 am #

    I am in love!! Thanks for such a wonderful tutorial. I know what I will be working on in the next few days!!

  72. Jan September 2, 2010 at 6:32 am #

    Oh WOW!!! Thank you so much for sharing the great tutorial…you are amazing! I love your blog…can’t get enough of it!
    Jan :)

  73. Janell Beals September 2, 2010 at 6:12 am #

    I just love the second room you show, the images remind me of a couple silhouettes my grandmother drew! It’s interesting how these have become all the rage…great tutorial. Janell

  74. Heather V September 2, 2010 at 5:38 am #

    What a great tutorial – thanks!! All I’ve seen involve scissors, which is not my style. I’m all about using the undo button. :) So I really appreciate your tutorial. I’ve got the perfect picture!

  75. Trish @ Pink Preppy Lilly Lover September 2, 2010 at 5:35 am #

    Emily, you are BEYOND brilliant, and this post is just one more example of that! I LOVE IT! Thank you for sharing your amazing talent with us! xoxo – Trishy

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