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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!

    77 thoughts on “silhouette tutorial”

    1. 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. 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? ;)

    3. 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!

    4. Faith,

      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.

    5. 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…

    6. 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.

    7. 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!

    8. ThankyouThankyouThankyouThankyouThankyouThankyouThankyouThankyou!

      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!

    9. 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 = )

    10. 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.

    11. 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 :)

    12. 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!!

      1. 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.

    13. 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 :)

    14. 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

    15. 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.

    16. trouble downloading…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.

    17. 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!

    18. 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.

    19. 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.

    20. 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….

    21. 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!

    22. 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!

    23. 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!

    24. 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

    25. 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!

    26. 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.

    27. 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

    28. 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.

    29. 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!!!

    30. Emily,
      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!

    31. 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

    32. 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…) :)

    33. 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!!

    34. 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 ;)

    35. 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!

    36. 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!

    37. 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

      Thanks again!

    38. 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…

    39. 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!!

    40. 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 I usually use gimp ;)

    41. 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!

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