How to Make Silhouettes

Things You'll Need

  • Large sheet of white paper
  • Black construction paper
  • Colored paper(s) for accenting
  • Bright light source
  • Masking tape
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Glue stick
  • Frame (optional)

A silhouette is a drawing of a person or an object in which only the outline is drawn, and the space within the outline is filled in with a solid color. This type of portrait has roots as far back as stone-age cave drawings and was used extensively in classic Greek culture. In the modern world, the silhouette is a popular craft project for both children and adults.

Mount the sheet of white paper to a wall at the height of the person or object you will be silhouetting.

Place the silhouette subject 2 to 3 feet away from the wall in front of the paper, leaving enough room next to the paper so that you can draw on it easily.

Place your bright light source so that it will shine on your subject and cast a direct shadow onto the white paper. Turn on the light, and turn off any other lights in the room.

Use the pencil to trace the shadow's outline onto the white paper. Remove the paper from the wall.

Cut along your tracing line. Tape the resulting white cutout onto the black construction paper and use it as a template to cut out the silhouette on the black paper.

Glue the black cutout onto a piece of the colored accent paper. Use additional colored and/or patterned paper to mat the piece, add a border, or accent your work in a decorative manner.

Frame the finished piece, if desired.


  • If you are silhouetting a person's head, you will achieve the most interesting shape if the person turns to the side to cast a shadow in profile. If you are working with an object such as a vase of flowers, turn it at various angles until you find the most attractive shadow. If you need a sharper line to follow, consider using a brighter light, move the subject closer to the wall, or move the light source closer to the subject. The latter two adjustments will affect the size of the shadow.


  • Bright lights have a tendency to get hot even when on for only a few minutes; handle with care.


About the Author

Genevieve Adams has been a freelance writer since 2007 and is also regulatory compliance analyst for a community bank in the Pacific Northwest. Her work, covering primarily finance, crafting and fashion, appears on various websites. She has a Bachelor of Arts in theater from Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon.