Silhouettes are appealing because they are so graphic and bold, yet detailed. They leave room for imagination and can be used in all types of artwork.
Traditionally a silhouette is the image of a person, animal, object or scene represented as a solid shape of a single color, usually black, with its edges matching the outline of the subject. Silhouette images may be created in any medium. They were first pieces of cut paper placed on backing in a contrasting color and framed.
Modern silhouette art
Today, silhouette art uses positive and negative shapes and design to create images with graphic impact and texture. You can draw with scissors or a blade, manually or with a machine. What you can create is almost endless. For example you could create a child’s profile, patterns of nature, a favorite story, festive scenes, or bold or detailed graphic designs.
In the 1800s and 1900s artists working by eye could cut a bust silhouette by hand much like we see people drawing caricatures or portraits at festivals. Now with digital technology anyone can create a silhouette with a printed photograph of a family member in profile, a pet or really anything. Simply print a photograph the size you want your final shape to be. Hold that print on top of the paper, fabric or vinyl for your final shadow shape, and exactly cut the the outside contour of both materials at once.
Use library tech tools
If you wish to create a silhouette shape for mounting using software and a cutting machine, visit the library’s Level 2 Tech Center for an orientation class on using the Cricut. Once you’ve completed the class, you can reserve the Cricut for your project.
Project ideas using this graphic art
- Use the dark outside of a silhouette and mount it to the edges of your canvas. With the cutout in the center white, paint a scene or write a special message within it.
- Low tech at home activity: Have someone sit in a chair with their shoulders perpendicular to the wall behind them. Set up a lamp or have someone hold a flashlight so it shines on their face and casts a shadow on paper taped to the wall behind them. Draw the outline you see – profile, head and shoulders. Cut out the shape. Mount it on a contrasting color paper or fabric.
- Use shapes of your pet in clay. Use a straw to poke a small hole in the top for an ornament or add to a flat ceramic tile. Let clay dry and have it kiln fired.
- Use cityscape silhouettes of favorite places. Upcycle a dresser with one wide image per drawer.
- Create outlines of favorite story book scenes, characters or cartoons. Here is even a name-the-cartoon party game using silhouettes.
- Find video classes and more ideas on Creativebug, which you can access free with your library card. Search for cutting machine crafts, Cricut crafts layered nature card or watercolor silhouette.