December 18, 2023

A Timeless Gift: Handmade Silhouette Art Tutorial

I'm drawn to old-fashioned things, like vintage photos and fabrics, so naturally I love the look of silhouettes. Once a way for families to inexpensively render images of loved ones on their walls, silhouettes became passe with the invention of the camera. But they're still charming, especially when updated with contemporary papers.
And the best part? They're cheap and easy to make. This project cost me under $5, and I was able to make 6 of them.

  • Wooden boards or plaques ($1 at most craft stores)
  • Decorative paper of your choice for the background
  • Black paper (get the best quality you can find)
  • X-Acto knife or Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Decoupage medium/sealer, varnish or Mod Podge
  • Brush
  • Digital Camera and printer
  • Coordinating ribbon
  • Stapler
Step 1
Paint your wooden plaque whatever color you want. I chose black to go with the silhouette, and I painted 3 coats around the edges of the plaque. There's no need to paint the center, since it will be covered with paper, but be sure to paint a little onto the top since the paper will not go exactly to the edge.
Step 2
Photograph your subject in profile. A good trick for kids is to set them in front of the TV with something new to watch. Make sure the background is lighter than their face (like near a window) so the profile is easy to trace and cut out.
You'll need to resize your photo in a photo editing program (like Photoshop or Elements, or even Paint). My wood plaque was 5" wide, so I needed to change the width of the photo to about 4.75".
Step 3
Carefully cut out the profile of the photo with an X-acto knife or sharp scissors and lay it on a piece of black paper.
I used the white side up so that it was a little easier to trace.
Trace with a freshly-sharpened white pencil (regular pencil will work fine too).Then cut it out very carefully with an X-acto knife or scissors. Just take your time around the facial features, since one little slip and suddenly the subject doesn't look like themselves. Flip over the cut out silhouette and use that side for the artwork, since it won't have any stray pencil marks on it.
Step 4
Flip the (dry) wood board face down on the back side of your scrapbook paper and trace around the raised oval (the one on the front of the plaque) with a pencil. You'll need to shimmy your pencil under the edge so it's flush with the central oval.
Then cut out the oval.
Step 5
Get out your decoupage medium or Mod Podge and paint the surface of the wood plaque with it. Carefully lay your oval piece of paper on the wood (you will still have time to shimmy it into place while it's still wet), then paint a layer of the medium over the paper.
Step 6
Next, lay your silhouette down on the still-wet plaque. You have some time to move it around if you get it off-center. Then paint another layer of medium over the silhouette. Smooth out any large bubbles.
Allow to dry for at least 4 hours, or follow the instructions on the decoupage medium bottle.
Step 7
Attach a hanger on the back. You could use a traditional picture hanger, but I decided to be cute and thrifty by stapling a coordinating ribbon to the back. Just fold it into a loop
and staple into the wood.If you wanted to finish off the back in a really professional way, you could cut out a piece of felt to cover the oval on the back. Not only would it look nice, but it would be softer against the walls.

Hang and enjoy!
I made some just to put in frames too, which are even easier to do. This one will grace my husband's office.
The others were given as gifts to the grandparents, and of course I kept one for our home. I'm intending to make ones of myself, my husband and maybe Oscar our cat to hang with my son's. I'm so pleased with how they turned out, and like the touch of old-fashioned comfort that they give to our home.


  1. Oh wow...those are fantastic. Did you just use your kids profile photos? How fabulous! Thank you for all the details on how to make.

  2. I absolutely love it! Must try this soon... although I don't know if I am up to the challenge of Roo's hair...

    SoJo looks like an old-timey boy in black and white!

  3. Silhouettes may have lost favor once the camera hit the scene but now that cameras are here, everyone can be a silhouette artist. Isn't it odd?
    Tis adorable. What a cute little mouth he has :)

  4. SoooooOOOOOOooo adorable!! You have the BEST tutorials!

  5. wow- am thinking this would be a great christmas gift next year for daughter to make for grandparents (with moms help)- THANKS

  6. Thanks for the tutorial. I'm in the process of redecorating my Rose Room and I wanted to do my 11 kids pictures in silhouettes for a change. I'm also doing one of my wedding photo.

    I am following, hope you can stop by for a visit!

    Thanks, Becky Jane
    Raising kids can be a lot like weeding the rose bed...well worth it, but...OUCH!


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