When I was a little girl, my mother used to take me and my brothers shopping downtown. Sometimes, a silhouette artist could be seen cutting out profiles of people for a fee. One Saturday my mother had him create profiles of me and my two brothers. She put them in frames and still has them to this day. Silhouette cutting is a dying art these days, but your child can create a silhouette without being an artist - or even especially skilled with scissors! Depending on the age of your child, there are different ways to create a silhouette, but they are all based on the same basic principles.
Digital camera (any camera is okay, but a digital camera will make the job faster and easier)
Plain printer paper
Black construction paper
White cardstock paper
Glue stick (or rubber cement)
Exacto knife (optional - for teens only!)
*Note: Children's rounded-tip scissors are okay for younger children, but older kids can use small pointed scissors like manicure scissors. When the scissors are smaller, it's easier to capture smaller details.)
Getting a Photo Ready
If you have more than one child and they'd all like to create a silhouette and can handle a camera, have them take each other's pictures. Otherwise, you will need to take the picture.
- Have your child sit or stand in front of a plain wall facing sideways.The plainer the background, the easier it is for a child to cut around the profile. You can even drape a plain sheet over a door and have your child sit or stand in front of that.
- Take a picture of your child's profile. (No need for smiling!)
- If you want to, you can change the size of the photo with whatever graphic program you use for images. You want it big enough to see and work with, but not so big that it won't fit nicely in your frame.
- Print out the photo on regular printer paper. You don't want heavy paper for this as it is just going to be used as a kind of stencil.
Cut Out the Silhouette
Your child should be able to do this himself, although you might want to supervise in case help is needed.
- Cut off the extra paper *around* the picture. It can be an oval or a circle or a square or a rectangle. It doesn't matter because this is not going to be the profile yet. It will just make the pasting easier by getting rid of paper that isn't needed.
- Using a glue stick, (or rubber cement) put glue on the BACK side of the picture. It doesn't have to be perfect, but there should be some glue behind the outline of the profile in the picture to make cutting easier later.
- Paste the picture onto some black construction paper. Lighter weight paper is okay for younger kids. Don't use anything heavier because it will be too hard to cut.
- Cut around the picture so that everything but the profile is cut off. Don't worry if you can't capture all the details, like eyelashes. Your profile will still be recognizable!
- Turn the picture over and you'll just see the black silhouette left!
- Using the glue stick (ore rubber cement) again, put glue ON the picture this time -- NOT on the black paper.
- Place the silhouette on some white paper. White construction works well and so does white card stock. Plain white paper doesn't work as well because it's too light weight for the heavier black paper and sometimes can "buckle" from the glue.
Put the Silhouette in the Frame
- Remove the back of the frame. You can remove the glass too since that will make the next step easier.
- Place the frame on the white card stock over the silhouette. Move the frame around until the silhouette is right where you want it to be in the frame.
- Holding the frame with one hand, use a pencil in your other hand to trace around the frame. This will give you an outline of the picture that will fit in the frame.
- Cut on the outside of your pencil line.
- Put the glass back in the frame.
- Put the silhouette picture in the frame. (If it doesn't fit, trim as necessary.)
- Replace the back of the frame.
You are done! You have a beautiful profile silhouette that your parents will cherish forever. It can be a perfect gift for one of your parents or grandparents or a favorite aunt or uncle, too!
- Use a different frame. Some frames include inserts that create a frame within a frame. Not only does this add a nice artistic touch, but it makes it easier to cut the cardstock to fit the frame. It doesn't really have to fit! The inner frame covers up any mistakes and provides an artistic contrast.
- Use different colors. Traditionally, the profiles are in black and are placed on a white background. However, the colors can be reversed. The profile can be white construction paper placed on a black construction paper background. There isn't even any reason to stick with black and white either! In fact, there isn't even any reason to avoid prints! How about a black background with a profile cut out from a printout of a page of a favorite story? Or a black profile on a custom colored and designed background?
- Try a different pose or include a prop. Is your child active? Maybe a picture of him running would work. Or maybe your child is a baseball player? Or piano player? Or flautist? The possibilities are endless. The key is trying to capture your child's profile, at least as much as possible.
- Include a keepsake. The easiest keepsake to include is a lock of your child's hair. For the youngest kids, a lock of hair from the first haircut is perfect. (Of course, the older kids might want to create this silhouette since toddlers won't be able to!) Or perhaps a print out of your child's favorite poem or saying? You child might even write something special just for this project. You might need a bigger frame for this idea, but it's well worth it!
No matter what kind of silhouette your child creates, you will be sure to treasure it forever.