How to Make a Beautiful Silhouette Drawing

Silhouette portraits
@baileyvesper1999 / Twenty20 

Are you looking for beautiful, budget-friendly decor? If you can cut and paste, you can easily create a sweet and sophisticated silhouette drawing to hang on any wall in your home. This age-old art form is making a modern comeback with bold new patterns and bright colors. With today’s technology on your side, getting the perfect portrait couldn’t be easier! You can capture the things that really make a family member stand out with this project. You can even make shadow portraits of animals and other images! It’s simple and chic.

Whether you choose to go the traditional route with a classic hand-drawn portrait or prefer the modern shoot-and-print method, just follow these simple directions, and you’ll be sure to end up with a treasure you'll appreciate for years to come!


No one said your subjects had to be human! You can also use shapes and photos you find online to create shadow portraits. Look for images with clear lines and recognizable shapes.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Frame
  • Desk lamp
  • Stool


  • 1 sheet White paper
  • 2 sheets Black or colored paper in two different colors
  • Scotch tape
  • Glue


  1. Set up the Scene

    Tape a large sheet of white paper on the wall. Have your subject sit facing to the side on a stool or any other surface with a low back that will not interfere with your drawing.


    If your subject has long hair, it’s a good idea to put it up. Choose a simple hairstyle with little movements, such as a ponytail or bun.

    Using a strong, easily manipulated light source, such as a desk lamp, position your subject so that their profile, including a portion of their neck and perhaps even their shoulders, creates a shadow on the paper. Leave ample white space at the top, bottom, and around the sides.

  2. Trace the Profile

    Using a soft pencil, trace the outline of the shadow onto the paper. Don’t stress the details—the more you fuss over the drawing, the more likely your subject will move. You can always employ a little artistic license to clean up the details later.

  3. Cut out the Silhouette

    Remove the paper from the wall. Following your pencil line, use scissors to cut out your subject’s profile, creating a template for your silhouette.

  4. Transfer Silhouette to Colored Paper

    Using your template, trace the silhouette onto the black or colored paper or cardstock. Carefully cut around your drawing, removing the paper from around the outside of the silhouette. Glue your finished silhouette to white paper and frame.


    Try using a bright and colorful shade to create your silhouette, or consider replacing a white paper backing with a pretty piece of patterned cardstock. You can even use fabric to cover your creation!

Silhouette Portrait From a Photo

Tracing a live subject can be difficult, especially when that subject is a younger child on the go! If you need a faster, easier way to get the job done, trade-in your pencil for a camera, and create this simple, print-and-paint portrait.

For this project, you'll need:

  • A digital camera
  • White cardstock
  • Scissors
  • Matte paint
  • Foam paintbrush
  • Large sheet of paper or cardstock
  • Glue
  • A frame
  1. Set up the Scene

    Choose a simple backdrop. White walls work best, but a dark wall can also work well as long as the color contrasts with your subject’s skin and hair. Have your subject stand facing the opposite direction you would like your silhouette portrait to face.

  2. Take a Photo

    Take a close-up picture of your subject. Their profile should take up most of the frame. Be sure to take the picture straight across and from your subject’s level to avoid any distortions. Upload your photo, and use your favorite photo-editing software to make it the appropriate size for your frame.

  3. Print the Photo

    Print your picture in black and white onto a plain piece of white cardstock. Don’t worry about the quality of the photo too much. Just make sure you can clearly distinguish your subject’s features.

  4. Cut out the Silhouette

    Using scissors, carefully cut away the background, taking extra care around the facial features. Flip your photo over. You should now have a white silhouette.

  5. Paint the Silhouette

    Using the foam brush, carefully paint your silhouette in the color of your choice. You may need to use several layers of paint to cover all traces of white. Dry and mount your painted silhouette to a cardstock backing using clear-drying, acid-free glue, then frame.