Today’s DIY tutorial uses this throwback from childhood to create a fresh-take on the classic silhouette portrait. (I chose to capture my daughter Sophie, but you could easily make a pair for the couple of the house or a furry friend!)
The inspiration for this DIY project began in my family archives with this:
It’s a silhouette of one my relatives, done in the early part of the 20th century, and while it’s likely of little value, it’s one of my most cherished family heirlooms. I love how it’s both detailed and anonymous—representative of a young girl in the fashion of the day yet completely mysterious as far as identity. I knew I always wanted to create one of these portraits for both of my kids, and after a few sessions of sun-printing some leaves and objects with my daughter, I knew I had found the perfect medium.
Read on for the full tutorial on making a custom portrait of your own…
-Piece of cardboard larger than 4×4″
-Good scissors for fine cutting or an X-acto knife
-Photo editing software (I use Photoshop)
-A digital photo of your subject, in profile
Time Needed: 30 minutes
Skill-level:Beginner craft skills and digital photo editing skills. You could definitely do this project with an older child, with supervision.
What to do:
1. Gather your materials. Double check the size of the printing paper included in the sunprint kit. (My kit includes paper that measures 4 x 4″).
2. Choose or take a photo of your subject in profile.
3. Open the photo in your favorite photo editing software (I use Photoshop). Crop your picture to a perfect square. In Photoshop, select the crop tool. In the top left corner, Choose “1 x 1 (square)” from the drop-down that’s set to “unconstrained” by default.
4. Next, resize your image to the size of the printing paper in your sunprint kit. In Photoshop, select ‘Image’ and enter 4 for the width and height in the document area. Be sure to select inches (not pixels).
5. Now you’re ready to print your picture. Before printing, be sure your printer setting is set to 100%.
6. Using a scissors or an X-acto knife, cut along the profile of the subject in your printed photo.
7. Add detail. Referencing my family’s silhouette print, I added similar cut-out details along the cap and collar using a fine-point pen and then cutting away from the paper with the knife and scissors. Hold up your paper silhouette after you make each cut-out to make sure you’re not getting too overzealous with the scissors.
8. When you’re satisfied with your final cut-out, you’re ready to make the print! Assemble the cardboard, sunprint paper*, blue side up, your silhouette, and the acrylic sheet*. Expose the stack to the sun for a few minutes. Rinse the sun print paper with water for a minute and smooth out any wrinkles before letting it dry flat. *Included in the sun print kit
I like the idea of hanging our print in my daughter’s room with some colorful washi tape, but what I’ll likely do is make one for my son too and get them framed as a set. The best part? You could easily make several additional prints in minutes flat from the same silhouette paper cut-out (a $7.00 sunprint kit comes with 12 sheets of 4 x 4″ paper). Talk about easy, handmade gifts for grandparents!
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial, and I’d love to hear who you’ll capture in silhouette. Please leave a comment below, if you’d like!
Rebecca Pitts is the founder and owner of Hudson + Daughter, an online shop that sells commissioned, handmade family treasures made of eco-friendly bamboo. She writes about running a creative business, making art for and with her daughter, and living in the Hudson Valley on her blog.