watercolor silhouette

oh, i have been wanting to try this for years, and i finally got around to it this father’s day! i remember thinking about doing this when N was just born, but (weirdly enough??) i kinda of wanted to wait until she had a substantial ponytail. ha! anyway, the timing was perfect for this custom, heartfelt, handmade, on-the-cheap dad’s day gift.

here’s how we did it: i took a nice profile photo of N against a white wall one day after preschool. i asked her to keep her chin up and give a little smile. (you should see some of the hilarious outtakes during this process… )

then i used my photo editing program to turn it to black and white, and pump up the contrast. (i use pixelmator because it’s free, works well, and i can’t afford to update my old version of photoshop to be compatible with my macbook. you can probably do all of this with any very basic photo editing program.) you may need to play around a bit with things like invert, posterize, and threshold to get the right feel for a simple black and white silhouette. i turned the inside of it white, so as not to use up all of my printer ink. here are some of my steps along the way:

i printed it onto contact paper sheets with my inkjet printer. (i made a small one and a larger one because i wasn’t sure which to use.) i caaarefeully cut out N’s silhouette. then i wiped any excess ink off of the contact paper with a towel before peeling it off and sticking it onto thick watercolor paper. i ended up using the large one for this project, with 11×15″ watercolor paper.

after it was stuck down securely (especially around the edges) i used a soft, fairly fat brush to wet the page around the edges of her face. then N chose blue watercolor paint (daddy’s favorite color) to drop into the water. (wet on wet watercoloring technique.)

i had to work fairly quickly so the paint would not dry out and create weirdness (which happened anyway along the bottom, but i’m okay with that.) when the painting was totally dry, i peeled off the clear contact paper. i was so happy it came off the watercolor paper in such a clean way!

peeling, revealing

we framed it in a simple and lovely matted frame. N and i were so happy with the finished product!

so was daddy! this image is going to hang in our family photo gallery in our stairwell. we like to mix art in with our photographs when displayed – and this one sort of counts as both.


hope all the dads and granddads out there had a beautiful weekend!



printer friendly printer friendly
  • What a super-cool idea!

  • Shannon

    Cute!! I do profile shadow tracings with Kindergarten students for Groundhog Day each year. They are “life size,” and I use the overhead projector to make them. (Usually more of a project for me, but they LOVE it!) Then, they write little “Who Am I?” poems and we post them around the school. I love this idea, though! I think I will do it with my girls.

  • Beautiful!!

  • jen

    i remember doing shadow tracings with an overhead projector in school. during this project, i sort of wished i had one in my home, but realized quickly that my 4 year old would never sit still long enough for me to trace HER shadow! 🙂

  • This is seriously coolest idea! Thank you for the inspiration.

  • Pingback: KidStyleFile » Blog Archive » Make It Crafty: Cut, Stick, Paint & Paste()

  • Katiesandberg1

    I am so doing this with my 4th graders!

  • awesome! this one and the acrylic paint version are really easy and have great results. acrylic version here: http://paintcutpaste.com/acrylic-silhouette/ — share your pics with us when you do it! 

  • would really love doing this but have not a clear idea of what contact sheet paper is………..looks to me it is kind of with adhesive to stick tight to the actual paper where the picture will be??? can you help me out here with a brand or so of what you used????? thanks…………..