Easy+Cheap Custom Silhouette Tutorial

The little ol’ granny in me has always wanted one of those cameo style silhouettes in a beautiful oval frame.  It is something that has been on my “must craft” list for a long time but only recently came true over the weekend.  I’m glad I waited because the craft came AFTER finding the perfect vintage oval frames at my favorite thrift store for $2.00 each.  They are completely made of plastic that is painted to resemble wood.  I think they are convincing.  The date on the back?  1970!

With the frames in hand I set about making my silhouettes of my boys.  Here is how I did it.  It was all by hand (no fancy Silhouette Cameo machine, but I would take one if I was offered it!) with an exacto knife.  Check the supply list, read over the instructions, and in one day you could have your own granny style art for your home!  Total cost- about $3.38 in supplies plus $4.00 for the frames.


Exacto Knife (with a nice sharp blade)
Card stock/scrapbooking paper for the silhouette
Card stock/scrapbooking paper for the background
White craft glue or glue stick
Printed profile photo to use as template


Step 1: Take your profile photos 

Once you realize almost everything you need is already in your home you are probably like “Let’s get this craft started!”  The first thing you need to do is bribe your subjects into standing still long enough to take a profile photo.  I’ll include mine to show you what I started with.  Fletcher wouldn’t stand still for anything but Ev would, except he wouldn’t turn his body to the side so I had to fudge a little on his neck to pretend that he did.  Some people will include the bust area in the silhouette but I only wanted the neck.

Once that is over you are done with the hardest part!

Step 2: Make Your Template

After uploading the pictures to my computer I decided to make my templates using Photoshop Elements. You can skip this is you would rather simply print your images and cut around their faces with scissors, just keep in mind you might still need to re-size those photos to make them the exact dimensions you want.  In Photoshop I used the quick selection tool to select just his face and neck, then deleted the background around him.  Next I cleaned up the edges to make sure what printed would be exactly the shape I wanted.  Afterwards I set the image to grayscale and deleted everything from the insides.  This was just to save printer ink.

Step 3: Cut and Trace

After you have your templates printed and you decide they are the correct size you can start the cutting process. I should mention that you can also opt to print your template directly onto you chosen paper if it is a light enough color and the correct size paper- if you do this you want the silhouette printed backwards of the side you wish it to face on. If you choose to print on printer paper you will need to cut the template very carefully. You can use scissors for this cut but again, with very small cuts you will want to take it slow and easy. With your template in hand you can trace onto your nice paper- flip the template over so that you are tracing around it upside down. After cutting your final piece you will want any leftover marks on the back.

Step 3: Cut out your Silhouette

With the outline traced it is time to start cutting. Using a very sharp exacto knife you will want to slowly and carefully cut along your pencil lines. I would start with a half press and then retrace the same cut with full pressure to cut it completely. I wasn’t perfect by any means and the smallest cuts like the points of the cow licks and the eyelashes aren’t as smooth as the longer cuts. Just take it easy and remember that your guests won’t notice those tiny imperfections even if they are staring you in the face. After you have a tiny head in your hands flip it over. You might have raised edges from the pressure of the cuts in places, you can smooth them down. Trim any rough “hang nails” as well.

Step 4: Glue ‘er Down

When you are happy with your little silhouette it’s time to glue it down to your backing. I chose a nice black scrapbook paper with a slight sheen to add more interest than just plain black. I already had Elmer’s glue at home and wasn’t sure how it would work out but it did OK. I believe a glue stick would have been better though. I used a foam brush to very lightly paint the glue over the back to prevent the rippling of paper that is too wet with glue. You want to cover the entire surface area all the way to the edge, but again, as light as possible to prevent oozing and rippling.

Step 5: Frame!

I decided to hang a few framed pictures in the hallway, including my new silhouettes, to the three bedrooms on the east side of the house. Most guests would never see these unless they are staying with us so it is a hodge podge of pictures that mean something to us. I will add more to it as time goes on.

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