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How to Make a Silhouette from a Photograph

June 19, 2015

On Wednesday we shared our silhouette plate gallery.

plate wall1

I am happy to report that everything is still hanging on the wall. Even with kids running up and down the stairs and banging on the walls with toys, it’s all still intact.

Today I am going to share how I made the silhouettes from regular ole jpg images. Brace yourself, there are going to be a lot of screen shots.

First, you need a profile shot of your subject and a contrasting background. (A solid wall would work best, but sometimes you just have to work with what ya got.) Here is the photo I started with:

(This is a picture of me when I was about 8 months pregnant with Emerson.)

I used Adobe Photoshop CC 2014, but other versions should work. You really just need the magnetic lasso tool. After opening the photo I cropped it just below the shoulder. I also found it helpful, if it wasn’t already, to change my photographs to black and white (Image > Adjustments > Black and White) and then mess around with the brightness/contrast to make a greater difference between the features you want in the silhouette and the parts you are going to discard; it’s easier for the lasso tool, too.

making silhouettes from photographs

After getting the contrast where I wanted it, I used the selection tool to select the entire image, copied it (Command+C on Mac or Control+C on PC), and created a new layer (by clicking the icon on the bottom right side that looks like a sheet of paper with a folded corner). Then I pasted the picture to the new layer (Command+V or Control+V). After that I  shut off the original background by clicking on the eye next to it.

making a silhouette from a photograph

Next I selected the magnetic lasso tool, and used it to select my hair and face.

make a silhouette from a photo

For more detail oriented areas, it’s helpful to click the lasso where you want it to stick, rather than just moving it along the image. I did this along the tip of my nose, my lips, and the bottom portion of hair. It may take a few attempts to get it right, so be patient.

make a silhouette from a photo

When I had my selection like I wanted it, I clicked Select > Inverse. This excludes what you selected and selects everything else — in this case, the background.

make a silhouette from photograph

Then I hit delete. Breath easy. It just deletes all the things around the image that you don’t want. My image was left looking like this:

make a silhouette from photograph

Then I clicked Select > Inverse again so that just the silhouette was selected. After that, I clicked Edit > Fill.

make a silhouette from photograph

make a silhouette from photograph

After clicking OK things looked like this:

make a silhouette from photograph

I did use the eraser to clean it up a bit, and the brush tool to add the lashes. With that done I saved the file as a jpg.

From here you could print the photo and frame it. If you wanted to put it on a plate, but don’t own a Silhouette machine, you could print it, cut it out, and then trace it onto a sheet of vinyl.

After saving it in photoshop, I opened it in my Silhouette software.

make a silhouette from photograph

Next I clicked on the trace button.

make a silhouette from photograph

With the trace feature activated, I clicked on Select Trace Area and made a square around the silhouette, then clicked Trace Outer Edge.

make a silhouette from photograph

Next I moved the original image off to the side. I then clicked on the cut button, selected Vinyl for my medium, and then clicked Send to Silhouette.

Scremake a silhouette from photograph

I had pre-measured the center of my plates before doing all the photo editing, but I still did a few practice cuts on a sheet of paper, just to make sure I had the right size to fit in the middle of the plate.

how to make a silhouette from a photo

I also decided to cut small circles in the end of the hair pieces to add more detail. I’m really glad that I did, because it’s one of my favorite details. After that it was just a matter of peeling the backing off the vinyl and sticking the silhouette on the plate.

how to make a silhouette from a photo

make a silhouette from photograph

If you don’t have Photoshop you can download a free 30 day trial from the Adobe website. I know other people have also had success using, which is free program for PC users. Or if you share this post, and leave us a comment letting us know that you shared it, then I could end up making a silhouette for you. (You can find out all the details on the post.) We pick a winner on Monday, so don’t delay!

If you have any questions leave us a comment. If you make you’re own, be sure to send us a picture!

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