Article Line Long1

Weekend Art Project: Easy Kids DIY Silhouette Portraits

In an attempt to force my kids to relive my childhood I wanted us to all do silhouettes for their room in LA, just as I did as a wee lady. Of course in the ’80s we had to use a school projector and trace the wall, but with modern technology, you can really just slap a thin piece of paper on your laptop and trace your face. Sure, if you do it small it can be really tedious, but the size you see above was pretty darn easy.

Here is a little video to see us in DIY action (and yes there is an ad you have to wait through – sorry and THANK YOU:)

The “Ingredients”

I forgot to take an ingredient shot because I’m a terrible DIY blogger, but here’s what you need:

  • Black and white paper (can be fancy, construction or printer paper)
  • A pencil
  • Scissors
  • Glue stick
  • A phone camera
  • A laptop, desktop or tablet
  • A Picture frame

Step 1 – Take Photo

Take a side profile photo (your phone is fine) of the child against a white wall. Ideally the hair would be in a ponytail or even “messed up” a bit because those little hairs actually make it look the most real (but are the most tedious to cut). You may have to have them look slightly towards you if say, their cheeks are so big that you can’t really see definition of their nose 🙂 Get them to smile for real, not a big one but if they look happy you strangely can tell in the silhouette. We didn’t use either of those below (we used ones where they were smiling) but you get the idea.

Step 2 – Upload Photo

Upload the photos to your computer, import into an editing program (I just did iPhoto) and size it to the size of your picture frame (I literally held up the frame to the screen and sized it there). If you want it bigger than your screen then you’ll have to A. Build some kind of enlarging machine and put your laptop in it to make it much much larger à la Honey I shrunk the kids, but backwards, or B. Use a projector screen and project onto a wall (like we did when we were kids). Obviously the bigger your screen the bigger you can size (also the bigger it is the easier it is to cut out – Brian can attest to that). 

The kids had a lot of fun help choosing their photos. Oh, and to clarify we were doing two sizes at the same time which made our life harder and made the photos (and video we made for you) more confusing. We were doing two for their rooms in LA (which was the initial plan) but then we realized it was their grandma’s bday and I happen to have this antique double frame so we made one for her, too. I had just thrifted a ton of vintage frames for our powder room in LA because I wanted to cover it in weird art/photos (I realize it’s not normal to hoard awesome photos).

Steps 3 – Edit Photo To Add Contrast

You can skip this step but it’s easier to trace if the profile is more defined. So I turned the photos I wanted to black and white and amped up the contrast and the sharpness. This isn’t CRUCIAL but it will help you get the most accurate tracing of those intricate little nose hairs 🙂

Step 4 – Tape Paper To Computer And Trace

Using a white piece of paper (the thinner the better), tape it to your screen (or the back of it, just adhere it somehow so it doesn’t move when you draw) and trace the profile. HOT TIPS:

  • Use a thin pencil
  • Get those details (like I said keep some hairs out of place, but no need to get every single hair
  • Edit to look more like them. It’s ok to give them little lashes if you can’t see them (I gave birdie too much – like mother like daughter).

Step 5 – Cut It Out

**Here’s where we added an extra step, see below. Put on your glasses, a meditation song and start cutting. We made this a two-step process when we did it the first time which was stupid (we cut out the white then put it on black, traced it and cut it out again – silly us). Just paste your whole white paper on your black paper and cut the whole thing, then flip the profile to get the clean side.

Brian was actually having fun until this part. The tiny silhouettes were hard for him but definitely the kids couldn’t do it. Good thing they turned out so darn cute:)

Step 6 – Glue Onto Black Paper

Glue paper onto the final paper you are using (we used black construction paper but you could use any color). Also, consider the side you want the profile to face in the frame so you know which side to glue on.

Cut Again, Wait…

There’s a real death in his eye isn’t there?? Reread for the valid reason.

Step 7 – Glue Onto Final Background Paper

Just take that cute silhouette and stick onto your final background paper (in this case white printer paper).

Step 8 – Sign And Date

Very important. If you are a military Martha you’ll want to do this yourself, but we let our kids do it. Birdie, when I wasn’t looking, drew hearts everywhere. But the thing is she believes in drawing hearts on everything she does because she says whoever gets, gets her love and there is no way I’m stopping that. But hearts aren’t necessary – name and either date or age are all you need. 

Listen, usually “art” that involves the kids doesn’t turn out to be something you want to stare at for the rest of your life. Not with these. I want these visible on my walls forever. They were SO EASY, required zero crafting equipment beyond some sort of screen (could be any sort of tablet, desktop, etc.) and if we had only been doing 1 size (or 1 kid) it would have taken probably under 1/2 hour.

Finished Product

Not to brag but when we face-timed and the kids showed Sue Sue (their grandma) her birthday present she was QUITE IMPRESSED. It’s personal, special and their little, “Elliot 4 age” and “Charlie age 6” were crucial in making it look absolutely charming.

If we ever make it back to LA, I’m going to hang the larger ones in their room above each side of their bed (from the canopy that got put up last week that I have yet to see in person … stay tuned).

I know that some people feel pressure to be productive, maybe from posts like this, but all I can say is everyone should do what makes their family function the best and feel the most joy during this time. I doubt you are reading this blog if you don’t like to tweak your house, but certainly don’t if it stresses you out. This took up a Saturday afternoon and while cutting out the tiny hairs was frustrating to Brian, even he is SO proud of them. I suppose we need souvenirs from this time and we might as well try to make some happy ones 🙂 Also Etsy dealers are still shipping and there are a ton of really great vintage or antique frames there – and you could support a small business 🙂

Again! If you make any please use #showemyourDIY or tag @em_henderson on stories so we can see (we can’t see the hashtag on stories).

Thanks to all of you who did the DIY art challenge, we are still rounding them up to feature on social or here so be sure to tag and call out so we can see them. xx


Never miss a single post and get a little something extra on Saturdays.

36 thoughts on “Weekend Art Project: Easy Kids DIY Silhouette Portraits

  1. I did this a couple of years ago, but a little differently. I uploaded the pictures to Paint (program on the computer), erased all of the background, and then changed the picture to black and white. Then you can print it on whatever paper you want, no cutting involved. Super easy and cute.

    1. That’s what I did too! I used Canva after that to change the saturation and make it really Then exported and printed 24 x 36 on glossy photo paper from Walgreens. I love it!

  2. Oh this looks fun and thank you for the insight in your fun (und frustrations) 😉 I did a simplified version of this when I was maybe around 5ish with my then babysitter: we taped a big piece of paper to the wall and then each of us would sit in front of the wall while we shone a light at them from a distance – the other would then trace their shadow silhouette on the piece of paper. I thought it was the coolest thing ever and was really proud of the one I made of her. The cutout shilouttes look a bit more polished obviously, but maybe this could be a version for people with little kids who want them to be able to take part even more 🙂 Yours look beautiful though and it seems like you all had a lot of fun too!! Just thought I’d put it out there if others want to try 🙂

    1. Thank you for this variation – I think I’m going to try the torch version with my kids tomorrow!

      1. show it to us! I think that’s how I did it when I was little, maybe. But how do you get the details?

  3. A neighbour one house away is stumped for activities for her just 6 year old and keeps texting me for ideas.
    I’m thinking of choosing one day of the week and dropping off a “Secret Friend Activity” parcel at their front door, with all the gear they need, kinda like a recipe box.
    This might just be one of those activities!
    She has two boys, the 6 year old has some challenging (possibly on the spectrum) behaviours and the 3 year old is a compliant delight … so any activities need to be reasonably quick from beginning to finished result.
    I see this as being a two-part project for them, so he can spin his wheels and burn off some energy mid-way.
    I was interested when you mentioned the activity, but now I’ve seen it, I think it’s a winner! Thank you!

    BTW: Is it weird that I get emotional seeing how grown up your kids look now?!? And Brian, well, he might just have to go in the naughty corner (for a break!). Ha!

    1. That is such a great idea! I miss my nieces and want to do something for them so bad! Dropping off a little “project” that is all there sounds awesome – for me and them! 🙂

    2. I just organized something similar: emailed a group of ~10 family friends and had them join a “boredom-buster-gift-pool”. I ran the pool, took names out of a hat and assigned each family to one other family. Then each family buys the other family a boredom-busting family gift that is mailed to them. Ideas include: board games, puzzles, craft projects, science projects, model building kits, modeling clay, special coloring pens with special paper, etc. etc. etc. The gifts started arriving this week and people are loving it!

      1. Great idea! I used to lurve organizing the Xmas Secret Santas when I worked in an office environment.

      2. I love that idea. I think getting anything as a surprise is so appreciated these days and really breaks up the day.

    3. I always enjoy your comments so much, Rusty! that’s a beautiful thing to do for your neighbor. thanks for reading and always leaving such lovely comments xx 🙂

  4. I love this, thank you for a fun project (as my kids are embarking on SPRING BREAK.).

  5. I made one of these in third grade. I’ve wanted to do it with my kids for along time… maybe we’ll do it today!

  6. Love it! I’m thinking handmade note cards to mail to the grandparents etc. If you have a Cricut, you can import the final silhouette there, and have the Cricut cut it out for you… Thanks for the idea!

  7. For ease and accuracy in cutting-yes-use good scissors-small and sharp- but also move the PAPER, not the scissors.

    1. That would be awesome to do your dog! I’m thinking of doing my cat. Especially if I mount it in a somewhat ironic gilded frame. 😉

  8. Forget the artwork (although it’s very sweet) — those children are BEYOND lovely.

    I have been physically separated from my five grands — at least I get to see them through glass storm doors — but at this point I am literally craving the hugs and kisses I used to take for granted. Well, not for granted but they were mine for the asking. My youngest turns one a week from today and I feel like I have a hole in my heart that’s exactly her shape!!!

    I can appreciate you young parents who have been with your children 24/7, and how badly you ALL might need a mental health break. But this is the other side of that coin!

    I’m starting to go a little stir crazy over this and for everyone who is feeling the same (and I mean, EVERYONE)…….this is a good time to play “The Glad Game” from Pollyanna. Subtitle: things can always be worse.I highly recommend it. Sending love, peace, and healthful wishes to all……

  9. Love that Brian is rocking the Ross Alan Lumber t-shirt in the Mountain House!

  10. They turned out really cute! I love the picture frames for the larger silhouettes. Where did you get them?

  11. Is this the same grandmother who did a Christmas gift post and didn’t want any more framed photos and wanted fly fishing lessons instead?

Comments are closed.