photoshop silhouette tutorial


Who doesn’t like a good silhouette? I’ve put together a tutorial on an easy way to make one in Photoshop.

If you do not already have it, you can download a 30 day trial of Photoshop from Adobe. All keyboard shortcuts provided are for CS5 on a PC, they may vary slightly for other CS versions or Mac platform.

  1. Open your picture that you want to create a silhouette from in Photoshop.silhouette_screenshot_1
  2. Change the image mode to grayscale (black and white) select Image > Mode > Grayscale.
  3. Add an adjustment layer and tweak the brightness/contrast so that there is a greater difference between light and dark in the photo.silhouette_screenshot_3
  4. Zoom in (CTRL + +) to make it easier to see the details of the outline you want to make.
  5. Create a new layer and temporarily lower the opacity of it to between 40% – 60%.silhouette_screenshot_5
  6. Select the Pen Tool from the Tools palette (P).photoshop-pen-tool
  7. Select the “Shape Layers” Option In The Options Bar.Shape-Option
  8. Set the foreground and background colors to their defaults of Black and White (D).photoshop-foreground-background-colors
  9. Draw an outline around the subject in the photo by clicking with your mouse. Click close together around delicate parts of the outline or click further apart when straight lines are reasonable for the outline. Smooth out/round off flyaway hairs or uneven patches along the hair line. Close your path by connecting your last and first points.silhouette_screenshot_5a
  10. Now go back and raise the opacity of the silhouette layer back to 100% and hide all layers but your silhouette layer to view the finished silhouette.silhouette_screenshot_10
  11. Zoom in (CTRL + +) a bit, notice the edges are a bit jagged? We’ll fix that. Select the Magic Wand Tool (W) from the Tools pallet and then click anywhere on the silhouette, you will now see what is called a line of “marching ants” outlining your path.
  12.  Add a layer mask by clicking on the Add Layer Mask button. A layer mask has a double border if it’s active and single one if it’s not active. You want it to be active.silhouette_screenshot_12
  13. Go in the menu to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, and move the slider to adjust the pixel radius. Blur the mask just enough to see the jagged edges disappear into the blur. In my case a value of 10 pixels was enough.silhouette_screenshot_13
  14. Open the Levels dialog box (CTRL + L). Move the black slider to the right and stop when close to the center, and then move the white slider to the left. The edge of the mask is gets sharper with each move to the right. Stop when it looks the sharpest. Click Ok. silhouette_screenshot_14
  15. (Optional) Save (CTRL + S) your silhouette as a psd file. In the event you want to use it again, you eliminate the need to create the outline again.
  16. Create a new document (CRTL + N) in the size of your choice for final output (mine will be a 5×7) with a 300 ppi and a white background.silhouette_screenshot_15
  17. In the silhouette document, select all (CTRL + A) and copy (CTRL + C). Now go to the new document and paste (CTRL + V).
  18. Close out of the silhouette document window. We no longer need it.
  19. (Optional) In the new document, turn on your document grid (CTRL + ) to help with precise placement of your silhouette and Snap to Grid (View > Snap), and then make sure Snap to Grid is checked (View > Snap To > Grid).silhouette_screenshot_18
  20. (Optional) Turn on the ruler (CTRL + R), drag from the horizontal ruler to create a horizontal guide, drag from the vertical ruler to create a vertical guide. Now you know the exact center of your document.silhouette_screenshot_19
  21. Time to make your silhouette fit your document. Make sure the layer with your silhouette is selected and bring up the Free Transform box and handles around the silhouette (CTRL + T ). Pick a corner, wait for the cursor to change,now hold down your SHIFT + ALT keys as you drag to resize it. By doing this your proportions will be constrained and the shape will resize from its center. Hit enter to accept the transformation.
  22. Reposition the silhouette by clicking anywhere inside the box and dragging it around with your mouse. Press Enter to accept the transformation and exit out of the Free Transform command.
  23. (Optional) Add Additional Silhouettes to the document using the same steps.
  24. Save (CTRL + S) your silhouette.

You now have a traditional black and white silhouette! Grace-Silhouette_for-blogLeave as is, or take it further by adding a frame, some text, a texture, a pattern or changing the foreground/background colors. The posibilites are endless!Silhouette-variations


something about silhouettes

sil·hou·ette: a two-dimensional drawing of a the outline of a person’s face filled in with a solid color, usually black.

Grace-Silhouette_for-blogSilhouettes are back! — This striking and familiar black-and-white art is making a comeback. Silhouette art has charmed us for centuries and thanks to a creative new generation of designers it’s appearing everywhere from home decor to stationery to  personal adornments. Not a bit of the old charm’s been lost in translation.

I love silhouettes because they are so personal. They are portraits, really. The lack of details like color and shading makes the portrait even more intimate. The viewer is drawn to look more closely at the shape of the subject’s features, the tilt of the head, or the way a stray lock of hair curls.

This type of art is the epitome of a simple gift and is great for a tight budget. I know what the grandparents, aunts and uncles are getting for Christmas! A sentimental keepsake of my child’s likeness. To top it off (literally), I’ve been inspired by a great tutorial from Rachel at Lines Across, to make paper gift bows made from my toddler’s scribbles.

Do you remember making silhouettes in grade school? I do! No scissors and construction paper needed for this project. I’m going to create the silhouette using a profile photo taken with my digital camera and Photoshop.

First, take your profile photo(s), trying to eliminate as much shadow under noses and chins as possible. I have found that using a strong natural light (like sunlight) shining right on the subject works well. Flash works best when shot at the exact same height as your subject, but sometimes it can be too much, washing out important features. The beauty of digital cameras is that you can take several shots and chose the best. Have more than one subject? Be sure to maintain the exact same distance from each of your subjects so that they are in perfect proportion should you want to do a group study. A tripod is also extremely helpful.

Second, use Photoshop to create a basic silhouette. Don’t have Photoshop? Download a free 30 day trial of Photoshop from Adobe. Here’s how to do it using a technique that will give you the freedom to resize the silhouette as needed without any loss of image quality.

And finally, fill the silhouette or the background with a fun color or pattern to create interesting designs.


The possibilities are endless! Get working on your silhouettes!! Get them printed out at the local copy shop, find an appropriate frame and then you have a unique gift for any occasion.