I’ve been on a vintage kick lately and thought I would make a tutorial on how to make silhouette art to create those super cute vintage cutouts.
I made these silhouettes art cutout into ornaments but they look great on almost anything else from iron-on projects to even cards.
The hardest part of this project turned out to be getting the profile photo of my kids. My son was a little more cooperative but I ended up having to chase my daughter around and finally got my husband to hold up a blanket behind her while I snapped a picture.
So this leads me to the first part of this project…
Getting the right photo for a profile silhouette art project…
Depending on which method you choose to make the cutout, you may be more or less dependant on a profile photo with a contrasting single color background.
Even if you choose the method with the most technology, you still need a relatively flat background.
The easiest method is to just have your child stand against a while wall.
If this isn’t possible, try and hold up a minimally patterned sheet or blanket behind them.
How to make a silhouette of your child without fancy software solutions
This one might be super obvious but I will just call it out, you will need to print out the photo and cut the child’s head profile out manually with scissors.
If you have a bigger screen, also consider taking some copy paper and just tracing the photo from the screen. Then use this as a template to cut the final material.
How to Make a Face Silhouette by Removing the Background in the Image
I use a special automated background removal tool called Clipping Magic.
It clips the background off and creates a transparent image with only the profile left.
When you upload this transparent image to your cutting machine, it will automatically have the profile cutout shape.
Why wouldn’t I just upload the original image and mark the background within the cutting machine’s interface? Well, the profile of a face tends to be relatively details and most cutting machine’s interface software is not sophisticated enough to tell the difference between the background and the foreground.
How to make a child head silhouette by turning it into an SVG
The last category of options is to vectorize the image by using a vector editing solution like Inkscape (free) or Adobe Illustrator (don’t recommend for beginners).
I won’t go into details of how to use each of these different software solutions here because it is too much but this is what I did. I also created some really cute frames to go with the silhouette.
These vintage frames and profiles SVGs and printables are available for free in my resource library.
How to customize a girl head silhouette
The thing with kids is their profiles can sometimes be androgenous so I try to make some differentiation with the frame and base of the silhouette.
Yes, if your daughter is blessed with lots of hair and is willing to put it up in a ponytail, that helps.
If you’re in my camp, my daughter can barely muster enough hair for a rat’s tail not to mention she wants nothing to do with hair bands and clips.
Making a better boy silhouette head outline
The problem with boys’ heads is their hair just sticks up everywhere. Sometimes this looks cute like Denise the Menace (do people still remember that show?!).
Most of the time, it just makes them look like they have an alien head. If you are making the cutout manually, I would just selectively shear off some stray hairs.
Otherwise, you’re stuck using some vector editing software to reshape his head.
Applying the silhouette design to various projects
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I cut out the design with a frame using black vinyl using. I used permanent Oracle 651 vinyl. This design could work for cardstock as well.
I used my Cricut cutting machine to do this. The silhouette itself is relatively straight forward and can be done just by hand. A couple of the frames are more intricate and I would recommend using an Exacto knife. If you don’t have a cutting machine and are interested in getting one, check out my article on beginner Cricut machine recommendations.
I would recommend for the more intricate frames to at minimum cut a 3 inch tall frame. If you go any smaller, the blade might snag.
I then took some clear transfer tape and picked up the design and then placed it on the base.
This design can go on many things. I just thought it would be cute as a keepsake ornament and maybe even make a tradition to do one every year.
I then squeezed in some acrylic paint into the ornament and sloshed it around.
In case you are interested, this is the assorted acrylic paint set I used. (It’s super affordable.) Any acrylic paint works, just make sure it is not a paste or it might not be liquidy enough to spread on its own.
I used this set of clear fillable ornaments.
But it doesn’t have to be just ornaments like this, you can use chipboard or even a thicker Cheerios box and make a flat ornament.
I added it to the back of my daughter’s hairbrush.