I’m all about handmade Christmas presents. I don’t do it to be cheap, but to be personal. Here’s one of the best I’ve done.
I tried it several ways because some of the things recommended on other sites just didn’t work. (Murphy’s Law, anyone?) What I landed on really works. This is not an “I should do this sometime” post, but a “I tried this several different ways and this one actually works” post.
- Person or cat or whatever you’re making the silhouette of
- Digital camera (or smartphone)
- Printer paper
- Copier that allows you to shrink or expand your image
- Any color of card stock, available at an office supply store (this may not be needed, but have some just in case)
- Thick watercolor paper, available at a craft store (get the really thick stuff, as not all watercolor paper is created equally)
- Either sharp scissors (both medium and fingernail-size) or an exacto knife with cutting surface
- Black tempera paint
- Large-sized artist’s paint brush
- Word processor and paper for making name tags (optional)
- Picture frame
Take a side picture of the subject with your digital camera, like the one here. (I apologize if this picture appears horizontal instead of vertical on your screen. For some reason it is appearing sideways in some formats and not in others. Anyway, you get the idea. Just take a silhouette-style pic.) I should have had him take his glasses off, though. You’ll want to do that if your subject wears glasses. I put my girls’ hair up in ponytails to simplify it. You can try it several ways to see what you like best. Once you’ve done that, print the picture on plain printer paper. The quality of print or paper doesn’t have to be great; you’re going to paint over it anyway.
Now use a copy machine to adjust the size of your picture, copying it to be 20% or 110% or whatever of the original copy to achieve the size you want the finished product to be. (If you know how to do that an easier way, go for it, but I’m technically challenged and this way worked for me.) When you have it exactly the right size, copy it once more onto thick white watercolor paper (available at any craft store) if possible and your printer cooperates, or on good white card stock (available at any office supply store) if your copier balks at the watercolor paper.
Cut out around the person’s shape from the card stock or watercolor paper. Include eyelashes, cowlicks, etc. I actually had to create eyelashes, and if you want eyelashes on your silhouette, you’ll probably need to do that, too. Be very careful when cutting it out to keep little details such as the roundness of the nose, or how much a chin juts out. I used regular, very sharp, medium-sized scissors and also fingernail scissors. Some people prefer to use an exacto knife. I searched online for other silhouettes to figure out how to shape the very bottom of the image. I ended up making one shape for the bottom of the boys’ cut-outs and another, more curved shape, for the bottom of the girls’, as you can see in the picture of the finished product. The possibilities are endless.
If your copier didn’t complain about watercolor paper you can skip this next step. If your picture is now printed on card stock, place the cut-out picture flat on watercolor paper and trace around the image, tracing the shape onto watercolor paper, again being very careful to maintain the little details. These little things are what really makes the end product wonderful, and if you’re not careful, you’ll lose some of them in this step. Cut out this shape.
Now you should have the shape cut out of watercolor paper. Put the image flat on old newspaper or scrap paper, and paint the shape black on one side. I used black tempera paint and it turned out great. Let it dry and mount it on white paper (I used white watercolor paper to mount it on also). Since I was doing a composite of several silhouettes, I printed off the names to place under each figure. I wouldn’t have had to, though, because it was obvious who each one was. If you want to make name tags, just use a word processor and choose a nice font.
Put it however you desire in a nice frame, and enjoy the smiles as they open the present.