Updating a Victorian pastime

Rainy Day Fun: Make Silhouettes

ludlow with turtle, framed silhouette iphone wallpaper
Even I’ve noticed that silhouettes have experienced a resurgence, to the point that they’re now blase (peaking last May at 3:20PM). Great! It’s time to jump on the bandwagon, or be the 300th person on a 100-person capacity refurbished WWII ferry heading out into Manila Bay’s choppy, shark infested waters! Here’s some suggestions for making your own silhouettes.

Pictured above, an iPhone wallpaper-sized (320x480px) silhouette from this past fall. For Halloween a scary theme seemed appropriate, thus this H.R.Giger inspired silhouette below:
Ludlow with Giger Alien silhouette

Between Wikipedia, Flickr, and Google Image Search it’s fairly easy to find critters in profile that’ll enhance any staid Victorian silhouette. Another source: DeviantArt’s Photoshop Custom Shapes gallery!

While Photoshop or Illustrator makes the tracing task quite easy the old school Xacto knife, tracing paper, and black paper method still works.

As for tips — really the only (surprising) mistake people seem to make is in photo selection. Not to state the obvious, but, errr, isn’t it obvious that a silhouette depends on a profile or pose that’s clean? So, backlight the subject, stand them far enough away from a white wall that it won’t bounce too much light back onto the subject, and DON’T LIGHT THE SUBJECT! Seriously. No front-flash, okay? Light the wall (white, ideally) behind them well. And that’s it.

For this one (below) I traced a photo in Illustrator, printed it, then pencil sketched the squid before scanning that sketch and heading back to Illustrator for the final squid tracing and cleaning. Total time? Less than writing about it, say, 20-30 minutes?

Ludlow with Squid head

This recent spate of stupidity actually started when I noticed how other-worldly (read: messy tangle) my hair was in a photo, which lead to making a self-silhouette portrait, which lead to thinking “wow, that’s a truly creepy thing to do, better muck it up”, and as JB Steve’s and my recent encounter with an enormous preying (praying?) mantis at KC’s Union Station was still fresh in my mind, well, just be glad these critters aren’t the size of house cats, or we’d be in serious trouble. Inspired here’s that result:
me with preying mantis

One problem: silhouettes of the same person, well, look the same, that is, one is good, two are boring. Retracing is definitely a clear cut diminishing returns exercise, too. So why not spruce them up?

OK, it’s time to eat, so I’ll stop here. Hope you try this with some friends or family… ok, both. Sure. Here’s some more silhouette inspirations:

For you DIYers itching to go:

If you want someone to do a legit one for you, there’s actually a lot of Silhouette Artists (Silhouette Paper Cutters maintains an index, by region), here’s a sampling:

Wait! Wait! Before you go mosey over to squid.us, a site devoted to all things squiddy which is something, don’t ya think?