DIY: Silhouette Wall

Lots of people (myself included) like to have one of those photo-walls, a massive collection of family pictures hung close together with the only unifying element being the same color frame (I’ve done one with all black frames and later, all silver). I still like the look of it, but I wanted to make it a little simpler. Around that time my mother in law gave me a silhouette of my husband as a child. I loved it and it immediately went on the photo wall. Later we had our children’s silhouettes cut and they also went on the wall. That was when I had the idea to transform all the pictures into silhouettes. This was a long and tedious process and I was so relieved when I was finished. I had my family over and I proudly showed them the finished product. My brother immediately pointed out a tiny 3×5 empty frame that I somehow missed.Thanks a lot buddy. That little frame has nagged at me ever since. As long as I had to make one more, I decided to make it into a photo tutorial. And away we go..

First, I selected the final image for the silhouette. I chose this one of my husband and daughter in a porch swing overlooking the Piankatank river. I took it on a warm July day when we were celebrating my mother in law’s birthday. One of those perfect summer afternoons you long for in mid-February. (“Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language” ~Henry James)

I previewed the photo on my desktop and hit the “fix” button at the top. Then I changed the image to black and white (using the “saturation” tool under the color tab to the right of the screen), and adjusted the brightness and contrast to make the picture as close to true black and white as I could. This isn’t a vital step, but I find it helpful to get a feel for what your finished product is going to look like. There have been several pictures that I thought would make great silhouettes, only to find that they were unrecognizable once I’d finished.

Next, I printed the image (you can print directly from the preview, or insert the image into word and print from there). Then cut it out carefully. I like to use hairstylist scissors because they are smaller, sharper and have the little hook on the bottom to steady your hand. Once you cut out the main image, go in with an x-acto knife and cut out the center details. I do this right on the glass top of my desk (because I am campaigning for a new desk and destroying this one will further my cause. Just as my husband leaves the perfectly good grill uncovered in the rain and snow when he thinks it’s time for an upgrade. Soon enough it will rust and he’ll get his new grill). If you aren’t actively trying to destroy your furniture, just use a cutting board for the x-acto part of this. Here is the image after being cut out: Next you trace it onto the back of black card stock. You can get card stock at any craft store for a few cents a sheet. When I began my silhouette wall, my plan was to cut the images in one pattern of card stock and mount them on a contrasting pattern. Then I realized that went against the point of simplifying so I stuck with black and white. But by all means, do yours in whatever colors or prints you’d like. Here is the tracing:You might notice that I did not reverse the image before tracing it. This made my final silhouette a mirror image of the actual picture. This will likely bother me every time I look at it until I finally take it down and re-do it. Save yourself the hassle and flip the image before tracing on the back of your black card stock.

After tracing, just cut it out again with the scissors and x-acto knife. Then turn it over and find that you’ve accidentally cut into the black surface of the card stock. They make high quality paper colored all the way through so that this doesn’t happen. Obviously this is not high quality paper:That’s okay. Sharpie to the rescue:Now it’s time to frame it. Take some tape rolls and apply to a few spots on the back. You don’t want to completely tape it down or use spray glue because the image needs to sit just above the white backing so that it casts a faint shadow, giving it dimension.Next, apply it to your white (or whatever color you chose) card stock backing like so:I probably should have taken a nice “after” picture of it in its frame, but I was in too much of a rush to get it up on the wall. Here is the silhouette wall, finally completed:See, there it is, top center. Try to ignore all that empty space on either side of the console. I used to have potted plants there but I killed them and haven’t decided what to put in their place. Open to suggestions..

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