June 13, 2011

Time Stands Still with Silhouettes for Father's Day

Fantastic June day in San Francisco.  Fantastic--meaning while everyone else's summer has seemed to arrive early, the clouds above our city still think it's February.

The plan was to get the kids much needed haircuts.  Drizzle, then rain fell.  Rain!  I felt like curling up in a blanket and staying in all day.  What better time to start brainstorming ideas for Father's Day. 

This idea actually came to me as an end-of-the-year project with Tristan's first grade class.  We used the silhouettes for two projects: take-home plaques and bookplates for new books for the teacher's classroom collection.  (As a teacher, there was nothing like adding brand new books to my library!)

The project is fairly easy but has a few steps involving technology.  Don't worry, I figured it out, so you definitely can.  In fact, when I first came up with this project, I thought about my very own childhood and how we created our silhouettes in school with the overhead projector.  Thank goodness I bounced my idea off of my friend (and knitting extraordinaire) Christie who let me in on the updated way of doing it.  Thanks Christie--I had no idea where I was going to find an overhead projector!


(Not pictured: spray paint)
4 x 6" unfinished wooden plaque (found these at Michael's for $1.29)
white spray paint or paint
black construction paper
Mod Podge (I used glossy but I think I'd like the look of matte instead--the yellow label)
glue or paint brush
digital camera and printer
ribbon or twine for hanging


1. Spray paint or paint the plaque and set aside to dry.  I used white because I like the black/white contrast.  But I'd love to see other color combos!

2. Wrangle up your squirmy kids and get them to stand profile for you in front of a window or plain background (it may take a few tries).  A few hints: For girls, if they'll let you get pigtails or braids in their hair, it gives a really cute result--but that just may be too much to ask.  Try to have them in simple clothes without too much bulk around the neck.  Try to get them to relax, and try a few variations, like mouth closed and open, smiling and not, etc. so you have a few to choose from.

3. Print out the best one (I know, they're all so cute!), resizing so it's a good size for the plaque (I resized to 30% of original picture for a 4x6 plaque).

4. If you want to get an idea of how it'll turn out as a silhouette, you can play with it on Photoshop or a similar program by adjusting contrast and brightness.  Let me assure you, though, your child will look ever so precious!

This is how the picture looked after I fiddled around with the contrast and brightness in Photoshop.

5. Place the printout over a piece of black construction paper and cut carefully around the profile.  (If you want two silhouettes, fold the construction paper in half before cutting.  This may not work so well with thicker paper).

6. Once the plaque is dry, have your child write his name on the back with a Sharpie, or a message to dad if age-appropriate.  Logan wrote, "Dear Daddy--Logan," with an abstract drawing.

7. Brush some Mod Podge onto the surface, and center the silhouette.  Brush a thin layer of Mod Podge on top of the paper.  Let dry and you're done!

You can use a staple gun (oh, I wish I had one!) or nail (or a bunch of strong tape) to attach a ribbon or twine for hanging.  There are so many variations to this craft but I chose to keep it simple (think: embellishments, scrapbooking paper, glitter, little bow for the hair, etc.).

Even if you don't think you'll get to this craft anytime soon, take the profile pics of your kids when you get the opportunity.  Their hairstyles, expressions, and postures will change over time, and you may never get a chance to capture them in this way again!  Make personalized bookplates for her favorite books or in birthday books, a doorknob hanging, or just mount on cardstock and frame. 

*A few notes about Mod Podge: lots of online sources have noted that Mod Podge is indeed gluten-free.  You can also make your own by adding 3:1 allergy-safe glue and water.  If you just need a bit for a small project like this one, pour some glue in a paper cup and add water little by little until you have a spreadable consistency.


  1. I love this idea! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Love it. Good job Sarah, can you make mine?

  3. So cute! look how serious Lo-Lo is with that Modge Podge!

  4. WOW! Those turned out amazing, Sarah! Time for me to stock up on some craft supplies.

  5. Mich, I would love to host a crafting night (any excuse for crafting--ha ha!). Erika, yes, Lolo went to town on the Mod Podge--that's why you see so many brush strokes! Irene, you can use a regular paint brush, glue, and paint. All you need is the construction paper and plaque.