DIYdiy projectskate pruitt

diy project: kate’s painterly silhouettes

by Grace Bonney

i love the crisp, graphic nature of silhouettes. I know that you’ve seen a lot of silhouette designs though, so i tried to give you a project that rethinks the traditional form a bit by allowing you to add your own style to it. the great thing about working with these contact paper cut-outs is that you can paint any way you want! i went for a fun stripe inside silhouettes of masculine objects, to make a gift for my man (they kind of remind me of the jack spade look, which i love). but you could go crazy with the painting style here: splatters, drips, impressionistic, color blocking, camouflage, it would all look great! once you cut the shape out cleanly, you don’t have to worry much about painting accuracy, which is the other great thing about cut-outs. trust me, there is nothing more satisfying than peeling back the paper to reveal a perfect, pristine outline. i hope you have fun experimenting with this one. have fun! – kate

*click here to check out kate’s biz lady post from yesterday on creating great window displays for your store!

CLICK HERE for the full how-to after the jump!

note: i have included a template for the shapes i used, which you can download here.


1. acrylic paint (i actually used old house paints, which work well and have a nice liquid-y consistency)
2. contact paper (this is used for lining drawers. choose the clear so you can see through it for tracing)
3. exacto knife/blade
4. permanent marker
5. paintbrushes
6. wood (they sell art boards made of wood at art stores) or thick illustration board (it’s best to choose a semi-gloss illustration board for this, so the contact paper will peel off cleanly. practice on a corner to ensure that your contact paper does not rip the paper surface)
7. images (i found some simple object images on the internet, then printed them. the quality does not matter much because you just need to trace the outline)
8. newspaper or scrap paper for painting on
9. cutting board (or cardboard)

contact paper: $5
illustration board: $3 for a 20″ x 30″ sheet (enough for all three shapes)
paint, etc: free/ on hand

3 hours (plus drying time)


1. find your images and print them out at the correct size for your frames (if you have frames), or whatever size you choose.

2. measure and cut the illustration board to the desired size. if you are using wood, cut the wood to the desired size.

3. trace the shape of your board/wood onto the contact paper with the permanent marker. cut out the piece of contact paper, adding a 1″ -2 “border of extra space around all the dimensions of your paper/wood surface.

4. hold your printed image underneath the contact paper, and position the two sheets of paper so the image in centered inside the box you drew on the contact paper. when you have the image in the desired location, tape both papers down and trace the shape on the contact paper with permanent marker.

5. tape the contact paper down to the cutting board and carefully cut out the outline of the shape.

6. place your board on top of newspaper or scrap paper. peel back the top of the contact paper from its backing and stick it down over your board/wood, lining up the permanent marker box outline with the edges of your board. peel it slowly from top to bottom, using your fingers to smooth out any air bubbles. the contact paper should cover the entire board and go over the sides by an inch, leaving only the surface of the silhouette exposed.

7. go crazy with paint! paint stripes, splatters, words, etc. you want your paint to be the consistency of honey or syrup: not too watered down but flows well. it is important to paint over the majority of the edges of your silhouette. because this is what will define the outline. if you leave to much of the edges unpainted, your shape might disappear.

8. let dry for a few minutes (but not completely dry), and carefully peel off the contact paper. make sure your hands are clean so you don’t smudge the board surface. toss the contact paper when finished. go very slowly and carefully to avoid any mishaps. this is a very satisfying step, but you have to be very careful!

9. set aside the board dry. place in the frame once it has dried thoroughly.

10. repeat steps 3-9 for any remaining images (or do each step for all of your images at the same time, so you have them all drying at the same time.)


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