March 15, 2010

Creating digital silhouettes with Photoshop Elements

Good Monday morning!

I am really, truly excited about the tutorial I have to share with y’all this morning! I have shared recently (see my posts here and here) that I have developed a new decorating fetish: silhouettes. It seems lately these little beauties are popping up just about everywhere, and for good reason. They are such a delightful, meaningful way to punch up your home decor and other crafty projects!
When I first decided a couple of months ago to pursue the idea of creating silhouettes of my three children, I knew immediately that I wanted to do so digitally. I loved the idea of letting my Photoshop Elements software earn its keep, so I set to work in coming up with a method to turn my digital photos into silhouettes in jpeg format with just a few clicks of a mouse. After some trial and error, I think I have come up with a good system for taking a photo and turning it into a quality silhouette image.
So what are we waiting for? Let’s get started!
You’ll need:
- Photoshop (PS) or Photoshop Elements (PSE) software
- A profile photo of your subject, preferably taken against a light background. If your subject has long hair, it is preferable to have them wear their hair up so you can easily outline their neckline.
Step 1

Open your photo of choice in PS or PSE.

Step 2
Create a duplicate layer.

  • layer > duplicate layer > ok
  • or right click on background layer in layers palette > duplicate layer > ok
Step 3

With the background copy of your photo selected, look in the layers palette to the dropdown menu at the top left (the default setting is “normal”). From this dropdown menu, select “vivid light” (this will adjust the lighting to draw your subject out from the background).

Step 4
Flatten your image. To do this, right click on one of the layers in your layers palette and select “flatten image.”

Step 5
Using your magnetic lasso tool, carefully go around the outline of your subject.

  • Tip: Your eraser tool is your friend here. If your lasso tool is outlining features or shadows you don’t want, simply “erase” those things from the photo and try again.

Step 6
After the desired portion of your image is selected (with the marching ants circling your the selected portion), delete your selection.

Step 7
With the marching ants still circling the now deleted silhouette portion of your image, use your paint bucket tool to fill the deleted portion in with black or your color of choice.

Step 8

From the “select” menu at the top of your screen, choose “inverse.” (Or, alternatively, type Shift + Ctrl + I on your keyboard.)

Step 9
Delete the selected portion of the image, which is the portion of the photo surrounding your color-filled silhouette.

  • Hint: If you aren’t happy at this point with the way your silhouette is outlined, simply use your eraser and paint tools to erase or fill in certain areas to achieve your desired look.

Step 10
Crop your image as desired and save as a jpeg to use in your craft and home decor projects!

Once step 10 is complete, you will be left with a silhouette of your chosen color on a white background. If you want to change the background color, you can use your magic wand tool to select the white part of the image, then fill the area using your paintbucket tool in the color you desire. To change the color of the actual silhouette at this point, choose select > inverse, then fill in with your paint bucket tool in the color you desire.

For my mom’s belated birthday, I used this process to make silhouette images of all of her grandchildren, and I then printed them out onto cardstock to make these little jewels. Wouldn’t a set of these make a great Mother’s Day gift?

I invite you to come back tomorrow when I’ll be showing you have to turn the image you just created into something like this…
And like this…
(By the way, a Cricut will be involved in the first project! Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink. ;)
As always, please don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions at all! I am far from an expert when it comes to Photoshop software, but because one of my undergraduate majors in college was public relations, I learned just enough about the program during my coursework to enable me to manage my photo editing and other projects like this one. (Well, and sometimes to get me into a bit of trouble. ;)
Thanks so much for stopping in,
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41 Responses to Creating digital silhouettes with Photoshop Elements

  1. Queen Bee March 15, 2010 at 1:16 pm #

    Amy,
    These are beautiful! I’ve been wanting to give these a try too… thank you for the tutorial! Too clever!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog too. Have a great week!

  2. Kelli @ RTSM March 15, 2010 at 1:19 pm #

    What a gret idea! I saw something similar the other day, but they didn’t use PS.

  3. The Girl Creative March 15, 2010 at 1:47 pm #

    What a great blog header you have! I love it. :) Thanks so much for the comment you left on my blog today. :)

  4. Tristen@blissfulchaos March 15, 2010 at 2:54 pm #

    These are adorable! Thanks for the tutorial…now I’ll have to try it! If only I can get my 14 month old to sit still long enough for a profile picture! Any suggestions???

  5. MessyMissy March 15, 2010 at 3:00 pm #

    I love Silhouettes. What a great idea. Thanks for the tutorial….I struggle with digital photo editing!!

  6. Mary Beth @ Live. Laugh. Make Something March 15, 2010 at 5:22 pm #

    terrific tutorial… so glad that I stumbled in! I am visiting by way of New Friend Friday at TGC and have become a follower. Please accept my invitation to drop in at my place one day this week! until later…

  7. mommy2luke2008 March 15, 2010 at 5:55 pm #

    I made some for my sil using paint shop pro!! Great minds think alike!!

  8. The Persimmon Perch March 15, 2010 at 6:27 pm #

    They look great. Good job. Thanks for sharing with Made it Monday! Jules

  9. Meg March 15, 2010 at 6:54 pm #

    Thank you for the step by step! I’m so bad at figuring this stuff out on my own! I get frustrated and just give up. I love what you did with the images, too! So creative. Great job!

  10. Carol March 15, 2010 at 6:59 pm #

    What a great idea!

  11. Sweet Little Smoothie March 16, 2010 at 12:54 pm #

    Ooooh – this is a great tutorial! I am definitely adding this to my list of projects. I can just imagine an age progression version. Thank you for the tute & inspiration!!

    Thanks for also stopping by my blog :)

  12. Megan March 16, 2010 at 1:35 pm #

    thanks for sharing the step by step process!

    stopping by from TIP me TUESDAY!

  13. becca March 16, 2010 at 3:46 pm #

    i will be stealing this idea. definitely. thanks for sharing!

  14. abnsigoslady March 17, 2010 at 1:38 am #

    Love it. Thanks. Laura

  15. Marie@PoutyPinkPrincess March 17, 2010 at 3:48 am #

    I LOVE these! Thanks for the tutorial!!

  16. fawnda March 18, 2010 at 7:36 pm #

    Super cool! I love the idea of doing it in Photoshop! Thanks for the tute! : )

  17. Jessica Hills March 18, 2010 at 8:25 pm #

    Thanks for the tutorial! Your blog is super cute! Come stop by my Favorite Things Friday party if you would like to join in!

  18. Jillian March 20, 2010 at 1:45 am #

    That is awesome! I’ve been planning to add some silhouettes to my wall, so this tutorial is great! I posted a link to it on my ‘crafty’ blog.

  19. Katie's Nesting Spot March 20, 2010 at 10:48 pm #

    I love the last project especially, I need Mother’s Day gifts and those look perfect.

  20. fawnda March 21, 2010 at 12:20 pm #

    I just wanted to let you know that I am featureing you today at:
    http://firefliesandjellybeans.blogspot.com/2010/03/sunday-spotlight-soys-favorites_21.html

  21. Sonja @ Craft-Werk March 22, 2010 at 12:46 pm #

    Hey Amy, finally getting around to return the visit and thank you for your comment on my silhouette mugs. Your post on creating silhouettes in PS is great. Hehe, wish I had read it before I made my own botched up silhouettes from photos…

  22. Andy Porter March 24, 2010 at 6:22 pm #

    Amy those are so beautiful!! I love the tutorial! I think I could even do it:) Thanks for linking to Creative Cats!

  23. Lilli April 28, 2010 at 2:10 am #

    This is a very cool idea… love how you applied it to several projects. Great tutorial! Looking forward to your other posts.
    -Lilli
    My Tot Travels…
     Learning to Parent on the Road of Life (great tips for traveling with kids)

  24. Amy May 3, 2010 at 5:56 pm #

    I love this! I almost had one of these made a few weeks ago, now I am going to get my husband (Photoshop Expert) to do this tonight!!!!!
    I love your blog!

  25. Amy May 3, 2010 at 5:57 pm #

    : )

  26. House of Smith's May 20, 2010 at 5:05 pm #

    I’ve been looking for a tutorial like this for a LONG time!
    Thank you, thank you, thank you!
    I’m attempting this today! :)
    Shelley

  27. Shandell July 1, 2010 at 5:18 am #

    just used your tutorial, thanks so much for the instructions!

  28. willow February 8, 2011 at 5:01 am #

    I can not wait to try this out. I love the version at the top where they start to look like pop art. Thank you for posting this tutorial.

  29. meghangramsey February 11, 2011 at 11:21 pm #

    Thank You for this! I have tried many tutorials for this and only yours has worked with ease.

  30. Mia April 10, 2011 at 2:31 pm #

    This is such an awesome idea! I’m absolutely going to do this for a Mother’s Day gift!

  31. Casey May 30, 2011 at 2:25 am #

    Just came across your tutorial. It was great! I just made one of my daughter. http://catchingcasey.blogspot.com/2011/05/diy-digital-silhouettes.html

  32. Kimberly November 29, 2011 at 5:02 pm #

    Great tutorial! Even works in Sumo Paint, for those of use who don’t have PhotoShop!

  33. shaina April 14, 2012 at 7:55 pm #

    this worked perfectly for me. I’m using my silhouette on my blog header in my new design I’m doing. Thanks for the clear and understandable tutorial. :)

  34. Michelle April 25, 2012 at 4:24 am #

    Hi Amy, I have recently found your blog, (and realized how much I have missed out!) I’ve been wanting silhouettes like these for my little bears for so long. My “problem” is I have photoshop CS5, ( AND I’m not so great at it:-) I know this tutorial is in for photoshop elements. Do you know how much different it would be for me to create in my photoshop? Thanks for all that you share….I have a “special” project list a mile long…who knows if I’ll ever get any done, but it sure does give me something to look forward to doing! <3 Thanks!

  35. Michelle April 25, 2012 at 4:28 am #

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  36. Sadielaine May 5, 2012 at 5:58 pm #

    This an awesome tutorial. Thanks so much for sharing. Love your stuff!! I am pinning this for sure

  37. Raphelle May 31, 2012 at 6:06 pm #

    Thank you so much for this tutorial! I wanted to create an image of my daughter to make cufflinks for a Father’s Day gift and this was exactly what I needed! Thank you!

  38. primgranny February 11, 2013 at 12:37 pm #

    Thank You so much to this i have wanted to learn .

    • Amy @ Positively Splendid February 11, 2013 at 5:09 pm #

      They are so fun to make and display! Thanks for stopping in.

  39. Dayli Meo December 28, 2013 at 9:59 am #

    Thank you very much for your post! I had a project in mind and this was a great tutorial to help me create an image that would be easily traced in the Sihouette Studio software! Also a tip for anyone who does not have the Photoshop software… try the trial download from Adobe first.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Silhouette Charm Craft Bracelet - June 29, 2013

    […] One: Making the Silhouette.  I followed Positively Splendid’s tutorial for making a silhouette in Photoshop elements, but you may already know how.  You can also use a sticker, fabric, scrapbook paper, or anything […]

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