How to…make a Digital Silhouette

17 Jul

I’ve always loved silhouettes-they’re simple, elegant, and they always look like they took a very long time. But actually, as I’ve recently been discovering (I have a lot of time on my hands), they’re very simple. Almost too simple.

So this is a tutorial on how to make a digital silhouette using in my case GIMP, but I’m sure the principles are similar to Photoshop. I use GIMP because…well, because it’s free. It is a little more complicated than Photoshop, and requires some playing around until you’re sure how to use it, but it is worth it.

Anyway, for this tutorial I used a photo of Lanhydrock, a NT house in South England. Go, it’s lovely. And this silhouette isn’t the most sophisticated, but then you only need to know the rudiments.

So here goes.

1. Open the image you want to make a Silhouette of in GIMP. Open the layers box (in GIMP, press CTRL+L) and create two new layers: I called these “Fill” and “Shadow”.

2. Next, select the “Paths Tool” (the pen with squares on a line) from the tool box. Now, some people turn the zoom up to about 150-200% at this point, but I was doing it roughly so didn’t bother. Normally, probably a good thing, because what you do now is click around the shape you want to create a silhouette of. As you can see from the video link below, I did mine very basically, but the more effort you put in, the better it will be.

3. Once you’ve done this, press ENTER and the line will start flashing. Now click the “Selection from path” box at the side, before clicking “Fill” (the bucket). Make sure that your fill is set to “FG Colour Fill” (foreground) and that that’s black. Now, click your outlined shape. It might take a few seconds to fill, but hopefully it will!

4. Now right click on the newly blackened shape and go to “Select”, then “None”. Finally, go back to fill and switch the box to “BG Colour Fill” (background). Click on the background of the shape and there you have it-a silhouetted image!

How to Make a Silhouette using GIMP

Above is a link to the video I made to show the process. Please ignore the weird hum early on- wasn’t sure it was recording sound and thought that would be a good way to check. I don’t know, I may be missing human company too much.

And here is a silhouette I did of myself:
As you can see, a little extra caution wouldn’t have gone amiss, but it isn’t bad for a first attempt. Also, make sure you use a good photo-I was slouching in mine so I had to create a neck for myself (not that it went too badly…).


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