Sensational Silhouettes

Penguin silhouettes

Created by My Art to Inspire Contributor: Jeanne

This project is very simple to do with older students/clients and can even be done very effectively with the really young ones. The finished product always makes them feel good about themselves. Note: the photo is of a first grade project!


Water color paints, brushes, white paper; black paper (if making their own silhouette design); OR for the very young—a design that the instructor has photocopied onto pink paper.

• Give clear instructions for wet-on-wet application of the paint using three tempra colors: pink at the bottom, orange in the middle, and yellow at the top. Use large brushes. Let dry well.

• If needed or desired, the paper can be flattened when dry with a hot iron.

• Meanwhile, more mature students can be given a reminder lesson on what a silhouette actually is, and encouraged to brainstorm good subjects. (These might include basic nature designs such as cactus, trees, animals, etc. Or students may want to really express their own interests: dance, cars, etc.) Have them play around with the shapes they want to use on ordinary paper, and then transfer their best idea by tracing it onto the black paper. Hint: encourage them to leave a good amount of foreground at the bottom—an inch or so.

• For the very young, just have them cut on the outside lines, ignoring the parts in the middle that are hard to cut out. (See photo of the spaces between the penguins. Since the paper is pink and the bottom of the white paper was painted pink, it blends right in.)

• Have the artist cut out the silhouette and carefully glue it onto the bottom of the painting making sure that the yellow is at the top. If needed, once the glue is dry, one can trim the bottom and side edges of the paper to make it more perfect.

• Finally: mount the finished project on a larger colored paper of the artist’s choosing.