Saturday, March 19, 2011

It's Pet Week! ~ For Any Animal: Silhouette Art

Today's tute can be used for any photo you like really! It's very different to my earlier tutes, this one is more technical! So I've taken even more photos and screenshots than I usually do in an effort to help explain how I do these! Please do ask questions in the comments if you need help!

What you need:

* Frame
* Photo paper
* A digital photo with a nice bold shape
* A graphics editing program, I use GIMP because it's free! You can get it here:

What to do:

Remember, you can click the photos to see a bigger version if you need to!

Open your photo in your graphics editing program.

Select the "Magic Wand" tool (circled at the top).
You'll see some controls show up below (the bigger red circle).
One of these is threshold.

With the Magic Wand selected, click on the background of your image. You'll see a flashing border appear around the selected area. If you increase the threshold slide, then click again, you'll see a larger area is selected. If you decrease the threshold and click the background again, a smaller area is selected.

Play with the slider and try to get it so that lots of the background is selected, but none of the animal part of the image.

When you're happy with the selection, press the Delete button on your keyboard. This will erase the selected part of the image.

Repeat with the other big areas in the background (we'll do the little bits with the eraser tool).

Before we do the next step, you might want to zoom in closer to your image.

From the tool selection panel, choose the eraser tool (circled).
Rub out any little bits that are still around your image but that you don't want to be part of your silhouette.

Now select the paintbrush tool (circled). Any parts of your silhouette that are missing, fill in now. I filled in the tail on my possum.

Now from the Color menu, select Threshold...

In the box that opens up, there's a slider. The slider starts with a triangle arrow in the middle. Drag that triangle all the way to the right hand side. You'll see now that a silhouette is forming! Whoo!

Use your paintbrush and eraser tools to touch up the silhouette however you feel is necessary.

If you look really closely, you'll probably find that some of the edges of your silhouette are sharp, and some are soft (usually soft where you've edited them). To even them up, I blur my image a bit (Gaussian Blur) and then sharpen it again (Unsharp Mask), using the tools in the filters menu. You can skip this step if you want.

OK, now you've got a nice tidy black and white silhouette! If you want, you can stop here! :)

I want to add some colour though!

What I did was find a pretty repeating damask pattern on Google Images. I right clicked on the image and selected "copy" then went back to GIMP and pasted it. 

Without doing anything else in between, press Control and X on your keyboard to cut the image you just pasted. Why would we want to do that? Well, it puts the image on the GIMP clipboard, which means we can now paint with it!

In this image, I've numbered what to press in what order! So you might want to click it to view it larger :)
Basically, select the paint bucket tool, then down the bottom select "pattern fill" and click the pattern icon. From the list that pops up, the image we just cut will be the top left option! Click that. 

Click inside your silhouette shape and viola!

I decided to get all fancy. I like the pattern here, but I want different colours. So, in the Colors menu I selected Hue-Saturation ...

The window that pops up lets you play with the colours a bit. Choose something you like!

Next I decided I wanted a pattern in the background too. There's a couple of ways you can do this. 

One is to select the paint can tool, then just click in the background (and any gaps in your silhouette, like between the legs on my possum). The problem with this method is that it's hard to change it again later!

A more complicated way, but one that allows for easier editing later is to first add an Alpha Channel to the background layer. Right click on "background" (circled) then select "Add Alpha Channel" (circled) from the list.

The alpha channel lets you have transparency.

Now, choose the Magic Wand tool again and click the background. When it's selected, press delete on your keyboard. Do the same for any gaps in your silhouette, like between the possum's legs.

Now, so we can paint a new background, we want to add another layer!

Right click in the Layers pane, for example just below where it says Background. In the menu that pops up, select New Layer ...

When you've got a new layer, click on it's icon and drag the new layer to be below the Background layer. This makes the stuff in the new layer show up behind the Background layer, where our silhouette is.

Now you can use the "copy-paste-cut" trick we did earlier to make another texture paintable. Select the paint can icon, choose your new texture from the list like we did before, and click in your background. 

If for some reason nothing happens, make sure you click on the new layer's name in the Layers roll up (circled). With it selected, try painting the background again.

Save your graphic! I like to save one copy as a GIMP file, so the layers are kept for editing later (the extension is .xcf) and another copy as a PNG. I print the .png file. You can now close GIMP.

Find your PNG file (I saved mine to my desktop), right click on it and select "Print"

I use Glossy Photo Paper to print on, and I make sure it's on the High quality setting. I actually had a piece of 4" x 6" photo paper, so that explains my size choices below :) You'll need to do what works for your printer and your paper.

Printing on glossy photo paper makes a huge difference! Here I printed one on normal printer paper (back) and one on glossy photo paper (front), can you see the difference? The one on glossy paper is a much brighter and sharper image, even using the exact same settings!

Frame it and you're done!

If you like my possum, here's the PNG file ready for printing! Right click on the image below and choose "Save Target As" then save it to your own computer :)

I hope you have lots of fun making your own silhouette art!


Steph said...

Rissa, you explained this so clearly! I'm less intimidated to try this now. Thanks so much!

Deneen said...

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Jennifer said...

Wow!! I'm amazed! And I love your little possum! Too cute!

malia said...

That is very cool... thanks for the great instructions!

SewHappyGeek said...

Awesome! Thanks for the tute! said...

I am following you on google connect from "Boost My Blog Friday"! Cute blog;-)

Jeanette Huston

DoodleBoopDesigns said...

Cute idea! I'll have to find a shape I like! Thanks for the tute!
I've added your button to my blog at:

Please check out my other sites at:

Christina @ The Tattered Tag said...

Thanks for sharing such a fun tutorial, you help make sense of it all. :) Thank you for linking up to my K.I.S.S. blog bash last week. This weeks blog bash is in full swing again!! If you haven't already please be sure & link up more of your creativity, I look forward to seeing all your great ideas. :)

Drop by The Tattered Tag

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