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DIY Wood Silhouette Decoration

With my kids getting older I needed to update the silhouettes I had of them on our wall, plus I wanted to switch over to oval frames.  I had the hardest time finding them – especially ones within my price point!  I was walking through our local craft store and noticed wooden oval plaques and I decided to give them a try.  I’m very pleased with how they turned out and thought I’d share how I made them!


Materials Needed:
-Wood Plaque* (any size/shape will work)
-Side-shot Picture of Person
-Black & White Acrylic Paint
-Foam Brush
-Foam Stencil Brush (Preferred)
-Wide Painter’s Tape (Frog Tape Recommended)
-Hook of Choice for Hanging (Optional)
-Clear Coat of Choice (Optional)

*The plaques I got measure 6-3/4″ x 9″ and were only $1.99!

Tools Needed:
-220 Grit Sandpaper
-Xacto Knife
-Printer & Paper

Prepare Picture:
You’ll want your picture just like the one above; with your subject looking straight ahead (not up/down) and your camera directly in front of the middle of their head (cross-hairs right in front of their ear).  Take a bunch of pictures so you can pick the best one.  For anyone with long hair, consider pulling it up to expose the neck for the silhouette.  The more contrast between your subject and the background the easier it is to see details and make your outline (ie if the subject is fair-skinned with blonde hair have them stand in front of a dark background).

Upload your picture(s) on your computer and figure out approximately what size you need your silhouette to be.  Try to re-size the picture on your computer to the finished size you’ll need to fit on your plaque.  For me, I was able to draw an oval on my computer (in Adobe Illustrator) the size of my plaque and resize my picture inside of that to what I wanted it to be – makes it so easy!  If that’s not possible just mess around with the print settings by changing the scale of the print when it comes out.  For example, if you need to make your picture bigger, try changing your printer settings to scale the image to 150%.. when it comes out write what you scaled it to on the corner for reference if you need to change it slightly later on.

Now that you have your picture the size you want it’s time to outline how you want your silhouette to look!

Hardest part is over.. you can breath now!

This gives you an idea of what my son’s picture looked like and the shape of the silhouette I made for him.  I figure 80% of people won’t have a program to do this digitally, so use a pencil and lightly trace around your subject for the silhouette you want (yellow line for me).  Once you have it how you want you can trace around it with something more noticeable than a pencil.

Prepare Plaque: 
 Sand all sides and edges of your plaque.  Remove dust.

 Use your foam brush and do 2-3 coats of white paint.  Let dry completely.

 Lightly sand surfaces smooth.  You can see in the picture above the difference between the sanded & un-sanded plaque.  TIP: The water in the paint raises the end grain in the wood and makes it rough – don’t skip sanding!!!

Create Silhouette:
 For this process you’ll need everything above.  Your picture (again, yours probably won’t be digital like mine.. no worries), your painted plaque, painter’s tape and an Xacto knife. TIP: Frog Tape is the best because it seals well between the tape and wood to avoid paint bleeding under.

 Completely cover the top of your plaque in tape.  Make sure you have the tape edges tight against each other so there’s no gaps.

 Tape your picture over your plaque in the position you want it to be.  Use your Xacto knife and carefully trace around the edges of your silhouette.  Make sure to push hard enough to go through the tape (it’s okay if you cut into the wood a bit)!

 Slowly remove the tape inside the silhouette.  You may need to use your knife and cut the lines better if you didn’t press hard enough in the previous step.

 Use your stencil brush/sponge thing to dab black paint inside your silhouette.  You don’t need very much paint!  It will be a little bubbly like above…

 …let it dry for a minute then you can dab back over it and get rid of the bubbles.

 Let the paint dry for at least 2 hours before peeling the rest of the tape away – this is the best part!

 Doesn’t it look awesome!?  You can put a clear coat on to protect your plaque and make it easier to clean.

 Here’s a close-up.  I chose to distress my edges when I sanded the white paint smooth.

 If you choose to hang your plaque you can pre-drill a hole in the top-center and screw a c-hook in, or…

…use one of these picture hangers in the back!

It can get tricky finding the center of an oval or a circle... here’s how I did it:

 Trace around your plaque on a regular piece of paper.  Use a window to fold it in quarters so you can overlap the pencil lines perfectly.  When you unfold it, mark where your folds are so you know those are your centers.

 Then you can align your plaque again with the traced outline and mark your center on the plaque.

Wasn’t that easy!?


 After thinking how I wanted to hang my plaques I decided to use a thick cotton cording I had.  I used about a 4-inch piece to line up with my center mark and I taped it in place to make sure I liked how it looked and that when I held it up, it was indeed centered.

 Next I used my staple gun to staple right over the tape – 2 staples preferred.

I removed the tape and trimmed the cord slightly shorter than the picture.

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  • Reply melimba

    Dani! These turned out darling! Great work, girl!

    November 27, 2015 at 10:21 pm
  • Reply Dani

    Thank you!! 🙂

    November 27, 2015 at 10:22 pm
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