Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Homemade Christmas: Canvas Silhouettes (with Tutorial!)

Now that all the gifts have been opened I can share my Christmas projects with you! This year my sister Sadie and I had each other for family gifts.

I made each child a silhouette of themselves, and a combined one for my sister and her husband. After sending off the gifts I was nervous that the kids would be upset they weren't getting toys from me. I'm happy to say that I've only heard good reports, and even my brother in law seems to like them (and he's not a homemade gift kind of guy). What makes this gift fun is that it can really show the personality of each person.

Interested in making one yourself? Here's a quick tutorial:

Step 1: Taking or Finding Photos. As you can see, the pictures don't need to be super-high quality. For these I had my nieces and nephew do fun poses. I got some great action shots of my nephew and some cute poses from the baby, but nothing exciting from the older girl, who was not in the mood for pictures. So I looked back and found a cute picture of her playing in the mud in her swimsuit. Now THAT was a pose with personality! Since she loves wearing skirts I Photoshopped a skirt from a different picture onto the swimsuit one. Ta-da!

Step 2: Photoshopping(Optional). I wanted to see what the finished product would look like before I decided to proceed. So I used my eraser tool in Photoshop to crop around the whole picture to just the person. (It helps if the person is in front of a solid white background so you can use the Magic Wand tool.) Then I made the person a solid color and played around with the fonts until I had it the way I wanted:

Step 3: Printing and Cutting. Print your photo (or Photoshopped image) and cut out the image to make a stencil. I tried using both the white space background and the image as the stencil, but really it just depends on what colors you want for the foreground and background. (For the couple silhouette I actually used both stencils.) Use a small pair of scissors or an X-Acto knife for cutting. Print an extra copy that won't be cut to have on hand for reference, especially if it is a detailed image.

If you're using two people in different colors then cut out each person separately.

Step 4: Grab your Canvas. For the kids I used 8x10" canvases that can be hung straight on the wall. For the couple I found a thin flat 9x12" canvas to fit the frame I already had.

Step5: Stencil Painting. Place your stencil on the canvas. I just held the paper in place with my hand. (I wonder if freezer paper stenciling works on canvas? I'll try that next time.) Instead of mixing paints to get your colors, I suggest just picking a color straight from the paint tube. It just makes touch-ups easier. It's hard to match a mixed color after it's dry. I used acrylic craft paints from a craft store.

For this one I painted the background a solid color and left the person the white color of the canvas. Later I painted over her in cream, but since she was already white I didn't have to paint multiple coats. For the kids' silhouettes I had my own boys help me paint the whole canvas a solid color, then I used the stencil to paint the person on in white. I had to do a few coats since I was painting with a light color on top of a dark one.

If you're doing two people in different colors: let the first person dry, then use your 2nd person stencil:

Step 6: Touching-Up and Names. Touch up any little mess-ups you may have made and paint on the names. I chose to do this free-hand because making a stencil for all those little letters seemed much too tedious!

Step 7: Varnish. With acrylic craft paints you should really put some sort of finish on it. I like to use varnish with a satin finish (instead of gloss). You could also use Mod Podge.

And your done! Okay, maybe this wasn't as "quick" a tutorial as I expected, but hopefully it helps.

I put this one into a frame to make it more elegant, but mostly because I happened to already have a nice frame with no glass. The painting didn't need it! (I left the cardboard corners on the frame since the gift was taking a road trip to California).

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