Thursday, January 3, 2013

transparency silhouettes

   Back when I had just finished up with our school's Advent crafting festival, I mentioned that I would do a little how-to post on the transparency silhouettes that were such a hit there.

   I've since discovered that directions for these can be found in the popular Waldorf calendar of celebrations book All Year Round and it's likely that instructions appear elsewhere online as well.  I'll go ahead and offer up how I put them together anyhow (because, you know, I already started).  Also, if you're looking for some images for inspiration, you can check out a collection I've gathered from crafty folks the world over on my Pinterest page.

   To make these sweet seasonal and story-telling pieces of window art you'll need card stock, a pencil, tissue in various colors, small scissors or a craft knife, a glue stick, a steady hand and a lot of patience.  The product is lovely and the principles are simple but the cutting of the image can be quite fiddly and time consuming.  (Let it not be said I gave no warning.)

   Drawing the desired scene directly onto the wrong side of the card stock is the easiest way to begin.

One can harvest images from favorite picture books or, of course, simply forge them directly from one's own imagination.

I have a hard time free-handing drawings, so I borrow those I like by pasting them onto a Pages document on my computer and then tracing the image onto a piece of paper.

Unfortunately, the heavier card stock desired for the finished product is thicker than can be easily seen through in this way so I've traced like this, cut out a pattern and then re-traced the pattern onto heavy card stock.  (This is extremely time consuming and I only did it because I needed patterns for others to use at the crafting gathering anyway.  I wouldn't necessarily recommend doing all that cutting twice!)  

So...  Working on the back side of the heavy paper, draw the chosen silhouette remembering to leave at least a 1" margin around the perimeter and to attach all figures to some edge.

(Note that silhouette figures not attached to an edge could be directly glued onto the tissue backing in later steps as seen in some of the collected inspiring examples.)

With a craft or exacto knife or small scissors (I prefer the latter), cut the design from the paper and trim the outside edges as desired.

(Remember to leave that 1" exterior frame to have something to attach your tissue to!)

(If you'd prefer to create a free standing display that can be placed in front of a candle or other light source, leave 3-4" of the card stock on each side of the image.  This excess can to be folded (on the dotted line) to a 70° - 90° angle to help the piece stand on its own instead of being taped or propped against a window.)

When the cutting is complete, prepare a piece of the lightest color tissue (in this case the lightest blue) to be placed over the entire back side of the image.  Cover the back side of the frame (and perhaps some of the larger figures) with glue stick or craft glue and gently press on that first layer of tissue.

Continue adding progressively darker tissue colors and variously shaped highlights and layers as desired to make the color effects you choose.  (Layering from lightest to darkest seems to work best.)
The subsequent layers can be kept to the edges or be carefully glued directly onto the first layer of tissue.

Even one color of tissue layered many times can create an interesting effect.  Combining colors as seen through light is an art of its own I think.

Once complete, turn the silhouette right side up and display it in a brightly lit window or in front of a protected candle.

   If the tissue outline can be seen because of strong back light (as shown above) or if your finished product is too floppy, the whole project can be "cleaned-up" and reinforced by adding an additional card stock frame piece on top of the tissue on the back side.

   I can see us producing a library of these to have for each season or even creating scenes to gift to our friends with images from their favorite stories.


  1. They are so lovely, I have to admit the cutting scares me a bit, but perhaps I'll try a less detailed cut out first. Thank you for sharing.

  2. So pretty! I love it. I have a weekly saturday linky, Share It Saturday & I would love to have you participate if you have the chance. Thanks!

  3. Very pretty! Such a great use for all the tissue paper left-overs from Christmas!

  4. These are beautiful. I can't wait to try one.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...