Silhouette painting tutorial (hacks)

When it comes to silhouette’s, not everyone has a steady hand. It can be difficult to get those perfect lines and “nerve wracking” when using a dark color like black because even those tiny mistakes can really show through!

Some artists can create magnificent masterpieces by “free hand painting.” Others like me tend to get a bit shaken: I have a way around that!

In this article I will be explaining how to create a black silhouette, and also how to make a silhouette with your painting inside the silhouette.

You will need:

-A canvas


-Paint brushes

-A square and flat paint brush, and a thin pointed brush ( other brushes to paint your background)

-Scrap paper


-A pencil

-Scotch or painters tape

– A lamp, or flashlight for lighting

– Some creativity!

Choosing your silhouette:

First thing is first; what type of silhouette painting would you like to create?

Your background is important to include in your ideas to assure that they go well together. You wouldn’t want a dolphin silhouette in a desert would you?

So you can start by choosing your background. It can be anything you dream of!

– A night sky with stars -An animal

– A sunset – A person

– An afternoon sky -Some trees/grass/flowers

– A forest/ mountain scenery -A house or other building

I find it works best for me to draw a rough draft of your painting on a separate sheet of paper so you have something to go back to look at while painting your final draft, and so you can get an idea of what your finished product will look like! Decide the placement of your silhouette. ( Will it be centered, or take up the entire bottom of your canvas.

Once you complete your rough draft be sure to add your primer paint (if desired) and allow it to dry completely before actually beginning the project.

Paint your background:

Now that you have chosen your background and silhouette, its time to paint that background!

I find it makes the process easier for me if I choose my colors of paint before beginning. I also like to lay out my brushes I will be using before-hand. This saves me from digging through my paints and getting right to it once I begin. So if you’ll be using black, blue, light blue, and some pink. Get out of your paints, set them aside or mix the colors you desire before you begin.

That way if you need to go back and lighten a color or add something it won’t be so many things going on at once for you, if that makes sense.

Whatever you may choose, be sure that if there are dark colors in your background; pick the area your silhouette will be placed and make the surrounding area lighter colors than the rest of your painting. This will give your silhouette a beautiful glowing affect and really make it pop!

Example: I painted an elephant family silhouette with a star night sky background. I made sure to make the sky a lighter color so that you can see the outline of the elephants, and I made sure not to put any clouds in the areas the elephants would be placed. It looks really nice if you make your sky go from dark to light. ( like an “ombre”)

Once you have finished your background, be sure to let it completely dry before adding your silhouette.

Make your very own silhouette stencil!

This is a little more simple than it may sound. All you need to do is simply draw your silhouette on a separate sheet of paper and then cut it out!

So if you would like to paint an elephant, carefully draw one and cut it out: be careful not to cut out any details you won’t want to show in your painting. Also, makes sure your cut lines are the shape you want ( If you want straight lines and your cut lines are crooked it will show in your painting!)

Once you’re finished cutting out your stencil, and your background is dry. You can go ahead and proceed to place your stencil in the place you would like it. Once You are sure that’s where you want it, go ahead and use some scotch tape or painters tape. (Something that will not take your paint off with it when removed)

Fold the tape over itself so that it is sticky on both sides and place once or two pieces, or more if your paper is larger; just enough to hold it in place. You can then trace your stencil with a pencil (very lightly so you do not puncture your canvas; this can show through your painting if your push too hard)

Once you have your stencil traced in all the right places, go ahead and remove the paper stencil and you can proceed to take your flat square brush. I personally used the flat edge to trace the outside lines of the silhouette, and then filled it in using the same brush. You can paint right over top of the pencil lines. If you have a silhouette with very thin lines, you can use a thin pointed brush. ( It’s honestly whatever works for you, but this is what worked for me during this particular project.)

I recommend doing 2 or 3 layers of black paint on your silhouette to assure you cannot see your background through it!

I know I have said this a lot but it is important your painting is completely dry before adding a top coat!

Want the painting inside the silhouette?

It’s the same basis but the steps are sort of backwards with this one.

1. Prime your painting if desired and allow it to dry completely.

2. Paint your background or leave the canvas white (whatever you want!)

3. Draw your silhouette. When cutting it out, be sure to only cut the outline, and DO NOT cut through the paper (Example below) Please excuse my sloppy cut lines. My project was already finished so I cut these out just to use for an example!    

4. As you tape down your silhouette “stencil” be sure to put some small pieces of tape under any small pieces of paper that may be sticking up, that way when you’re painting over it you do not get any paint underneath the stencil where you want to keep the canvas white (or your background from being painted over). Also, be sure to tape all the edges down to that the paint doesn’t get underneath it.

5. Carefully paint your art into the silhouette and BE SURE to allow it to completely dry before removing the paper!

6. Add a top or gloss coat if desired.

Silhouettes are awesome! – In my opinion.


If you follow all the steps I have provided you should have yourself a beautiful silhouette painting! I hope my directions were thorough enough to guide you through this process of creating a silhouette painting. If something did not quite make sense or may have needed a little more description please feel free to let me know in the comments. Also, if this was helpful for you please let me know in the comments also!

I would absolutely love to see your work! Please feel welcome to send me pictures of your art in my email


or my personal email at:

Again, I hope this helped you!

Happy painting everyone,


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