How to Make Silhouette Stencils from Photos

How to Make Silhouette Stencils from Photos

A few weeks ago I saw a stunning series of bird prints by Claudia Zill, and I wanted to try a similar technique using my Gelli® plate.

To do so, I needed bird stencils. So I made my own using JPEGs and Silhouette Studio software.

Making your own stencils, I've learned, is surprisingly easy if you have a little basic Photoshop knowledge.

Make Silhouette Files From Photos in Under 10 Minutes

1. First, find an image you want to use. I chose one of my mom's bird photos because it had a simple background and fell under a Creative Commons license.

2. Delete the background. You can do this by opening the image in Photoshop and using the Magic Wand tool or Eraser. I used both. I left the branch, but you could delete that too and trace the eraser around the blue jay's feet.

3. Make the image black and white. I did this by adding a Threshold adjustment layer (Image > Adjustments > Threshold ... ), then adjusting the Threshold Level under "Properties" until the bird was entirely black.

4. Save the image as a JPEG.

5. Open the black and white JPEG within the Silhouette Studio software. To do so, click File > Open. Then adjust the File Type in the bottom of the pop-up window to show JPEGs. Select your image, then resize it as you see fit.

6. Within the Silhouette Studio software, open the trace window. (It's the icon in the top-right toolbar that looks like a sandwich with blueberry jam.) Choose "Select Trace Area," and drag the selection area around your image. ThenIMPORTANT!uncheck "High Pass Filter" in the Trace Settings window, so the entire image appears in yellow.

6. Under "Apply Trace Method," select "Trace." Next, select and then delete the black image so you're left with nothing but a red outline. That's your stencil!

7. Save your stencil as a .studio file on your hard drive, or to your Silhouette file library. Then cut out your stencil!

Get MY Free Bird Stencils for the Silhouette

Download the blue jay and five other Silhouette bird stencils for your own art projects! These are all made from Creative Commons-licensed photos. Just click on this shared Dropbox link to see and download the .Studio files.

I'd love to see what you create!