Introduction: Halloween Garage Door Silhouette

Picture of Halloween Garage Door Silhouette

I love Halloween, and I've been looking for an excuse to try out the Dremel tool my husband gave me. I thought an eerie Halloween scene covering my garage door would have a lot of impact. Rather than a standard cut-out pasted on, I wanted to add some extra spook factor by lighting it from behind. So a silhouette was a perfect choice.

I'll apologize up front for the photography. These photos just don't do it justice. I wish I knew how to get better Halloween photos at night. Something to work on for the next instructable!

I've no special talents with drawing or tools, just a dogged determination to make something I've envisioned come to life. This took some work, but the result is well worth it. It's a traffic stopper on my street!

Also, our garage door is an old wooden one, and we don't mind screwing things like this into it. I don't think this woul d work with a roll-up panel door. Perhaps it could be mounted on a large wall, or staked into the yard with lights behind it.

You'll need:

drawing materials

roll of paper for a pattern



2 4' x 8' sheets of material. I used a 3/16th inch thick plywood I found at Lowe's. Fairly lightweight and easy to cut with the Dremel tool.

Cutting tool such as the Dremel

Sand paper (or use the Dremel again)

Black paint

Several 1" x 2"s and screws for mounting

2 to 3 strings of lights. I used 2 70-bulb strings of orange.

plastic spider

Step 1: Prepare the Pattern and Transfer to Pattern Paper

Picture of Prepare the Pattern and Transfer to Pattern Paper

When drawing my design, I considered the size of my display space (a 2-car garage door), as well as the material I would be using. I used 2 sheets of thin plywood. One sheet runs horizontally, 8 feet wide and 4 feet tall. I had this cut into 2- 4x4 pieces at the store. Each side piece started as a 2 x 6 piece, cut from the other sheet. This gave me some height, and also frames the scene nicely.

I had the cuts made strategically, so that seams would not be too visible. One seam bisects the cauldron, one is between the 2 jack-o-lanterns, and the third is between the cat and the tree.

I drew the design on 8 1/"2 x 11" paper, then used the grid method to enlarge it to the proper size, which I drew on kraft paper, and then cut out. You could, of course, skip the pattern and draw the enlargement (in reverse) straight onto the back of the plywood. Or, if you'll be painting it black, you could draw it right onto the front, as any drawing lines will be covered by black paint.

Using a sharpie, I traced the pattern onto the back of the plywood. The entire design is 12 feet wide and 6 feet tall in the tallest places.

Step 2: Cut Out the Design

Picture of Cut Out the Design

Use the Dremel tool to cut out the design. If you have not use this tool before, practice on some scrap. It's not too difficult, but it does take some practice. It can get away from you. Luckily, Halloween designs are very forgiving. A few jagged edges can make it look better! Nothing should be too perfect.

It took me between 1 1/2 and 2 hours to cut out this design. I thought the trees were going to be difficult, but they weren't too bad.

Apparently my cat looks very realistic, at least my dog thought so.

Use coarse sandpaper or the Dremel to sand off the rough edges. Again, no need to be too perfect. People will view this from at least 10 feet away, and probably more.

Step 3: Paint the Cut-outs

Picture of Paint the Cut-outs

Paint the front of the cut-outs. Don't forget the edges, because they will show.

no need to paint the back. Mine were pre-primed. A small roller will make quick work of it.

Step 4: Prepare for Mounting

Picture of Prepare for Mounting

While the paint is drying, you can add the mounting cleats to the garage door. We ended up screwing in one set of 1" x 2 " boards against the door, and a second set of boards on top of those. We thought this was easier as we could use much shorter screws. Place cleats where two pieces of the cut-out meet. This will help to avoid light seeping through the seams. I also painted these black, in case they show through at all.

Step 5: Add Lights and Install

Picture of Add Lights and Install

Put the cut-outs face down on a soft surface, or on something that won't scrape them up. Lay out your light strings, then begin taping them on. I tried to point the bulbs toward the center of the design, to cast the most light that way. I also did not go all the way to the top of the pieces, which put more light toward the bottom where the cauldron is, and gives a look of more heat at the bottom, where a fire would be. Sort of an ombre effect.

Now you're ready to mount the silhouette. You may need help with this step. Line the pieces up with the pre-installed cleats. Make sure cords and bulbs are not in the way. Also check that you will be able to reach the ends of the light strings, so you'll be able to plug them together. Also, the bulbs should not show when looking straight at the piece. Just their glow. Make your adjustments and screw the plywood pieces into the cleats.

As a final touch, I dangled a plastic spider from the witch's hand. It was just too delicate a shape to cut out of wood.

Step 6: Plug It in and Enjoy

Picture of Plug It in and Enjoy

Plug in (careful of the cord and the movement of the garage door).

Enjoy the intensifying light effects as daylight fades. I like this design because it's very noticeable in daylight, but it really comes to life in the dark.

It's a traffic-stopper for sure. Can't wait for Halloween!


shandafin made it! (author)2017-11-01

Loved your idea and had to do it! Here is how it came out. Thanks for posting your great idea!

mcorbin (author)shandafin2017-11-04

Did you make separate pieces? That's a good idea - to fit whatever space you have. Nice job. Thanks for posting.

shandafin (author)mcorbin2017-11-06

Yes - all the pieces were separate. They were also made out of roofing felt because I had a ton of it leftover from another project. I created a frame out of scrap wood and stapled the roofing felt to the frame. #1 rule of DIY - use what you have!

myargonauts made it! (author)2017-11-04

My wife found this and wanted to add it to this year’s decoration. I love the trees but since our yard theme is a graveyard I changed up the center. I also used some Costco strip LED lights so I could change the color of needed. People loved it and they were using it as a photo backdrop. Thank you!

mcorbin (author)myargonauts2017-11-04

Yes, a lot of people come up to look and take photos with mine. Finally, someone has made a big variation on the design! A neighbor told me on Halloween that she would pay $$$ for something like this. I told her to stop by and we could work on one for her - but it will have to be completely different from the original. I"m going to start thinking about a new one.

kwalder (author)2017-10-26

I just made this, waiting for the paint to dry now, and to the people wondering how to draw it on plywood I say just draw it by hand. (I love that now someone posted the drawing from Illustrator, that is fantastic.) However I had to resize the image to fit my house and after spending waaaay too much time trying to figure it out, I just grabbed a pencil and an eraser and drew it all by hand. It really was not that difficult! Worth a try instead of spending a ton of time calculating and trying to draw a grid.

mcorbin (author)kwalder2017-10-26

Share your pictures with us when it's up and lit, please. Many improvements have been made to my original project, and now people don't ask me questions about it, they ask other posters. Very cool.

joecannon (author)2016-10-21

Added better photos. ??

mcorbin (author)joecannon2017-10-24

Looking through all the fantastic versions made over the last 3 or 4 years.........I can't get over the incredible detail you put into your trees and jack-o-lanterns. Really fantastic. You must be pretty skilled with tools.

Do you care to share your copy. I'd love to try this, going to have to do it the way you did. Thanks in advanced. is my email. Yours looks amazing as well. Love the faces in the tree's.

SpinninJenny (author)joecannon2017-07-30

I like the scary face on the tree on the left!

mcorbin (author)joecannon2016-10-23

Your trees are great. Wonderful detail.

I did the witches in 2 pieces just to make it easier to handle and store.

avcope made it! (author)2017-10-07

I saw in the comments questions about a template. I used Adobe Illustrator to Live Trace the image on this website and then I did a little tweaking. Hopefully this will help some of you. I used a projector to enlarge the image on the plywood to trace it.

mcorbin (author)avcope2017-10-24

This is great, as several people have asked for the pattern and I didn't have one. (Didn't really know I would do an instructable at that stage of the process.)

Your tweaks have improved the original. Thank you!

Pitaspet (author)avcope2017-10-08

Sorry tp sound so illiterate but can you get me a step by step way to draw it on paper. Do I print it out first from a printer? But how do you blow it up from there? Thanks

avcope (author)Pitaspet2017-10-09

I used a projector to project the image onto the plywood... then I traced the image.

If I was going to draw it onto a big piece of paper, I would draw grid lines on the big piece of paper and then draw in each grid the corresponding lines from my drawing. By doing it that way, you keep your drawing in perspective.

Not sure if that was helpful. Keep in mind, this will be seen at a distance at night. Perfection is not necessary. Once you start cutting it out on the wood, all those little detailed branches become a pain and you may want to make them simple branches. It really doesn't alter the finished product.

My friend who helped me cut it out, decided he was just going to do the witches.

mrsben (author)2017-10-23

Job well done!!!! They and those done by other commenters are fantastic. For those interested; a few years ago did a Witch silhouette including three cats (out of plywood) and obtained the 'free' pattern off of Martha Stewart's website, so that could be another option for your readers. (I just use a spotlight on mine.) That said; I have been mulling the idea of adding a tree to the display some day so do appreciate your idea so .... thank you for the inspiration.


mcorbin (author)mrsben2017-10-24

I know the MS witch you're talking about. She's a good one. Grandin Road is the collection.

There is one photo where she is silhouetted against a dark sky, which is fantastic.

mrsben (author)2017-10-23

Cont'd ..... Re my comment below, should mention she is life size, holds a broom and a lantern. I tweaked the pattern slightly as added a full length rod to support/stake her to the ground (did the same for the cats) and a raven perched on her shoulder. IF you do a web search, I am sure you'll still be able to find the patterns for them which can be printed off on regular size computer paper, to be taped together for tracing on to the plywood. Also shall mention; I purchased a (medium sized) lantern from Ikea and use a battery operated pillar candle for inside it. As for her broom it was a diy project as well using a fallen tree branch that had lots of character which I painted black etc. Hope the extra information will help.

KarenK115 made it! (author)2016-10-04

I loved making this! Since we are putting along our fence we painted the back a bright satin white to help the lights glow brighter. We also did purple for the witches pot!

The purple pot really makes it pop!

fitgirl0001 (author)KarenK1152017-10-14


mcorbin (author)KarenK1152016-10-04

Looks great. Thanks for the picture.

Wow! This is soooooooo cool!!!

KathleenM103 made it! (author)2017-10-15

I drew it freehand on plywood. Took several tries to get it right. Hardest part was making sure I followed the correct version. Once done, I was able to trace mine and make one for my sister. I put on my long privacy fence. Did some tweaking to account for trees be taller than fence.

ExcIsAc (author)2016-10-18

I copied your original design and made it with modifications to fit my single car garage door. Green LED lights behind the trees and around the backs of the witches with orange LEDs around the cauldron and on the fronts of the witches. Rather than put the spider in the pot we made a web in the tree with a spider (store bought) guarding it and have a bat (also store bought) on a string about to be cooked. I added motion to the display by mounting the motor from a microwave oven turntable behind a witch. There is a small crank shaft on the motor shaft to which is attached a string passing through an eye hook which then goes to the bat hanging over the pot. As the motor turns it raises and lowers the bat. The overall effect is very impressive.

Thanks for giving us the inspiration Mcorbin

fitgirl0001 (author)ExcIsAc2017-10-14

Wow! You took it to a whole new level!

mcorbin (author)ExcIsAc2016-10-18

Wow, that's next level! But my favorite part is the spider web. I might have to steal that idea!

Thank you for posting

JonathanS285 made it! (author)2016-10-23

Thank you so much for the idea!!! I added hinges, so that I can still "stuff" my car into the garage.

fitgirl0001 (author)JonathanS2852017-10-14


CGrellner (author)JonathanS2852017-10-02

Can you tell me exactly how you attached it and made sure you still could open your garage? With the hinges etc

JonathanS285 (author)CGrellner 2017-10-04

I think that I replied to the wrong email. Sorry for any delay. I used three hinges on each half to mount them to each side of the garage door frame. Then I used a simple latch on the inside and a black stick on the front to keep each half from opening from the wind.

mcorbin (author)CGrellner 2017-10-03

Oh, you want to ask Jonathan S285. He's the one who put the hinges on.

mcorbin (author)JonathanS2852016-10-23

Very clever!
How do you get in and out of the car?

dbrandt4 (author)2016-10-13

I made a smaller version for above my door, looks really great.

mcorbin (author)dbrandt42016-10-14

Very detailed. Nice.

dbrandt4 (author)mcorbin2016-10-16

Thanks, i used 1 of your photo's and inkscape to make a scalable vectordrawing. Dimmensions are about 60 inch at 30 inch.

Pitaspet (author)dbrandt42017-10-08

Could you tell me how I get this to get copied on my copy machine and then how do you blow it up from there? Thanks

avcope made it! (author)2017-10-07

I saw in the comments questions about a template. I used Adobe Illustrator to Live Trace the image on this website and then I did a little tweaking. Hopefully this will help some of you. I used a projector to enlarge the image on the plywood to trace it.

avcope made it! (author)2017-10-07

I saw in the comments questions about a template. I used Adobe Illustrator to Live Trace the image on this website and then I did a little tweaking. Hopefully this will help some of you. I plan to use a projector to enlarge the image on the plywood to trace it.

sellejklm (author)2017-08-27

was hoping to download the pattern. Am I missing something?

mcorbin (author)sellejklm2017-08-27

There is no pattern to download, as such. Please read through some of the comments for suggestions.

joemaca made it! (author)2016-10-31

Great idea and very good instructions. Got a lot of attention from friends and neighbours. You have encouraged a new group of people to become DIYers. Had to go with a slightly different version because of available space. Orange lights from ebay set it off really well.

mcorbin (author)joemaca2016-11-01

Thumbs up. third year mine was up, and still get great reactions.

you'll be able to use this for years.

dprescott50 (author)mcorbin2017-07-28

Do you have a paper pattern you can share

mcorbin (author)dprescott502017-08-20

sadly no. Please see other comments for suggestions.

restauyt (author)2017-08-20

I'm only 16 years old, but I'd like to try this. I guess you could say It's my first big project. I understand all the steps except for four. How were you able to screw the mounting cleats against the garage door with the screws?The second picture on step five makes it kind of clearer, but also not really.

I'd like clarification, but if not then maybe suggest some alternative options on mounting the silouette against the garage door.

mcorbin (author)restauyt2017-08-20

Okay, I will try to clarify if I can. Otherwise, maybe it is worthwhile to run it by someone who knows more about simple carpentry than I do ~ because I am a novice. I'm better at the creative side of things! But the great thing about this project is that it doesn't have to be perfect to look good. It is viewed at night, from a distance, and for Halloween rough edges and imperfections are okay.

Maybe you can see that our garage door is made of wood and is not flat. I wanted to screw 2 x 2's to that door and screw the piece on top of that, but it was a problem to drive screws that long into the door. I thought 1/x 2's would be too flat and not give the space I wanted between the door and the cutout. So we used 2 sets of 1 x 2's (they don't cost much and are easy to cut - bonus!), so the screws could be shorter. I laid the decoration down and cut lengths of 1 x 2's that would fit behind the seams. And a couple of pieces that would go behind the center of the pieces for some extra support (especially the tall side pieces). Now - keep in mind that the strings of lights have to go all along the back, so leave some space in the cleats - cut them 3 or 4 inches shorter than the seam. (see the step 5 picture of the lights on the back). The second set of cleats will be screwed on top of the first, but they don't have to be the same length. Your cutout will be screwed to the top layer of cleats.

Spending some time measuring for the cleats' placement on the door will mean it goes up more smoothly. Lay the entire cutout on the ground in front of the door, and mark where all of the cleats need to go. The trim on my garage door makes a natural ledge near the bottom, so I put the bottom edges there. Use at least 2 screws on each cleat to attach to the door. Screw in the 'second layer' of cleats, of course avoiding the screws in the first set. Now, with the lights already attached to the back of the cutout, (make sure you have planned where they will be plugged in), hold the pieces up one at a time and screw them into the top layer of cleats. You will want help with this part for sure. It would be difficult to keep them level and in the right place on your own. I started with the middle pieces so that I could get the best seam where they joined in the middle since this would be the most visible. I think I had all the pieces with lights leaning against the garage door, spaced as far apart as the cords with allow, then screwed on one at a time. So you have garage door, 1x2, 1x2, and cutout on top. Maybe you can improve on my method. This worked pretty well for me, but I just didn't know enough to figure out a more efficient way of doing it. Every year I get the pieces of 1 x 2's out, and just configure them however they work best. Sometimes they split when I try to screw them in, then I just get another piece. Like I said, pretty cheap and easy to cut.

I don't know how many things like this you have tried before, but I have a 17-year-old son, and I know that he can get pretty frustrated when things don't go as easily as he thinks they should. I have certainly felt that myself! Be patient with yourself, and if you get frustrated walk away and come back to it later. This is an awesome project, and you can see that lots of people have made their own version of it. That's what I'm most proud of. I still get amazing reactions when I put it up for Halloween. I hope I answered your questions. Let me know if you have any others. Good luck! ~Marilyn

karmastitch (author)2017-07-30

I absolutely love this, and would love to make it, but I can't draw to save my life !! Is there a pattern somewhere or can someone advise me on how to do it please?

Also....... we have a dark blue garage door, would it still work ?

mcorbin made it! (author)karmastitch2017-07-30

Sadly, when I finished the thing my pattern was all beat up and I didn't save it. The best I could advise it to print out the highest contrast photo of my design and enlarge it using the grid method. I'm not much at drawing myself, and I got my mom to help me. We got some nice silhouettes from Google images. You might even find something you like better. Look through all of the comments here. there is a sketch also, but it is not the final one that I enlarged.

When I first made the witches and painted them black, I attached the orange lights and stood them in my indoor hallway, which is a gray/blue. It looked good on that blue. I think you could play with various light colors -- orange, purple, white - since you can get lights cheaply enough these days. Look through all of the comments - people have done all kinds of things with the lighting - added more 'heat' around the cauldron, etc.

Good luck! You're getting an early start. Maybe I should think about a new design this year -- but I have used this one for 3 years, and I still get great reactions at Halloween.

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