Introduction: 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

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

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

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

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

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

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!


joecannon (author)2016-10-21

Added better photos. ??

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.

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.

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

Andy2017 made it! (author)2016-10-30

I Try it alsow. I made it whit Carton. Thanky you for your Idea. Sorry my bad English.. Greetings from Switzerland and Happy Halloween <3

mcorbin (author)Andy20172016-10-30

Happy Halloween to you! Do people celebrate this holiday in Switzerland?

Wow, now I've gone international. Thank you for sharing your photos with us.

keenyoung made it! (author)2016-10-30

I shamelessly copied your design by tile printing your image onto 100 sheets of letter paper. Transferred it to cheapo 3/8' particle board, and cut it out with a jigsaw. I cut one tree out to fit my single car garage. I kind of like the jaggy edges of the particle board. It's been a car stopper here in our Minneapolis suburb. I've been insufferably proud of myself all week! Thank you so much for the idea, the artwork, and the instructions.

mcorbin (author)keenyoung2016-10-30

You made it work!

violetloveshalloween (author)2016-10-25

This is absolutely amazing! I will definitely be adding it to my Halloween to-do list. Thank you for the wonderful tutorial!

thepoisonivy (author)2016-10-24

Bravo - I Love this!! Alas, I have no garage door but this could also be tweaked and done against a fence. Thank you for the Dremel Inspiration as well (had that thing for YEARS!).

mcorbin (author)thepoisonivy2016-10-24

Thanks~ look through the comments; people have done some clever adaptations. There's a good one someone made for a large front window. And, yes, someone did put theirs against a fence. Perfect backdrop, but you'd have to think about height and how that would look.
Did you see the giant skull and hands someone made that looks like it's climbing over a fence -- really nicely done -- and easier to cut since the design relies more on paint.

Dawsie (author)2016-10-23

love the idea lol it could also work for a Christmas scenario too thanks for the idea will have to pull my Dremel and that funnily looking bit on the end ? and give it a go for this Christmas ☺️

mcorbin (author)Dawsie2016-10-23

somewhere down in the comments I posted a photo of my Christmas piece. It is sort of a Bethlehem silhouette, but of course the possibilities are endless! It is what made sense to me as a silhouette. A nativity would be lovely too.

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.

mcorbin (author)JonathanS2852016-10-23

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

littlegamcracke (author)2016-10-22


joecannon made it! (author)2016-10-21

Awesome idea. My boys and I had a good time making this. Everybody loves it. It took some persistence with the dremel but worth the time. The witches are not split. I opted to keep them in one big piece. ???

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

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

JoseeL5 made it! (author)2016-10-17

Thank you for sharing this. I Love it so much I made one too - first time using a jigsaw but enjoyed every minute... I made a much smaller version to fit my living room window...

mcorbin (author)JoseeL52016-10-17

That's awesome! You're better with a jigsaw than I am. Maybe I should try it. The dremel tool has its ups and downs. Sometimes it's easy, sometimes it's a fight!

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.

CarynL2 (author)2016-10-11

This is just amazing- I'm going to try it on black vinyl and see how it turns out. You're really fabulous to share this with all of us- thanks so much!

mcorbin (author)CarynL22016-10-11

That will be interesting. Let us see some pics if you do it.

Jas068129 (author)2016-10-10

What fo you mean by you used the grid method to enlarge it?

mcorbin (author)Jas0681292016-10-11

when you have a small drawing, making a grid of lines over it will help you transfer or enlarge the drawing.

Make sure to choose a grid that is going to make sense on the large piece. For example, if you have a 4 foot by 8 foot sheet of plywood, you might want grids that are one square foot each. So you will have 4 squares by 8 squares to cover the whole sheet. Then make sure the grids on the small drawing are the same, 4 squares by 8 squares. This is easiest if the original drawing has the same ratio of length to width as the plywood.

Now you draw it on square by square. If a line crosses the grid a third of the way up one of the small squares on the original drawing, make it cross the grid line a third of the way up on the corresponding square of the large grid.

I googled it and found this:

There are tutorials on youtube, too.

Jas068129 (author)2016-10-10

Awesome job by the way

seanbell157 (author)2016-10-10

i opted for something different but was originally inspired by your post . i ghink it came out great for having no pattern. i love it .thanks for the inspiration.

mcorbin (author)seanbell1572016-10-10

They look like they're up to no good!

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!

mcorbin (author)KarenK1152016-10-04

Looks great. Thanks for the picture.

Ma3cobb (author)2016-10-01

Halloween project 2016! I took everyone's ideas and added into 1. It has a raven and eyes in the trees. I just looked at the original picture and hand drew everything onto the boards to begin.

mcorbin (author)Ma3cobb2016-10-01

Well done. Thank you for posting your pictures. Looks like everyone helped with the project. I love the eyes in the trees.

I would suggest covering the inside of the garage door windows with white paper, so that they don't distract from the scene.

Ma3cobb (author)mcorbin2016-10-01

Yea we had one mistake. Can you spot it In the picture? We covered it well but one picture I posted should make it obvious. Make your guess!

mcorbin (author)Ma3cobb2016-10-02

Well, nothing jumps out at me. The owl, maybe. In the shot where your son is painting, looks like it's not sitting on the branch.


Ma3cobb (author)mcorbin2016-10-02

Yes!! Haha it broke off when we were cutting from the vibration. I bought a 1" x 6" long bracket and secured it from behind. You can't even tell! Good eye. I used a jig saw by the way. I went through a couple of blades but it worked pretty well. I don't ever do wood working and the cheaper dremmel was $50 and a jig saw was bony $25 (FYI to whoever is going to attempt this next) also the wood was 1/2" sign board. Sign board was the highest recommended to be out I the weather and last for a long time. Like everyone else has said... Thanks for your creativity. I was able to make it but I never would have been able to dream up this project if you hadn't already done it!

pizzidave made it! (author)2014-10-24

Your instructable is a masterpiece. I did not have the time, materials, or storage space to make yours. I found it very inspiring and came up with a way to make a version of it. Here it is-

Thank you so much for your instructable and the inspiration!! Hope you like it!

mcorbin (author)pizzidave2016-10-01

I saw your monsters on Pinterest. That's fun, isn't it?

mcorbin (author)pizzidave2014-10-25

I love it. Very ingenious. I saw similar figures at the DollarTree store, and I thought they just wouldn't do. But you made them fabulous.

Thank you for giving me credit, and for the very flattering comments.
I'm having so much fun with this!

pizzidave (author)mcorbin2014-10-25

They are from Dollar Tree, good eye! I'm happy you loved it and credit where credit is due. Your project lit the spark.

oneluckycharm (author)2016-09-30

This is a great idea where can i print out the drawing ?

mcorbin (author)oneluckycharm2016-09-30

If you will look through the comments, toward the bottom, I attached a sketch that I used. It's not quite the finished product, but next to it is a good high contrast photo of the finished design. I no longer have a pattern to email you, so my best suggestion is to print that out, and use the grid method to enlarge it. Good luck!
I'm not much at drawing on my own, and I found some good stuff when I searched google images for 'halloween silhouettes'

njah18 (author)2016-09-10

Looks really cool!

Swansong (author)2016-09-07

We need to get in and out of the garage every day or I would definitely do this. It looks awesome!

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