Introduction: 3D Wooden Portrait

So my idea was to add a new twist on those 3-colour stencils you see all over the place. I really like that style but i wanted to add a little texture and depth to the whole thing.

So i thought why not make it out of wood and use a different colour wood for each layer. That way you get that kind of trippy abstract perspective when you see it from an angle but it all comes together to form an image when you see it straight on.

Materials needed:

- Wood: oak, pine, or coloured wood depending on your budget.

- Jigsaw

- Router

- Sanding paper (80-160 grit)

- Stains: Ebony and Antique pine

- Coping saw (for the niggly bits)

- Chisel (for cleaning up)

- Clamps (the more the better but at least 4)

- Brushes

Step 1: Picking an Image and Creating Layers

So i opted with the classic Shining image of Jack Nicholson peeping his head through the door. I thought it would be instantly recognisable. But you can choose any. What's important to bare in mind is that there needs to be a strong contrast between the shadows, midtones and highlights.

Anyway, take your image into photoshop and break it down into 3 layers (Highlights, Mid-tones, and Shadows). The shadow will just be a block colour of black at the back so dont worry about this. Try to make sure that these are block colours and not too detailed. This will make it so much easier when cutting the shape into the wood.

Print off each of them. I did A3 but the bigger the easier the cutting will be next.

Step 2: Tracing Onto the Wood

Next align each of your layers to a piece of wood.

Cut out the shapes for each layer so you end up with a tracing of each of the mid-tones and highlights on their own piece of wood. Because the shadows will just be filling negative space you can leave this as just a flat block.

Make sure you mark which areas are waste wood so you dont get confused when it comes to the next step.

Step 3: Jigsawing!

Now it's time to get cutting.

I used a jig saw to cut out each of the shaped for the mid-tone and highlight layers. You can use a coping saw if you feel up to it but it's a lot of work.

This is an arduous process but be patient. I used soft wood and in some of the more detailed areas i found them snapping off.

Tip: When jigsawing try not to make sharp turns, you will burn the wood. Instead use the waste wood around the shapes to manoeuvre the jigsaw around so you hit the correct angles.

Step 4: Routing the Bottom Layers

To insure that each layer fit into itself comfortably i routed the above layer into it.

For instance, i routed the shaped of the midtones into the shadow layer so that they would fit together. I, in turn, routed the shape of the highlights into the midtone layer so they would fit in there.

This also insured that the final piece was not too thick.

Tip: Constantly check that each piece fits into the area you route out for it. They should be snug but not so tight you cant pull them out.

Step 5: Staining

I originally wanted to use different colour woods but i couldn't get my hands on them. That and this was my first time doing this so i didn't want to risk expensive material.

Instead i decided to stain each layer. I stained the bottom or shadow layer with an Ebony stain, the mid-tones i stained with an Antique Pine stain, and i left the Highlight layer as it was because it was a light colour.

When staining be careful that you dont leave pools of stain on the wood. It can happen easily as the pieces are small and intricate. Make sure to sand in between coats as well to get a fine finish.

Step 6: Glueing and Fitting

Finally, i glued each of the layers in place.

Starting with placing the mid-tones into the shadow layer. Lay a thing layer of wood glue in the routed areas. Then place the midtones in on top. Press hard and wipe away any excess glue that might squeeze out. Apply clamps and leave to dry for at least 2 hours.

Tip: Apply clamps evenly and use scrap wood as buffer between the clamp and the finished piece.

Once dry do the same for the highlights. Glue in the routed spaces created in the mid-tone layer. Clamp and leave to dry over at least 2 hours.

Apply a coat off clear varnish if you like or leave with that slightly unfinished feel depending on what look you like.

And voila!