Introduction: Spin Art Silhouette

About: I am an engineer who enjoys tinkering with projects in my spare time.

I have two young boys and I was looking for a way capture them growing up. I am also always on the lookout for projects we can do together. This turned out to be a great project for all of us.

Step 1: The Idea

I had seen silhouette family pictures before but they are typically just black images on a white background (or maybe superimposed on a sunset). I liked the idea of the silhouette but wanted a bit more colour. And wanted the boys to help.

Lucky, while working in the garage a case across an old food processor that I had been keeping. The plastic food section broke long ago and I’ve had to fish it out of the trash twice. My wife is not one for keeping ‘useless’ stuff around and I am not one for labeling things as useless.

The food processor served two purposes in this project. 1) the motor for a spin art machine 2) showing my wife that I have not been storing this thing for nothing.

Step 2: Building the Spin Art Machine

This part was pretty simple. I just took the food processor motor section, which still worked fine, and removed the plastic shaft that used to be the centre of the plastic food section.

I mounted the plastic shaft into a block of scrap wood and then mounted that to a 1/8 sheet of MDF that was slightly larger than the canvases I was going to use.

Then I put the unit on the ground and surrounded in with boxes to prevent paint splatter from escaping.

Step 3: Creating the Silhouette

For the silhouette I took photos of my son’s in profile.

I imported them into a art program on my computer (I used Corel Draw but almost any program would work). I split the photo into two half’s and printed them on 8 1/2 x 11 paper. I could of saved a step if I could have printed it on 11 x 17 paper.

I then laid down painters tape on a scrap piece of melamine wood. I laid them in strips overlapping them partially. I did this again to make the layers of tape thicker and stronger.

I then put the photo of my sons head on top of the layers of tape and made sure the two photo half’s lined up. I taped them down and used an exacto knife to cut along the outline of my sons head.

Once I finished this I peeled off the scrap tape and threw it away. Then I carefully peeled up the silhouette tape of the head and transferred it to the canvas.

Step 4: Spin Fun

Finally came the fun part.

I mounted the canvas on the 1/8” MDF board. I used two small screws on the backside into the canvas frame to hold it down.

I then popped it on to the food processor and switched it on. The processor has an on/off switch that can be left in the on position. This allows me to turn it on and off by plugging it in or unplugging it.

We cranked it on, got the canvas up to speed, and let the paint dropping fun begin.

I had an assortment of paints and the kids picked the colours they wanted to use.

Step 5: The Reveal

After we finished dropping paint on the canvas we turned off the food processor and let the canvas come to a stop. This is the first time you actually get to see what the colours look like together.

I then pulled the canvas off the motor, unscrewed it and set it aside to dry.

A few hours later, depending on how much paint was used, the canvas is dry and the silhouette can be peeled off.

This is where it all comes together and you get to see if all the work was worth it.

The profiles turned out better than I expected they wood. The outlines really pop next to the colour streaks.

All in all I am very happy with the way these turned out. We did two for my older son and one for my younger son. The first one was the test and second one was where we perfected the process and used their favourite colours.

These are hanging on the wall now and are a creative snapshot in time of what they look like.

Step 6: Failures

Although this project worked out great for its intended purpose, silhouetted profiles, I had some difficulties for other ideas.

Another plan was to make a silhouette of my sons name. I thought this would look good, but unfortunately the speed of the spinning paint somehow managed to get underneath the tape in certain spots. The end result was kind of a mess. I will probably salvage it by painting over the letters with black but I don't think this will give very crisp edges.

In hindsight, the profile silhouettes worked out ok because the paint would land on the tape (profile cut-out) and fly off onto the canvas. It never had anywhere to blast under the tape.

I think I will try to solve this problem by putting on my tape silhouette and then painting the entire canvas, tape and all, with a white coat. I think this may create a seal along the tape edges and prevent the paint streaks from blasting under. However, it may just make the tape difficult to remove without destroying the canvas. To be determined.

For now I am happy with the profile silhouettes.

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