How to Make a Shadow Picture!




Introduction: How to Make a Shadow Picture!

The idea of a shadow picture is to layer multiple sheets of paper together in various numbers to inhibit the sun's light to shine through. The varying thicknesses create lighter and darker areas that create a picture. Making one can be difficult or can be easy, largely depending on the type of picture chosen. (I.E. A picture with frequent, sharp contrasts versus a picture that has larger, less contrasting shades. It generally is hard to determine what pictures may be difficult or easy until you begin a project.)

These generally take me between 3-5 hours. All shown pictures took me about 3 hours, and the Blue Oyster Cult picture took me closer to 5 hours. It is definitely worth the time.

(Props to my friend for making them before me and giving me the idea,)

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Step 1: Get Supplies!

The supplies you need are very basic...

::6+ sheets of printer/blank paper
Each sheet can be used as:
1: The sheet used to trace the initial picture to determine shades. This will also be cut up.
2. Your initial picture. I copied photos into Word and enlarged to taste.
3. "White" layer sheet. This sheet will be on top of all pages. I generally type lyrics onto this sheet. This sheet is not cut.
4. "Light Grey" Layer sheet. This sheet (alone with "White" sheet) creates the light grey areas. This will be cut to include L. Grey, D. Grey, and Black.
5. "Dark Grey" Layer sheet. This sheet layered on both the White and L Grey creates D Grey. This area will also become a layer for Black.
6. "Black" layer sheet. This layer consists of 4 sheet thicknesses.

::X-Acto Knife
::Rubber Cement (I avoid glue/modge podge because these can warp paper easily.)
::Lightbox (if you do not have a lightbox, an adequate "flat" light source will work such as a window so you can write on the paper)
::4+ Bobby Pins, tape, or other means of security.
::Cutting Board
::Printer (optional, if you choose to find a picture on the internet)

Step 2: Finding Your Picture.

Pick whoever you'd like person, place, or thing. (I tend to pick subjects that do no have a background)

Chose your picture. In Word:
1. Enlarge picture to desired size (try to make the margins as small as possible for maximum area)
2. Edit picture to black and white. This should make choosing color values much easier.
3. Print.
4. (If necessary, pay attention to Left and Right directions. My friend made a Jimi Hendrix picture that ended up with him playing guitar right handed.)

Rant: {{And now, you don't have to do the paper with the words on it for the top. I chose that because they're lyrics and it'd go pretty well. On the picture you saw on the introduction, they words for the newer one were the lyrics for the first few tracks up to Kashmir on Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti.
On the other one, are the lyrics for Stairway to Heaven repeated 1 and a half times to fit entirely.
On another I made, was Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon prism. And I put the entire DSOTM lyrics on the top page... very very cool. A note on that, for the DSOTM prism, I actually used color on that. For the rainbow, I cut proper sized rays from colored tissue paper. It turned out Great. I ended up giving it to someone for their birthday though. (black and white pictures are still preferable.)}}

Step 3: Tracing

First, get your picture and place a blank sheet of paper over it and put bobby pins on it to hold it so it doesn't move. Crucial. This will become your sheet that you will use to cut every piece you make.

Second, trace the outline and ANY shading differences. To do this, its good to use a lightbox (in the dark makes it easier).

So then, take the two papers apart and put your picture aside for reference.

If you don't have a light box, I would try to place the sheets on a window and trace that.

Step 4: Deciding Color Values.

This is a very important step.

In shadow pictures, you can have as many shades as you'd like. I would strongly suggest using 3 sheets in addition to your top sheet. (Thus making 4 layers. I always use that number, and I will use that many for this Instructable.)

So therefore, you have 4 colors to choose from.
B=Black (4 layers)
D=Dark Gray (3 layers)
L=Light Gray (2 layers)
W=White (1 layer)

Look at your picture, you can obviously see the darkest and lightest points, right? Label the traced sections as (B) or (W), respectively.

Then you see your gray areas.
The lighter will be (L)
The darker will be (D)

My picture is a little tricky because Plant is in the shadows and some of his body is black, going into the darkness becoming black also. At this point, my picture looks kind of ridiculous. I have half a man on a page... But once this is done, the darkness seems to envelope him, and the effect is more apparent.

Step 5: Cutting the White Areas

Okay. Let's start cutting the paper!
First of all, get another blank piece of paper and attach it to the back of the paper with your color values.
For this, I would recommend putting the bobby pins all the way around to hold it better.

Right now, ONLY CUT THE WHITE (W) AREAS!!!!!!! Only cut the white, or else it will mess it up.

If ANY ANY ANY part you cut out has another color value in it besides white, SAVE THAT piece!!!
Any other piece that doesn't have another color value can be thrown away.
(see picture 4)

Step 6: Cutting the Light Grey

Part two is similar to part 1.
This time, you will cut out the (L) Light gray areas AS WELL AS the (W) areas.

So how you do that is you take off the (W) paper layer and put it aside.
And you put on a NEW paper behind the color value page (which should have the W areas cut. (see pictures 2&3)
((What this does is it prevents you from cutting too much off that layers you've already done. As long as you follow the already cut lines on the color values, you don't need to have the completed layers still there.))
Then cut the LIGHT gray areas and the White areas out and you'll have something similar to picture 4.

Step 7: Check Out Your Progress

Check out your work:

Take your top sheet (in my case, it has lyrics) and put the (W) and (L) layers beneath it. Hold it up to the light, and you can see some progress. :)

Step 8: Cutting the Dark Grey

Repeat the process:

Cut the dark grey areas as well as the light grey and white areas. You picture should follow something similar to how my picture shows.

Step 9: Cutting the Black

This is the most frustrating step. What you do, is glue the first three layers together. (Or however many layers of gray you decided to do, excluding the final (B) layer)

"But now about those papers I've had laying aside...?"
Okay! Now what you do is cut those out and glue them in their appropriate spots. This will add SO much detail and make your picture better. Unfortunately, it's slightly complicated to paste TINY little scraps to that.
So instead of cutting new papers to paste, cut out the shape from my color values paper and pasted those to the picture. This should be fine, since you won't need to reference it any more.

So make sure you have everything all glued down.

Step 10: You Enjoy the Hell Out of It.

Yes. You're done. Your hand is cramped and and your eyes can't focus. That three hours devoted to your new, lovely, picture.

The way I display it is by getting a pants/skirt hanger and hanging it on my blinds. Looks very pretty.

Congratulations! I hope you enjoyed this Instructable!


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    26 Discussions


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Newest Shadow Picture: Blue Öyster Cult album cover. (: Picture one is the picture created, the second in the original.

    Photo06121941_1.jpgBOCalbum cover.jpg

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Edit :: Thanks for the high ratings, everyone. :) Based on some comments, I realized the Instructable is confusing in some areas, so I just went back and erased many of my unnecessary commentary. I also clarified some steps and what exactly each layer is. I hope this will help~



    9 years ago on Introduction

    These are great! It's also nice to see someone with such stellar taste in music! I'll be doing one of these for sure.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    thank you, much. (: make sure if you make on that you post it so we can see what you made!


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I think I'll be doing one of Jaco... already found the right image : )


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I felt that the directions were a little confusing, especially since it shows you cutting multiple layers of paper at once as opposed to cutting the guide paper and only one other sheet at the same time, which seemed to work the best to me. I had to repeatedly sharpen my knife as well. Once I figured out what I was doing, this became a fun project with very good results.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks. (:

    I'm pretty sure that i was only cutting one sheet per time along with the guide sheet. I'm thinking that you may have gotten confused when i was demonstrating how the layers would look together.

    And as far as knife sharpening, i can't help you there. I just used a Victorinox pocket knife. They are my favorite knives for everything. But i did use a sharp knife to do the entire project without it getting dull.

    And what did you do a picture of, may i ask? (:


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    :D That is amazing! I really dig those feet. ;) thanks for sharing!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    this is so cool!!
    i don't think i have the patience to do this though.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Hah! This is amazing! nice to know there are other Led Zeppelin fans:)!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    well, i tried to do Jimmy Page. and i decided to stop at tracing because there was no way I'd have enough patience to continue this picture... but it still looks really cool just after tracing it, so i went over the pencil with ink and hung it up in my room instead of cutting it up.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Haha. I just noticed a mistake. On the part where I'm finished cutting the second layer, I didn't cut out his hand holding the microphone's wire. be careful.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    this is awsome... im in to the papery stuff so ill have to try this sometime :D


    I think this is a fabulous project! I'll be linking in today's Daily DIY.