DIY | How To Make Silhouette Art (+ Umbrella and Rain)

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For those of you who stop by regularly, you might remember my Photoshopped Wall Art that I gave Justin for Valentine's Day. I used real photographs of us together to create silhouette art and graphic backgrounds. Check out the images of the photoshop art here.

Anyway, I've had a lot of questions and requests about how I made the art. Today's post is a step by step tutorial for how to cut out and create the silhouettes. It also includes a tutorial for adding the umbrella and rain found in this particular piece of art:

How To Cut Out A Silhouette For Photoshop Art

1. First, choose an image that you will be using to cut your characters out. The higher resolution, the better. Images with a simpler background also are helpful, but not necessary. Open the image in Photoshop. 

2. Second, choose the quick selection tool. Choose the size of the brush. I generally start with a larger brush to quickly grab the bulk of the bodies, then switch to a smaller brush when dealing with the outsides and limbs. Sweep the brush around within the characters you want to cut out. You’ll notice it will show you what has been selected. It is better to go with too much rather than too little.

3. Zoom in and check your selection. In some areas, the brush may have selected more space than you intended to. If this happens, change the brush from add (+) to subtract (-). Use this to remove the negative, unwanted space. See below for an example. 

4. Once you’re satisfied with what parts of the image are selected, choose copy (control/command-C) and then paste (control/command-V). This will create a new layer with only your characters.

5. Hide the bottom (original) layer by making it no longer visible. You likely will not be using it again, so you can delete it if you wish, but I tend to keep it around, just in case I need to correct the silhouette.

6. Next, you will turn the cut-out image into a silhouette. Create a new layer ABOVE the cut-out characters (this new layer should now be the top layer). Name the layer "Black" and then, using the bucket tool, fill this layer with black.

7. Right click on the black layer and select “Create Clipping Mask.” If that is not an option, try right clicking on the top right corner of the layers view box.

8. Now, your cut out characters should appear as black silhouettes.

Want to add an umbrella to protect them from rain?
1. Create a new circle shape using black. It should be quite large, as the top curve of the circle will be the top of the umbrella.  
2. Select two smaller circles, one on each half (left and right), to create the shape of the umbrella. I used the circle select tool, selected the first circle shape, then cut it (control/command-X). Then, I repeat this a second time on the other side of the umbrella.
3. Next, erase or cut any remaining parts of the original circle that do not contribute to the umbrella shape. 

4. Using the shape rectangle tool, create a tall, slender stick to be the pole by which a character would hold up the umbrella. Center it on the umbrella and then merge the two umbrella layers.
5. Move the umbrella layer underneath the other silhouettes and place it generally where you'd like it.

6. Then, consider rotating the umbrella in order to make it appear more lifelike (who holds an umbrella perfectly straight up?!).

Want to add rain in the background?
1. Add a new layer underneath everything. 

2. Use the shape tool to create a rectangular shape that spans from one side of the umbrella to the other and is tall enough to go all the way down to the bottom of the image.
3. The top corners of the box will be visible above the umbrella. That’s fine. Right click on the layer and rasterize, then use the eraser tool to get rid of any part of the layer that shows on top of the umbrella. 
4. Select your newest layer. Fill it with any color (I’d suggest some variation of blue or white). Then, select Filter > Add Noise. 
5. Select Filter > Blur > Motion Blur and use the following stats to make the rain apparent. 

Here's what the rain will look like at 100% (depending on your browser, you may have to enlarge to view)...

Feel free to play around with colors! If you want a larger canvas to work with, change the canvas size and play around... Here's what I ended up with:

Want to find more Photoshop tutorials? Might I suggest this tutorial for making glitter textures or this glitter masking tutorial (perhaps you'll make a "silhouette" out of glitter!)


  1. Oh my goodness, I started reading this all and then I got overwhelmed. I only have Elements. I wonder if I can do some of these same cool things with it?? I'll have to play around and see what I can figure it out. Right now it's completely intimidating and makes me want to cry. : (

  2. Lear something new about Photoshop and very useful too.

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