Monday, January 5, 2009
These are the Christmas gifts I made for my friend Robyn this year. Since gifting has been accomplished, it is finally safe to blog about them. I thought I'd try to do some old fashioned silhouette portraits because I've been absolutely charmed by articles about them in past MS Livings and also recent displays like Emily's bedroom in OR. My constant thought being, 'Hey, I bet I could do that.'
The key to a successful silhouette portrait is, of course, a really good profile shot of the tot in question, hopefully with a passable hairdo. This presented me with several problems, as I was trying to keep the gift a surprise, Robyn lives two states away from me, and of course, time was of the essence. So in my case, many minutes were spent crawling through all available photos of these cuties trying to find the perfect existing profile shots. This will be way easier for you if you can produce your own.
Also helpful is a high contrast setting for the photo, like a white wall or a sheet behind the subject if you happen to be able to set up a shot specifically for the portrait. Backlighting would also be a great idea, but not strictly necessary.
Here is my process, with a side note that there are probably easier ways to accomplish the same thing. If I wasn't such a Photoshop doofus, I may have done it differently. Anyhoo, here's what I did.
1) After finding the digital shots to use, I cropped to the needed area, increased the contrast to make the profiles stand out more, then printed them on my laser printer at approx. three times the finished size.
2) Using a thin black marker, I carefully traced the shape of the profile and hair by hand to make it really stand out sharply from the background. I can do a much better job at this by hand.
3) I scanned in the enhanced profiles at a large resolution, then zoomed in and carefully erased everything but the profiles in photoshop. Then I filled in the outlined head with black.
4) Then I took the images into Illustrator and drew in details missing from the photos, like their necks and shoulders, and little details I could do more easily and cleanly with vector drawing tools, like wisps of hair.
5) I broke away from strict silhouette method by adding a little white line to show the outline of their cheeks. I felt like it really added life to the portraits by making their expressions clearer.
6) I output the completed portraits at actual size, which was about three times smaller then the scans. The great thing about that is when you reduce the size, it also makes all the little imperfections invisible. I output them to photo paper in order to get a really rich, uniform black, and mounted them inside two IKEA Ribba shadowbox frames that I had already lined with patterned paper. Done!