How To Create Quick Silhouettes In Photoshop

Saikat Basu 27-03-2010

A silhouette is a drawing of the outline of an object, filled in with some solid color. From silhouette portraits to the famous iPod silhouette ad, they are as common as graffiti on walls. Or even as traffic signposts or as symbols of his and hers on lavatory doors.


On a very basic day to day level, silhouettes find a lot of uses in presentations and displays. As for silhouette clipart, we have quite a few in the MS Office Clipart gallery itself. And, of course, gathering silhouettes with a Google search is not a problem.

But what if you needed a particular type of silhouette and a search turned up dry? You need to call up your neighborhood designer or fall back on your own design skills. Your Photoshop skills may be rusty, but thankfully creating a basic silhouette in photoshop doesn’t call for a Picasso. It’s just a few easy steps.

The 10 Steps To Creating A Silhouette in Photoshop

First, we head to a site like Flickr to pick the image we can use for our silhouette in Photoshop. The ideal image would be of your object framed against a uniform background. Sifting through the thousands, I picked this image:

silhouette in photoshop

Step 1

The tool that we will be using for creating a basic silhouette is the Pen Tool.


The Pen Tool How To Use Photoshop Pen Tool Read More is the most precise tool in Photoshop’s arsenal and just the thing for the job of following the outline of an image. It may seem difficult to maneuver at first, but with some practice you can click points around the image and draw around the shape.

The great benefit is it allows us to create vector shapes which we can scale up or down as required without loss of image quality.

silhouette in photoshop

Step 2

Open the image in Photoshop and select the Pen Tool from Photoshop’s Tools palette (or press the P key). Three options (Shape, Path and Fill Pixels) are associated with the Pen tool as seen in the Options Bar at the top. To draw vector shapes, opt for the Shape icon.


silhouette in photoshop

Step 3

The aim of the exercise is to create a black filled shape from the original. Set the foreground and background colors to their defaults of Black and White by pressing the D key or by manually selecting the color from the swatches on the Tools palette.

photshop silhouette

Step 4

With the Pen tool start tracing the outline of figures. As we begin shaping with the Pen tool, Photoshop fills the shape with the foreground color (Black). As the Pen tool starts going around the curves, the foreground color blocks our view.


photshop silhouette

Step 5

To offset this, we can change the Opacity of the Shapes layer in the Layers panel. The Shapes layer (where we are using the Pen tool) is selected. Move the slider to change the Opacity to anything between 50%-60%. Now we can see our way around the image.

photshop silhouette

Step 6

After completely going around the image, we have the following result. Raise the Opacity slider to 100% to get your black filled silhouette.


creating a silhouette in photoshop

Step 7

The shape is still a part of the original image. To create a new silhouette document, create a blank Photoshop document with a white background (or any solid color) from File > New.

Step 8

To move the silhouette from its old location to the new document, keep both document windows side by side. Select the Shapes layer and drag it into the new document. The silhouette layer now occupies a new shapes layer above the white background.

creating a silhouette in photoshop

Step 9

Using the Free Transform command (Edit > Free Transform Path) we can resize the vector shape to any proportion without loss in image quality. Press Shift while using the Free Transform to keep the silhouette in proportion to its width and height.

Step 10

Save the image file for use in your presentation.

Are You Ready to Create Silhouettes?

This is just a basic tutorial for drawing silhouette shapes. The web is chock full of interesting variations, like combining silhouettes or filling them up with psychedelic patterns.

As a teaser, check out – Creating a Rocking Silhouette in Photoshop . It’s a great silhouette tutorial on one of the Photoshop sites we had featured in 10 Websites To Make You A Photoshop Ninja 10 Websites to Make You a Photoshop Ninja The web is full of amazing resources that you can use to become a Photoshop expert in no time. Here are 10 of the best... Read More . But even a ninja needs basic training.

That’s where our free eBook – An Idiot’s Guide To Photoshop Learn Photo Editing in Photoshop: Get the Basics Down in 1 Hour Photoshop is an intimidating program—but with just one hour, you can learn all of the basics. Grab a photo you want to edit, and let's get started! Read More could be a great stepping stone. Don’t forget to visit our previous posts on everything that’s Photoshop.

Do you have your own method of creating silhouettes? Let us know in the comments.

Image Credit: World Economic Forum

Image Credit: Michal Sanca via

Related topics: Adobe Photoshop, Image Editor.

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  1. Anonymous
    April 21, 2015 at 7:08 pm

    and so is saikat

  2. Anonymous
    April 21, 2015 at 7:00 pm

    this website is stupid

  3. vik
    March 28, 2010 at 3:08 am

    The link to the free ebook "An Idiot..." is this:

    D:\My Documents\Content Management Work\Work Folder\MakeUseOf\An Idiot’s Guide To Photoshop

    • Saikat
      March 28, 2010 at 9:38 am

      My bad. Thanks for that...will have it corrected. I opened by the insert link box and probably forgot to paste it correctly.

  4. Alessandro
    March 27, 2010 at 10:41 am

    Hi! Why use the pen to outlinable?Why not use the filter extracts...Why not use the filter extracts

    • Saikat
      March 27, 2010 at 11:35 am

      Actually, you can. You can even use the magic wand if the background is uniform. Or for that matter a quick mask.The pen tool is the most precise tool to draw around an object, that's the basic reason. For images with more straighter lines, you can go with the pen tool. for softer lines, you can use extract or quick mask.

  5. joe ekine
    March 27, 2010 at 10:29 am

    Nice tutorial, thanks. Working with the pen tool takes up much time. ^^