Paper-silhouette art

Make cutouts come to life with this simple DIY art project.

  • Step 1

  • Step 2

  • Step 3

  • Step 4

  • Step 5

Photographs: Jolie Ruben

You’ll need:

* Old photographs or a camera and printer to make new ones
* Black construction paper
* Scissors
* Tape
* An assortment of picture frames


1 Find a photograph of a loved one in an active pose. Maybe cousin Mark is running toward the camera, or niece Sarah is jumping on the bed? Or gather friends and stage new shots specifically for this project. The more dynamic the photo, the better.
2 Cut out the figure from the photograph.
3 Trace the figure onto black construction paper and cut it out.
4 Tape the new silhouette onto white paper and insert into frame.
5 Repeat the process and arrange the frames so that each silhouette seemingly interacts with the adjacent figures. Note how Sokoler’s silhouettes appear to be pulling each other from one frame to the next.

“I love the idea of keeping the kid alive inside of you,” says recent FIT graduate Katie Sokoler, as she kneels atop a roll of black paper almost twice her size. “All of my projects have a playtime theme, but this one is inspired by the scene in Peter Pan where he tries to sew his shadow back on.” Sokoler, who’s the official photographer for Improv Everywhere, is referring to her college thesis, the Shadow Project, a series of photographs featuring life-size shadows interacting with real people. “I put shadow cutouts on walls all over Brooklyn and waited for people’s feet to match up,” she explains. The Rockland, New York, native spent two weeks (six hours every day) lurking behind cars, waiting for the exact moment that passersby lined up with her art. “It was tough because I wanted the right kind of person—an old man looked better matched with a little boy shadow and a hurried lady looked better with a lighthearted girl cut-out.” Sokoler posted thesis samplings on her blog ( and was soon getting thousands of hits, including visitors from Germany and Turkey. Here, she shows us how to adapt shadows and make playful silhouette art that can be hung in your apartment.

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