I had mentioned you about negative space in my previous post. Silhouettes are positive spaces. So we can say negative space and silhouette complete each other, can’t we? Well, I say.

Silhouette is a solid shape of a single color; space where there is no light. We name ‘silhouette’ what we can’t see. Art has something with that unseen, which is a way to deliver a message visually or to make us feel an emotion; in fine art, cinema, animation, photography, architecture, urban designgraphic design

silhouette-236x300The word ‘silhouette’ is derived from French finance minister Etienne de Silhouette, who was forced by France’s credit crysis.

People started to use the name to indicate cheap things; this is how his name became synonymous to anything done cheaply.

In the mid-18th century, silhouette profiles cut from black card were the cheapest way of recording a person’s appearance.

We focus here more on drawing; so let’s see how to make silhouette in drawing:

Human figures on schoeller paper, 01.2015
  1. Draw the outline of the object(s).
  2. Ignore inner details and fill inside with a flat color which is generally black.
  3. Set the background with a light color, which is generally white.

You can choose any color for coloring the positive space. Throughout the history, black ink’s been used on white paper which comes along and affects as black and white in our works today.

Bicycle kick is such a cool motion I think, but when I googled it and looked at them to see in a silhouette way, some of them turned into funny photos.

bcycle kick.jpg
Silhouette of a bicycle kick, 12.2016

 Football images both have many ‘cool’ and ‘funny’ figures (though I appreciate their endeavor -still “heheh”).

bird silhouette.jpg
2.0 black pen, 12.2016

Silhouette of a tiny but fat bird. I draw the outline with a 2B pencil then I used 2.0 black pen to fill inside.

Here is a silhouette of a traveler man, an actor, who is Adam Driver.

Adam Driver, 2B, 4B and 8B pencils, 12.2016

Drawing the structure first is the most important point. Because if you build your drawing into a bad construction when you finish your drawing you will see many mistakes on it. As an example, I used to start a portrait drawing from eyes. In the end I was asking “Why is the head shape bad? Is the nose too long?”. The solution is drawing the construction first and placing it in the middle of the paper.

Well, this is how silhouette is in a drawing. Now shall we see more about it in other branches?

If I will show you Freddie Mercury’s iconic silhouette in which raising his fist in the air, you will almost see his yellow leather jacket. That is the power of silhouette.

If you create a character, its silhouette should be recognizable; because silhouettes are important to be remembered by people. It is kind of power actually that an artist holds.

Think about architecture.
Buildings with remarkable silhouettes are becoming symbols of cities. Travel agencies use those silhouettes in their advertisements or to label the city they use that famous silhouette.
Here I gather some famous silhouettes of buildings.

Some famous silhouettes

(From left to right)
Statue of Liberty (NY), Tower Bridge (London), Eiffel Tower (Paris), Sydney Opera House, Brandenburg Gate (Berlin), Christ the Redeemer (Rio de Janeiro), Walt Disney Concert Hall (LA)

Some animation characters:

Carl Fredricksen, Genie, Mickey Mouse, Homer Simpson, Merida, Minion

For example, for Merida (Brave) I had read that many animators have worked so detailedly on her hair for a more realistic look. What they have created is quite impressing. They made those curls short, long, fat, thin, stretched, compressed, bouncy and stiff. They set the length, size and flexibility of each curl.

In cinema in some scenes you can see the use of silhouettes but in here I tell you the ones with posters of silhouettes like E.T. (1982), The Shawshank Redemption (1994), Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006), The Man from Earth (2007), Gone Girl (2014), Nocturnal Animals (2016).


All of them give messages with those silhouettes. They make us wonder, excited, scared of something etc. In Gone Girl’s poster we can see the lost man under the spotlight; The man from Earth like a human above the world spiritually; The Shawshank Redemption freedom (well, wait, spoiler!?)…

For a silhouette study, you can draw your favorite character, a building, pet if you have or a face from the profile (and yet when we will be in face tutorial you will see a huge progress).

For this post, I wrote ‘silhouette’ so many times (25 times only in this post), so I think I deserve a comment or a like, ha? 😀 Let me know if it helped you ^^

See you in the next post!

Source for Merida:

Source for the history of Silhouette:

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