- how to use the pen tool to make silhouettes
First of all, you’re going to want to choose an image that will look good as a silhouette, something recognizable to the character. A profile works really great for these things, but certain characters may have distinct shapes as it is. Only you can judge that, really. For this tutorial, I’m using Eleven’s profile.
Select your pen tool in Photoshop. Use the following settings:
Now zoom in very close to your subject. I usually start on the hair, but you can start wherever.
Basically, the pen tool creates an “anchor” every time you click. It’s incredibly useful for getting an accurate outline of your subject. I prefer it to any of the lasso tools, because every time you click an anchor, you’re able to undo (ctrl+z). So you can stop in the middle or undo your last mistake without losing the entire progress.
What you want to do is place an anchor (click with the pen tool) each time the shape changes. The less bumpy the shape, the less you’ll have to click. See for example, I’ve started below:
Once you’re finished, don’t let your beginning anchor and ending anchor touch. Because once you do, you’ll create a path instead and we don’t want that. So leave them just a tiny bit apart. It should look like this:
Now, still with the pen tool selected, right click -> “make selection”. The option to feather your selection will come up, but I just enter 0 for now.
Then you’re going to want to inverse your selection (shift+ctrl+i) and hit delete.
Your outline will NOT be perfect yet. Now I zoom in and touch up areas that don’t look great. Like his nose, for example, I used the clone tool to just fill in that little bump I accidentally cut off, and I use a hard eraser to get rid of extra edges along his back.
Next, resize your image using the transform tool (ctrl+t), select all (ctrl+a), and go to select -> modify -> feather. I usually set my feather to 1. Now inverse your selection like we did a moment ago, and hit delete once or twice. This smooths your edges a bit.
Now go to your adjustment panel (or image -> adjustments) and select “threshold.” Use these settings:
This will vary from image to image, but the basic idea is to get your silhouette black with only specific highlights showing up.
Merge your adjustment layer down to your silhouette layer if it already isn’t.
Next, I created a layer under my silhouette and filled it with a creamy tan color. You can use a texture or whatever color you want. As you’ll see in the Sherlock psd, I chose a texture instead.
Now select all, inverse select, and feather your outline one more time, since the threshold adjustment can create rough edges.
Now, use your magic wand tool (pictured below in red) to select around your silhouette. Then go to select -> modify -> contract. I chose 10 as my contract settings. Your selection around your silhouette should now be 10 pixels larger.
Next, create a new layer UNDER your silhouette (and above the background color). Your selection should still be there (the dashed lines). Inverse your selection and use the paint bucket tool to fill in an outline around your silhouette. I used white.
This part might be a bit tricky to explain, but basically, use your magic wand tool inside of the new white layer, then create a new layer and go to edit -> stroke. Use these settings with whatever color you want your new outline to be:
It should look like this (I also added a bowtie just by searching for one on google and resizing it):
Looking great! Your layers should be lined up like this:
Now add text, textures, whatever you like. I’ll post a version with text later on here on my blog, but for now, this is our result:
Now that I’ve taught you how to use the pen tool to make silhouettes, I’ll quickly demonstrate how else it can be used to make a different graphic.
Start out with another image, using the same technique to make a silhouette. Resize it as needed.
Next, we’re going to take a texture (by accio-glow) and paste it onto our graphic. Now, select your silhouette layer and use your magic wand tool to select around it. Use the same method we did for our last graphic and go to select -> modify -> contract. Use whatever settings you want depending on how wide of a shadow you want. After you’ve hit okay, select your texture layer instead, inverse select, and delete. I then dragged my texture over a few pixels. You should have something like this:
I then added a curves layer (which is in the psd), and a texture from lostandtaken.com, deleting the parts that weren’t around Sherlock with the same wand tool method above.
Next, I added a vibrance layer and a stroke (just like in the Eleven graphic), but to get a neat effect, I DIDN’T drag the stroke over to match the texture (pictured below). It looks off balance and cool this way. After one more color balance layer, I flattened my image (shift+ctrl+e) and moved it over just a bit so it was more centered. Using my pen tool, I cut off part of the left side to add to that off balance effect. And this is my final result:
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask! I’d love to try to help you.