How To Create A Silhouette In Photoshop

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How To Create A Silhouette In Photoshop

A silhouette needs only three images.

 Nothing beats the drama of a silhouette. There is, at least for me, a certain tension and foreboding when you see a shadow appear through a drawn window blind or on the wall or sidewalk in a dimly lit street scene. 
Creating this effect in Photoshop is not terribly difficult to accomplish. At a minimum you only need the photograph of the subject that will become the shadow and a surface for the shadow. In this “How To” my subject will be the statue of Bruce Lee in the Hong Kong harbor. I chose it because his stance is so aggressive and the surface for the shadow will be an old paper texture I found in my Textures collection. To add a little bit more drama to the effect I will show you how to add a bit of texture to the shadow using a Grunge texture, which is also in my Textures collection.
Let’s get started.

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How To Prepare An Image To Become A Shadow in Photoshop

The effect only needs a solid colour background which can be added using the Fill menu.

The key consideration when choosing an image for this technique is the subject that will become the shadow. It should be distinct and, for those of you just starting out, rather easy to select in the photo.

In this case, the statue meets both criteria. If you look at the photo there is a strong color change between the statue and the background. This makes choosing a tool for selecting the statue rather easy- the Quick Selection tool. Were the background to be a solid color the Magic Wand would be the logical choice.

The plan is remove the background by filling it with white, which will leave only the subject. To start I selected the Quick Selection tool and, using the [ or ] keys, reduced the brush size. I then drew a stroke with the Quick Selection tool over the background. If the selection moves into the subject or there are pieces of the background still selected, Switch to the Lasso tool and, using the Shift or Option/Alt keys add or remove the extra selections.

With the background selected I then chose Select>Modify>Expand and when the Dialog Box opened expanded the selection by 2 pixels. This ensures there are no stray pixels from the background. Next I selected Edit>Fill and filled the selection with White.

Now that I had the subject isolated and the background a solid colour I selected the background colour with the Magic Wand and pressed Command-J (Mac) or Ctrl-J (PC) which copies the selection to a new layer and leaves a cutout of the subject in the layer.

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How To Add And Manipulate The Silhouette Texture In Photoshop

use a texture to fill the cutout and use an Adjustment layer to convert it to Black and White.

With the cutout prepared, I opened a grunge texture and, using the Move tool, moved it into my silhouette image.  To get just the look I wanted I moved the Texture Layer under the Silhouette layer and , with the Texture layer selected, added a Black and White Adjustment layer to the texture. To bring up some of the detail in the text I darkened some of the colors in the Properties panel. 

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How To Add And Manipulate The Paper Texture In Photoshop

The paper texture is added and a Multiply Blend Mode is applied to the paper texture.

 Now that the silhouette has some texture, I dragged the Old Paper  image into the composite image and moved it to the top of the Layers panel to cover the layers under it. To have the shadow show in the paper, I selected the Paper layer and, in the Layers panel, applied a Multiply Blend Mode to the layer. In basic terms, what the Multiply Blend mode does is to look at the color values of the pixels  ]in the layer and the layer under it. It then multiplies the two values together and diveds the result by 255. The end result is always darker pixels in the layer to which the mode has been applied.

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How To Soften The Shadow Edges in Photoshop

A Gaussian Blur is applied to the Silouhette layer.

If you look at a shadow the edges are never distinct. You have a couple of choices here. The first is to select the Silhouette layer in the subject layer and apply some feathering by choosing Select> Modify> Feather. In the case of this exercise, because it was a solid colour, I instead chose to apply an 8-pixel Gaussian Blur

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Your Citation
Green, Tom. "How To Create A Silhouette In Photoshop." ThoughtCo, May. 7, 2015, Green, Tom. (2015, May 7). How To Create A Silhouette In Photoshop. Retrieved from Green, Tom. "How To Create A Silhouette In Photoshop." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 20, 2017).