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How to Trace a Photo in Silhouette Studio

We're answering a reader question today on Silhouette School about how to trace a photograph to make a silhouette image in Silhouette Studio.  The question comes from Kathy, but I'm sure she's not the only one who's been wondering how to do this.

The first thing you want to do is pull your picture into Silhouette Studio.  If you aren't sure how to import a jpeg or gif into Studio, click here.

The photograph you pick is actually very important.  I think the reason Kathy was having trouble was because there was actually not enough detail in her photo.   You are looking for a picture that will still be recognizable just by the silhouette.  Here are a couple of pictures that would not make good pictures to trace for a silhouette...

Head is cut off, making it unrecognizable in silhouette
Too much daughter would not visible in silhouette as she's blocked by my body
The photo I ended up going with for this tutorial is of me and my husband on Christmas.

To get started you want to get rid of as much background as you can.  Use the knife tool as opposed to the erase tool (the erase tool can leave little 'specs' behind which aren't actually erased and that will mess you up later).   So using the knife tool make some cuts close to your image.

Then use the select tool to drag the cut sections away and delete them.

Now you're ready to start tracing the photograph.  You want to use the 'Draw a Curve Shape' Tool to do this.  (Looks like an '8' on the left sidebar)

I like to start dropping points in the middle of the photograph instead of near the edge of the picture.  I started at the top of my husband's hair and worked down and around dropping points (clicking) every half centimeter or so - sometimes closer when there was a turn or curve and sometimes further away when there was a 'straight away' (as in at the bottom of the picture).

Be sure to pick up as many details as you can, that's what's going to make the Silhouette recognizable.

Once you have gone all the way around the photo dropping edit points the outline will turn red as shown in the picture above.

Zoom in really close now...

Now click on the 'Edit Points' button and adjust any of the points that need to be slightly moved in or out.  For instance, in the screen grab above you can see that the trace line is not very tight to my husband's head on the right side or his left ear. I thought I was putting the point right on his hair line, but it was actually not exact so I just dragged those points down to where they should be.

Again, go all the way around the image adjusting the edit points until you get back to where you started. Be sure to connect the first and last edit points to create a close design. 

Now you can zoom back out and using the 'Select' tool grab the original image. Move it to the side and delete it.

To fill in your outline, click the 'Open the Fill Color Window' along the top tool bar.  Select the color you would like to fill with.  Now you're ready to print and cut your silhouette image.

Click here for the basic tutorial on printing and cutting in Silhouette Studio.

Thanks for coming to class today at Silhouette School.  If you like what you see, I'd love for you to pin it!

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  1. Thank you. This has helped me so much. I wanted to cut custom silhouettes, and by searching through your tutorials I managed to do it successfully on the first try.

  2. What I did was during the "curved cut tool" step that simplified things, was to zoom up very closely and follow the outline of the picture. This eliminated the Edit Point step for me.


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