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How to Create a Silhouette in Photoshop

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Final product imageFinal product imageFinal product image
What You'll Be Creating

Today, I'll teach you how to create a silhouette in Photoshop in not one but three easy ways! In this tutorial, you'll learn how to use the Pen Tool, the "Select > Subject" technique, and the Quick Selection Tool in Photoshop. By using these methods, you will see how quick and easy it is to make a silhouette in Photoshop.

What You'll Learn in This Silhouette Photoshop Tutorial

  • How to use the Pen Tool to create a silhouette with smooth curves in Photoshop
  • How to apply the Select > Subject technique for people with straight hair
  • How to use the Quick Selection Tool for people with curly hair

What You Will Need to Turn a Photo into a Silhouette in Photoshop

1. How to Use the Pen Tool to Make a Silhouette in Photoshop

Let's start with the first silhouette Photoshop method. The Pen Tool method is perfect for outlining smooth curves. It's easy and effective with silhouettes that are not as defined (i.e. people with curly hair).

Step 1

Open the portrait of the black Muslim woman in a hijab in Photoshop. 

Step 2

Zoom in (Command - +) on the portrait so that your outline will be accurate as possible. Select the Pen Tool (P) and make a point on your subject by clicking your mouse. Make another point by clicking and dragging your mouse to make a curve like the image below.

Make a point using the Pen Tool-silhouette Photoshop tutorialMake a point using the Pen Tool-silhouette Photoshop tutorialMake a point using the Pen Tool-silhouette Photoshop tutorial

Step 3

Continue the previous step until the entire person is outlined with the Pen Tool.

Outline with Pen Tool in Photoshop-silhouette Photoshop tutorialOutline with Pen Tool in Photoshop-silhouette Photoshop tutorialOutline with Pen Tool in Photoshop-silhouette Photoshop tutorial

Step 4

Create a New layer above your portrait layer.

Create a new layer in PhotoshopCreate a new layer in PhotoshopCreate a new layer in Photoshop

Step 5

With the Pen Tool selected, right-click your mouse and select Make Selection. Click OK. Make sure your dialog box looks like the one below.

Make a Selection using the Pen ToolMake a Selection using the Pen ToolMake a Selection using the Pen Tool

Step 6

Select the Paint Bucket Tool (G), change the foreground color to #FFF1CF, and fill the inside of your silhouette by clicking anywhere inside of what we call the "marching ants."

Fill your selection with a light yellow colorFill your selection with a light yellow colorFill your selection with a light yellow color

Step 7

To get rid of the marching ants, select the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) and click anywhere on the image. Now, let's remove the original image by selecting the Eye icon on the Layers panel. This will make that layer invisible. Create a new Solid Color layer and use #FEBA01 to fill the background.

Fill Background ColorFill Background ColorFill Background Color

All Done!

Now you know how to make a silhouette in Photoshop with the Pen tool. Let's jump into method #2, where I will teach you how to easily select a person with straight hair and create a silhouette.

2. How to Quickly and Easily Select a Person in Photoshop and Create a Silhouette

Let's see how to turn a photo into a silhouette in Photoshop in a few clicks. The Select > Subject technique is a one-click selection that will mask your subject in no time. This method is perfect for people with curly or straight hair, and it even works on images with busy backgrounds.

Step 1

Open the portrait of the lady wearing the hat in Photoshop. With the portrait layer selected, go to Select > Subject

Select your subject using Photoshop's Select>Subject methodSelect your subject using Photoshop's Select>Subject methodSelect your subject using Photoshop's Select>Subject method

Step 2

Now we will get rid of that area around the two strings. Zoom in (Command - +) on the strings. Select the Pen Tool (P), make your first point, and then click and drag your mouse to make another point until you have an outline like the one below.

Pen tool extraction - how to make a silhouette in PhotoshopPen tool extraction - how to make a silhouette in PhotoshopPen tool extraction - how to make a silhouette in Photoshop

Step 3

With the Pen Tool still selected, right-click your mouse and select Make Selection. Make sure Subtract from Selection is marked. Click OK.

Pen Tool - Subtract From Selection - how to make a silhouette in PhotoshopPen Tool - Subtract From Selection - how to make a silhouette in PhotoshopPen Tool - Subtract From Selection - how to make a silhouette in Photoshop

Step 4

Zoom out of your image by using Command -. Add a layer mask to your portrait layer while you have it selected.

Add a layer maskAdd a layer maskAdd a layer mask

Step 5

Double-click the portrait layer so that it brings up the Layer Style box and apply a Color Overlay #F0BCD4.

Apply color overlay - how to make a silhouette in PhotoshopApply color overlay - how to make a silhouette in PhotoshopApply color overlay - how to make a silhouette in Photoshop

Step 6

Create a new Solid Color layer and fill it with #DA4167. Drag and place this layer underneath your silhouette.

Dark Pink BackgroundDark Pink BackgroundDark Pink Background

All Done!

You just learned how to turn a photo into a silhouette in Photoshop with a couple of clicks. Your image should look like the one below if you used the portrait I linked to earlier. In method #3, you will learn how to use the Quick Selection Tool to make a silhouette in Photoshop.

Select Subject method final productSelect Subject method final productSelect Subject method final product

3. How to Use the Quick Selection Tool in Photoshop to Make a Silhouette

If you want to learn how to make a silhouette in Photoshop of a person with textured hair, this method is for you. The Quick Selection Tool is not as fast as the Select > Subject technique because it makes you do most of the work. Depending on your silhouette, you may have to go back in using other methods like masking or the Pen Tool to get the perfect silhouette. It's still a great option to use if your subject is on a plain background or is the main focus.

Step 1

Open the portrait of the bearded man with glasses in Photoshop. Grab the Quick Selection Tool (W). Click and drag your mouse across the image. Let's start with the beard. Make sure your tool settings are like the image below.

Apply the Quick Selection toolApply the Quick Selection toolApply the Quick Selection tool

Step 2

Continue with the Quick Selection Tool for the rest of the image. The Quick Selection Tool isn't perfect, so we will clean the image up with the Pen Tool (P). Zoom in (Command - +) on the image and, with your Pen Tool selected, make a smooth outline on his forehead and glasses.

Pen Tool and Quick Selection Tool Pen Tool and Quick Selection Tool Pen Tool and Quick Selection Tool

Step 3

Right-click > Make Selection and make sure Add to Selection is selected. Click OK.

Add to SelectionAdd to SelectionAdd to Selection

Step 4

Add a layer mask.

Add a layer maskAdd a layer maskAdd a layer mask

Step 5

Double-click the portrait layer so that it brings up the Layer Style box, and apply a Color Overlay #0D5C63.

Add dark green color overlayAdd dark green color overlayAdd dark green color overlay

Step 6

Create a new Solid Color layer and fill it with #43BCCD. Drag and place this layer underneath your silhouette.

Add background colorAdd background colorAdd background color

All Done!

Thank you so much for following this quick tutorial on how to create a silhouette in Photoshop using the Quick Selection Tool and other methods.

Throughout this silhouette Photoshop tutorial, you've gotten familiar with the Pen Tool, the Select > Subject technique, and the Quick Selection Tool. Use these methods to create your own silhouettes in Photoshop.

Final silhouette imageFinal silhouette imageFinal silhouette image

3 Must-Have Essentials for Your Silhouettes 

Are you looking for resources that will complement your silhouette images? Well, look no further: these add-ons and graphics from Envato Elements are the perfect addition to your silhouettes to make them 'pop'.

20 Silhouette Lightroom Presets & LUTs (Lightroom, Photoshop)

Silhouette Lightroom Presets - silhouette Photoshop actionsSilhouette Lightroom Presets - silhouette Photoshop actionsSilhouette Lightroom Presets - silhouette Photoshop actions

Presets are the easiest and quickest way to give your photos a nice finishing touch. SparkleStock doesn't disappoint with their 20 Mobile and Desktop Silhouette Presets available for Lightroom. Instead of a generic silhouette, create dynamic images using presets like Flame, Sunset, Reyleigh, and so much more.

Procreate Tree Silhouette Stamp Brushes (Procreate)

Procreate tree silhouetteProcreate tree silhouetteProcreate tree silhouette

Speed up your workflow in Procreate by using these beautifully designed tree silhouette stamp brushes created by BrushBoy. These ten tree silhouette brushes are perfect for creating natural scenes for your illustrations. 

People Silhouettes Icons (AI, EPS)

Vector Silhouette IconsVector Silhouette IconsVector Silhouette Icons

These silhouette icons made by Jumsoft are perfect to use as avatars for a website, profile placeholders for apps, and so much more. You get a variety of people silhouettes to choose from. Another great thing about these icons is that you never have to worry about a resolution issue because these icons are vector.

Looking for more silhouette tutorials and resources? Then have a look at these articles to get you inspired!

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