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Tips on Creating a Silhouette in Adobe Illustrator -

So you've just purchased a copy of Adobe Illustrator, and you want to create your first silhouette. Perhaps just for fun or maybe for a school project. Whatever the reason, there are some basic steps to follow.

What You Need

Obviously, you'll need a few items to get started. First of all, you should have a relatively powerful machine for the latest version of Illustrator. Of course, if you're using an older version of Illustrator then you may not need such a sophisticated computer. Another item that you'll need is a photo or a sketch of what it is you wish to create a silhouette of.

Some of you may be able to just draw outright via your computer, and this is perfectly acceptable as well. You will also need your mouse or a pen tablet. A pen tablet can be somewhat pricey, so it's probably better to just use your mouse if you're on a budget.


Layers are an integral part of Adobe Illustrator, and they're also vital when it comes to creating silhouettes or other types of illustrations. This is especially true if you're going to use a photo or a sketch as your "model". Place the photo or sketch on layer one, and then lock that layer down. After this, create another layer for your silhouette.

Depending on the complexity of your silhouette, you may only need these two layers. Locking the photo or sketch layer down simply keeps you from accidentally moving the image you're trying to create a silhouette of. It just makes things a little easier. When you've finished your silhouette, then be sure to delete the layer that has your photo or sketch on it. This helps with organization and file size.

The Tools You Need

For many people, the pen tool is all they use to create their silhouette or illustration with. It usually will take time to master the pen tool because it is a fairly complex process. You basically start with a single point and then click and drag to form another point; etc. You create curves by holding down the mouse button and maneuvering your mouse here and there. You'll finish by uniting all of your points together, which will form your silhouette.

Another popular way of creating silhouettes is by using the brush tool. The brush tool is slightly easier to use then the pen tool; however, it poses it's own set of unique challenges. It is basically the same concept as the pen tool, but there is no clicking from point to point.

You simply click down with your mouse button and drag it around your shape. When finished, you will again unite the points to form the whole silhouette. When used properly, the brush tool is just as effective as the pen tool. And there is also the pencil tool, but it's more efficient to just use the brush or pen tool.

Open Paths

One thing you'll need to watch out for is open paths. This is especially true if you're going to sell your illustrations online via websites such as iStockphoto. Your file will be rejected for open paths, so make sure you don't have any of these. Open paths occur when you fail to connect all of the little square points to one another. It is usually easy to fix, unless you have a lot of misplaced points. In which case, it can become a nightmare.

It's up to you to determine when it is best to check for open paths. If it's just a simple illustration, then you can check for open paths when you're finished. But if it's more complicated, then you may want to look for open paths earlier on. Software exists to help you discover open paths. And some of it is free.

Creating a silhouette can be a simple or complex process; it just depends on what you want to create. But it's definitely fun to learn if you enjoy making illustrations. ©JR All Rights Reserved

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