Silhouettes became popular in the 18th and 19th centuries as an effective alternative to portraiture. A silhouette is a two-dimensional representation of an object where the image is cut out and filled with a solid color and attached to a contrasting backing. Over time, silhouettes vary from animals to objects and even live scenes; and the images generated from this form of art can be a great addition to your projects.
On this page, a collection of silhouettes of different images is presented for anyone who is trying to get their hands in this form of art to download and use or get inspiration from. They are all free to use; however, you may have to check for restrictions from the author if you’re planning to use them commercially. Also, don’t forget to check out our compilation of Animal Silhouettes for more design ideas!
Women Face Profile Vector Silhouette
Silhouette Girls Vector
Silhouette Family Vector
Kitchen Utensils Silhouette Vector
City Silhouette Vector
Different Types of Silhouettes
Different techniques in creating shadow figures derives the three basic types of silhouettes that are present nowadays. These types are the following:
- Hollow-cut silhouette. Perhaps the most popular in the early times, the hollow-cut is usually used for portraits, as popularized in the 18th to 19th century and created with paper. The image is cut away from the paper that is usually in light color, which leaves the negative of the image. It is then mounted over a dark paper or fabric.
- Cut-out silhouette. Contrary to hollow-cut, cut-out silhouettes are created by removing the paper surrounding the outline producing the positive shape of the image. It is then mounted onto a background such as a white cardstock with an adhesive. This is more popular nowadays in forms of stickers and decals.
- Painted silhouette. This type of silhouette is created by using black ink or paint to draw the image onto a base, such as paper, plaster or porcelain. This technique is what is found in cave mural and tomb paintings, which dated even before the ancient times. They are usually categorized by form; namely full-length, images, or busts.
Also, take a look at our compilation of Vector Elements and other articles found on this site.
Bird Silhouette Vector
Wild Animal Silhouette Vector
Dance Silhouette Vector
Flower Plant Pot Silhouette Vector
Guitar Silhouette Vector
Uses of Silhouettes
Silhouettes are not just used in portraits but are also seen in many areas of art such as:
- Entertainment. Shadow theaters were part of the traditions of orient nations which has also become a popular entertainment in Paris in the 19th century. The shadow play is a form of storytelling that uses cut-out figures.
- Illustrations. Pictures depicting scenes, known as paper cuts, were used by book authors book illustrations as they are cheaper to produce that color plates and lasts longer than detailed black and white illustrations.
- Architecture. A discipline in architecture that studies the shadows cast upon by buildings is the reason why ornamentation in the covering and stone masonry of buildings become a necessity for building designs.
- Photography. One way to photograph people, objects and landscape elements to create a dramatic image is to take a picture against the light. The background light can be from a natural setting, such as a cloudy sky or sunset.
- Graphic design. Silhouettes have been used from the early days of advertising, mainly in poster and product designs, because they are cheap and can easily be printed. They can make negative spaces on designs impressive and striking.
For more Photoshop ideas, check out our feature on Retro Graphic Vectors on the website.