Nature Silhouettes

Ashley Young
April 24, 2014

The long, cold winter has finally come to an end, and we are loving these sunny spring days. Nature silhouettes, either created with paint or the actual daylight, are a great way for your kids to capture the light and celebrate the warmth.

The first step in creating nature silhouettes with your kids is to head outside on a scavenger hunt. Look for leaves, flowers, or sticks. The more interesting the shape of the objects you find, the better your silhouette will turn out.

To create a silhouettes in paint, have your kids create an arrangement on thick white paper with their found objects. Make sure they don't pile too much on. The paint will be going around the objects, so you should be able to see a good amount of the paper around the edges. Once they are happy with their arrangement, you can use a little two-sided tape to keep everything in place. The less the objects move, the better the silhouettes will appear.

Now comes the fun (and messy!) part: let your child dip a paint brush into watercolor or plain old non toxic children's paint and flick the color across their design. They can choose to use a single color or multiple colors. After the paint has dried, help your child carefully lift the nature objects off of the paper to reveal the silhouettes.

Another way to splatter the paint is to have your child dip a toothbrush in the paint and quickly brush it back and forth across the inside of a mesh strainer while they (or you) hold it above the paper. This will create a much finer splatter than flicking the brush. This method will work better with thicker tempera paint than with watercolors.

Nothing could be simpler than creating silhouettes using sunlight. Have your kids follow the steps above to arrange their objects, but use colored construction paper this time. They will still want to leave a good amount of negative space around their treasures. You'll also probably want to skip the tape, since it might not come off of the construction paper as cleanly. 

Once they have their arrangement, leave it on the paper out in the bright sunlight for an hour or so. The sun will fade the paper around the objects leaving darker silhouettes of the leaves and flowers.

Another take on this activity is to use photo reactive paper, which will allow your kids to create beautiful white-on-blue nature silhouettes. For this one, not only do you want to help your kids find interesting shapes, but textures, too, since the light will filter through. Airier objects like ferns, pine needles, Queen Anne's Lace, or even the cast-off shell of a cicada will work perfectly.

Your kids can arrange the objects on the paper inside, then carefully take them outside (Savvy tip: use a cookie sheet underneath. It's easier for little hands to carry than a flimsy piece of paper with leaves on top!) to expose the paper to sunlight. After about two minutes (check the directions on the paper), go back inside, remove the objects, then dip the paper in tap water to fix it. 

No matter how you do it, nature silhouettes are a great way to get outside, get artsy, capture a sunny day, and teach your child to see things in a different way!


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