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Gouache Silhouettes

So, you don’t really have an idea of what to paint. You’re sitting there, with brush and hand, and nothing is coming?

I got an idea. How about a simple silhouette with gouache?

They’re super easy to do. Pick a picture. Then only draw the outline.

Now, there’s one catch. It has to have a good outline. That’s the catch.

If all the action is happening inside the outline, it’s going to be a lousy silhouette. You need the action to happen with the outline, not the inside.

But what does that mean?

Exactly what it sounds like. If the action is happening inside the outline, you’re not going to see it because the silhouette is one strong color (almost always black) and won’t show what’s happening inside the outline.

So, most pictures are useless for silhouettes. Keep reading.

Example of a gouache silhouette painting

Here we go, using only two colors. No, not monochromatic. The idea is to only use two colors, not use variations on a color like in monochromatic painting.

gouache silhouette painting
Allie and a Unicorn

Most importantly, all the action is on the outside. Note the hair flowing, the petting of the unicorn, and the hand by the side. You see everything. You can tell everything that’s going on.

You got a bad ass female creature here. A unicorn, the most magical of all God’s creatures. And here you have a woman simply petting it. Note that she’s standing tall. She must be powerful in her own right.

The unicorn is it itself neither defensive nor submissive. Appreciating her touch. But its head up high and regal, as a unicorn is supposed to be.

Color choices

So the standard is black for the subject. But for the rest of the painting? You want something to differentiate with the black. You can do this quick matching colors test and print out the PDF before starting if you like.

The only thing that matters is that the silhouette looks good. My wife and I choose a medium yellow for this silhouette because it’s so different from the black so you can see the obvious lines.

If it looks good, you chose the right colors.

Your turn

So now for the exercise, you can either do still life or you can have an action painting like this one. Both make wonderful gouache silhouette paintings.

Just keep in mind, if you want an action painting, be sure that all the action occurs on the outside, not the inside. If on the inside, you won’t see it because you’re only working the silhouette (pure black).

Have fun with this. Actually, this was so fun to do that I think I’ll do a bunch of these!

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