Autumn, Freebies, Projects, Seasonal

Halloween Shadow Art

This is an idea which I first developed as a kids holiday workshop about 10 years ago or more now.  It was very popular at the time, so I thought I would resurrect it here.  You can make it as simple or as sophisticated as you like, depending on your inclination and the age of the kids.  For young children you will have to supply them with a range of cut-out shapes that they can arrange on the page themselves, and to help with this I have added a range of free halloween motifs of varying complexity below. Just click on the link below the image to download the PDF for printing.  Alternatively, they could draw the shapes themselves, ready for you to cut out.


A selection of Halloween motifs to use for shadow art projects.

Halloween Motifs 1


A few more motifs for use in shadow art projects.

Halloween Motifs 2

The shadow box is a more sophisticated version of the same thing which I wouldn’t really recommend for young children.  It allows you to get more subtle 3-dimensional effects of depth, light and dark, with objects placed further back appearing paler and more blurred than those placed towards the front.




You will Need:

  • Stiff black card to use as a frame (I used mountboard)
  • Tracing Paper
  • Thin black card or paper
  • Scissors or scalpel and cutting mat (the more complex shapes probably need to be cut with a knife, though a small pair of needlecraft scissors may do the trick.
  • Sticky Tape
  • Glue
  • If you want to create the more sophisticated shadow box, you will also need a shallow box.  Mine was lidded, but it doesn’t have to be – you could use a top opening one instead.

First of all, create your frame:

For the picture, take 2 rectangles of card, and cut out 2 windows a little smaller than the size of your tracing paper, to create 2 frames.  My tracing paper was A4 size, but you can use any size you want.

For the shadow box, you will need to cut a window in the same position on both the front and the back of the box, again, slightly smaller than the size of your tracing paper.  You then need to cut windows a  little smaller than the size of your tracing paper into a series of stiff card sheets just small enough to fit snugly into your box. (I also made the window  a little smaller than the size of the box window, to create a contrasting mount). I cut 2 sheets of card for each sheet of tracing paper so that the tracing paper was sandwiched in the middle – this means that the tracing paper of each frame will have a small gap between the next, helping to create the effect of depth. The number of sheets you use is entirely up to you.  I used 4 for my box – I could have fitted more in, but if you use too many, the light won’t shine through as effectively).



If necessary, cut your tracing paper to your required size, then tape it to the reverse of your frames. You are now ready to start your picture.

Cut out the motifs you need from thin black paper or card.  For light coloured items, such as moons and ghosts, cut these directly out of the tracing paper of the second sheet, using a knife, so that the light shines through it. Once you have done this, you can sandwich the 2 frames together using glue or double-sided tape.

Apply your paper motifs to the front of your top sheet.

For shadow boxes, you will need to plan your composition a little more so that you get the depth effect you want.  I wanted my moon to have a bit of a halo round it, so I cut out 2 moons, one larger than the other, on different sheets to try and get that effect.  I wanted also to have my ghost look quite ethereal, and make the whole scene look  a little misty by placing some objects on sheets further back.  Because I didn’t use enough sheets to fill the box, I had to pack it with some small pieces of card to hold it all in place.  Of course once you’ve created the box it can be used for any number of different compositions, mixing and matching different sheets to get a variety of effects.




The photos above show the 4 sheets of tracing paper I used to create the Halloween Shadow Box Art.  The top 2 had black paper motifs applied, while the bottom 2 had the shapes cut out of the tracing paper.

And finally, if you can’t be bothered with any of this, I recently came across a children’s book which is based on a similar principle of silhouettes, though it doesn’t  attempt to create any 3 dimensional scenes in quite the same way:


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  • Violet October 7, 2010 at 3:23 am

    I simply love your Blog and this post. I am working on shadow theater as we speak and your post filled in some gaps that I’ve had through construction phase:) Now I am good to go. Thanks again

  • maggy, red ted art October 7, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    Oh, Jude, these look wonderful! I really need to do something like this with Red Ted. He loves “sticking things” on windows and watching the light come through it. These would be lovely! Mmmh. Maybe you will see a “copy” of this soon!! 😉

    Thanks for linking up to Kids Get Crafty too! (as always) very much appreciated!


  • jude October 7, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    Violet: Thanks – glad it helped you!

  • jude October 7, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    Maggy: well they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery;) They’re great fun to do!

  • JDaniel4's Mom October 8, 2010 at 1:39 am

    This was a wonderful project. I love the final result.

  • Liz (LivingwithKids) October 12, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    Jan Penowski’s books also had similar silhouettes – I remember being obsessed with them when I was little so I’m sure any child would love looking at these pictures x

  • cathy@nurturestore October 14, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    I think this technique is perfect for this time of year, as the nights get darker. Thanks for sharing this with us at the Play Academy.

  • jude October 16, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    Liz: I’m not familiar with those books – must check them out!

  • turtleturtleturtle October 29, 2010 at 6:23 am

    How cool! We gave this a go the other day. Not nearly as intricate as yours, but my 2 year old certainly enjoyed it! 🙂

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