Real-Life Silhouette Car Decal Tutorial

September 25, 2012

We recently got our minivan's windows tinted and had to remove the stick figure family I once had on. It was a sad day. I was going to try and salvage them but Brian came in the house with a fist full of crumpled up bits of vinyl before I could get a chance. I'll admit, it hurt. So....I always intended to make more but since stick family vinyl is kinda going out of style I thought I'd do something different....which you can do too (if you have a Silhouette machine!) And before you say anything, yes, I realize it came out a little large. I might have to scale it down a bit. But so far it hasn't impeded my rear view sight though the PA inspection may say otherwise;)

First choose a photo of the entire family which will work well with a silhouette (ie don't pick a photo where you are standing in front of each other, lines work best). This is the one I chose. It was taken by Amy Renea of Allenaim Photography.
Now, if you look hard I changed a couple things about this photo to work as a silhouette. I cut out the balloons around my head and I moved Eloise's balloon to behind Henri's head. If you have an infant who isn't able to walk yet too this is a good way to incorporate them into the silhouette. I cut him out of Brian's arms and with the balloon behind his head you can see him completely in the negative space. 

To do this I used Photoshop (but Lightroom or PS Elements will probably work as well) and selected the area around us with the lasso selection tool. How? Tediously. I actually took the selection tool and went around every outline by hand. Unless you are standing in from of a solid background it's hard to select the outline without doing it by hand (zooming in as I went of course). Just hold down the shift key when you stop and start so that you don't loose what you just outlined and hold down the alt key when you selected something you didn't want. If you accidently deselect what you've been working on DON'T PANIC just hit Ctl+Z and it will undo what you just did. Also I added a fake balloon around Henri's head by using the elliptical marquee tool.
 Once you have everyone selected hit copy. Then start a new document. And hit paste.
Now using the paint bucket tool paint the white areas with any color other than black or white. Green works well.
Now select all of the green. In Photoshop you can go to Select>Color Range>and click anywhere in the green part of the photo. Hit OK. Your green should be selected. Then go to Select>Inverse. Then hit delete. Your family should be filled with white.

Now using your paint bucket tool fill in your entire family with black. Then deselect everything.
 Then using the paint bucket tool change the green back to white. Save that file as a jpeg.
 Now open the Silhouette Studio software. Go to File>Open>and choose the file you just saved. Adjust size so that it fits on your mat. To do this hold down the shift key and drag the corners inward.
Then go to Object>Trace>and click in the right hand sidebar "select trace area". Drag your cursor over your entire image to select it. 
In the right hand sidebar deselect "High Pass Filter" and select "Low Pass Filter". Change The first setting to .75. The second setting should be around 45% and the third setting should be around 10. Now hit "Trace" in the right sidebar.
Now click on your image and hit delete. You should be left with your outline.
Now load your white vinyl in your Silhouette machine (I found that using a cutting mat works best) and hit File>Send to Silhouette. Click "change settings". I've found that the best settings that work for me are blade:3, speed:10, thickness 9. Check the cutting mat box. Then hit cut.
Remove your vinyl from the machine and peel away the negative space. (I made mine on two sheets but in retrospect that was probably too large.)
Now transfer your vinyl to the transfer paper. Take the backing off the transfer paper and press sticky side down to the top of your vinyl. Remove backing from vinyl.
Clean car window with glass cleaner and wipe completely dry. Then stick transfer paper to car window. Try to avoid bubbles.
Remove the transfer paper and done! I had a ton of bubbles mine. To get rid of them I had to go back and peel up the vinyl (so gently) then push them back down which is really tricky because it can stretch or tear the vinyl.

25 {comments}:

Amy Bailes said... Best Blogger Tips


ARK said... Best Blogger Tips

This is the most brilliant thing EVER EVER EVER!!!! I ADORE it!

Emily said... Best Blogger Tips

This is super cool(!)- by far the best decal I've seen.

Jessica G said... Best Blogger Tips

Great idea!!! I'm so copying! I've been looking for a way to put something on my car, but didn't want to do the same thing as everyone else! This one is soo unique!! You might want to try a method i use when i do silhouettes. I used to use photoshop too, but after doing an entire sunday school class of silhouettes i came up with a quicker and easier way. I print my photo on regular paper in greyscale, then with a red sharpie I hand outline the silhouettes, I scan again, and just select the red line with ps, and waah laah!!

Melanie said... Best Blogger Tips

Very cute idea!
..At first glance I thought the baby your husband is holding in the sticker was a fish :P

Grosgrain said... Best Blogger Tips

@Jessica GThat is genius! It really does take a long time to select everything. I am going to try that if I redo this project for Christmas gifts!

Grosgrain said... Best Blogger Tips

@MelanieHah! Now that you say that all I see is fish. Poor Henri:( It would work better if the baby was sitting up in the person's arms. He just couldn't even do that at that time.

Eric and Carrie said... Best Blogger Tips

GENIUS!!! Love this idea!

call center service provider said... Best Blogger Tips

What an Awesome modifying decal to the car it looks very impressive.

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

Love this! I want to pay you to do it for me!

Jann Schott said... Best Blogger Tips

WOWZA! This is so beautiful! I found your blog via the Silhouette America's blog for Friday...what a terrific idea!

Unknown said... Best Blogger Tips

I LOVE this! I found you on Pinterest! Great tutorial!


Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

I have some oracal 631 and 651. Would that work on car windows ? Your talent is amazing.

Elizabeth Ashe said... Best Blogger Tips

Thank you for this post! I am still relatively new to the silhouette studio and I didn't know about the trace function, I'm loving it!

Elizabeth Ashe said... Best Blogger Tips

thank you for this tutorial! I am still relatively new to Silhouette Studio, and I am loving the trace function now!

Unknown said... Best Blogger Tips

When you are ready to apply the decal to the window you can once again spritz the glass with water and apply while wet.
This allows you to slide the decal easily into position and also decreases the chance of bubbling.
Be sure to use a credit card edge to smooth out the transfer paper while at the same time allowing the water to squeeze out from under the decal
so it will adhere well to the window.
If there are still more bubbles than you like, you can use a hair dryer to warm the decal while
taking the credit card and gently pressing out the bubbles.
Hopes this helps.

Unknown said... Best Blogger Tips

What a great idea, too bad all 8 of my kids are grown or I would make one for my car. I knew that Henri was a baby but now that someone said he looked like a fish in the decal, I see a fish too. Oh well, great job!

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

I just LOVE that - too cool and thanks for posting your how-to! I've got this linked to my post today on DIY decals as well!

Unknown said... Best Blogger Tips

Cute and original idea. It's WAY better than those stick families everyone has on their cars.

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

I love your decal! And the tutorial is awesome. I found the image you created on a Google image search for "family silhouette" and I'd really like to use it as clip art on a poster I'm making for a fundraiser. It's a very small affair, but it's always nice to ask the artist permission first. It's for a pizza dinner at a family-friendly cafe in Vancouver, Canada. Thanks! Lisa

Grosgrain said... Best Blogger Tips

@vancouverunder5Sorry I couldn't reply to this sooner. I've been without computer for weeks. Yes, it's fine to use! Thanks for asking:-)

Unknown said... Best Blogger Tips

I love this idea! What a great way to make custom vinyl signs. Great post!

Design With Vinyl said... Best Blogger Tips

Awesome Job!! Very Creative

Design With Vinyl

Unknown said... Best Blogger Tips

Nice comments to aware people about the car stickers. Hyundai Dealers in Gurgaon

Unknown said... Best Blogger Tips

really such a lovely creativity, thanks fore share, there is also amazing Vinyl car wrap

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