Art Journaling: Play Peek-a-boo with Masks and Silhouettes

Masks and silhouettesthey conjure up clandestine meetings, shadowy figures, mysterious glimpses. They hide and reveal at the same time.

art journaling with silhouettes linda blinn
Silhouettes created by spray painting over lantern
masks. Art by Linda Blinn.

Masks and silhouettes are not just for novels and masquerade parties, though. They can be used as art journaling techniques to add dimension and drama to your visual journaling.

There's no mystery about how to make them. Not only is it easy to create a mask or silhouette-in many cases you can make them both at the same time. Simply create a stencil out of cardboard, Mylar®, or acetate and save the cutout. One is the silhouette, the other is the mask.

The classic silhouette is black against a lighter background. But you can use shading, colors, or even patterns within the silhouette outlines.  Silhouettes can create a focal point on your art journal page. Masks can do the same thing used on their own, or they can be layered to create a peek-a-boo effect. This is very effective when coupled with text.

Artist Linda Blinn is a master at creating and applying silhouettes and masks. She explains how she used a mask to create the lantern shapes shown here.

"Using a mask is quite simple. Shapes are arranged on top of the background paper or fabric, taped in place with removable tape, and paint is sprayed lightly over each shape, leaving some of the surrounding background paper/fabric unpainted. The subtle shading around the lanterns were created by holding the spray can about 10" above the surface. I used a foil marker to draw the lines from the lanterns to the top of the page," she explains.

Stencils for silhouettes and masks can be cut freehand from paper, or you could even use flat found objects. But if you want to make a reusable stencil or mask that will hold up to many uses, Linda suggests you make one out of plastic or Mylar. Here are her instructions.  Note:  If you don't have a stencil cutter, you could also use a craft knife, but the stencil cutter creates a smoother line.


  • Stencil design: (your own sketch or a copyright-free image)
  • A piece of glass (such as one from an old picture frame)
  • Low-tack masking tape
  • Mylar® or a plastic sheet
  • Electric stencil cutter


art journaling with sihouettes pam carriker
Heart silhouettes play peek-a-boo with
text on this piece, "Attack of the Heart,"
by Pam Carriker.


1. Affix your design to the cutting mat with tape.

2. Place the glass over the design and tape it on all sides to secure.

3. Position the Mylar (or plastic) over the glass and secure it with tape.

4. Heat the stencil-cutting tool, according to the manufacturer's directions.

5. Holding the tool like a pencil, trace the outline of the design, applying a little pressure to the tip of the tool. Move the tip slowly and evenly around the design.

Play with masks and silhouettes on your own art journal pages, and see how many ways you can use them. For more art journaling ideas, get your copy of PAGES 2012, available now.

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Art Journaling and Lettering, Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques


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