Shadows, Silhouettes, & Layers:

Experiments with Paper & Light

Written by: Natalie Freed & Jill Dawson

Shadows, Silhouettes, & Layers (Oh, my!)

In this activity, you’ll make swatch cards to experiment with different paper and light effects and ponder possibilities for using the properties of both for art and engineering.

Videos by Jie Qi to Get You Thinking

Related

Categories

Paper Circuit Techniques, Pressure Sensor, Special Effects, Book Arts

Supplies

Materials

Simple Circuit template or Parallel Circuit template, printed, using:

  • 1 or more LEDs
  • Copper tape or Conductive Fabric Tape
  • CR2032 battery
  • Binder clip
Simple circuit template and supplies
Simple circuit template, conductive tape, LEDs, coin cell battery, & binder clip
Experiments with paper and light
Templates for experimenting with paper, light, & special effects

Shadows and Silhouettes Remixable Template (printed on one or more types of paper).

Suggested art materials to explore include:

  • printer paper (white & colored)
  • cardstock (black & white)
  • vellum
  • tissue paper (white & colored)
  • clear transparency plastic
  • washi tape
  • translucent fabric (such as tulle or gauze)
Materials for paper circuit experiments
Papers, fabrics, & clear plastic for experimentation
pressure sensitive conductive plastic
Pressure Sensitive Conductive Plastic

Optional:

One small piece (1/2″ square) of Pressure Sensitive Conductive Plastic (velostat/linqstat).

Note: The Chibi Lights STEM Starter Kit comes with a piece, but it is not quite as conductive as the product currently carried in our store.

Suggested Tools

  • Pencil, pen, and other drawing materials such as Sharpie markers, crayons, and colored pencils
  • Scissors
  • Awl, thumbtack, or other pointy object
  • Hole punch
  • Craft knife and cutting mat
  • Glue stick
  • Double-stick tape
  • Rubber stamp ink pad and stamps
Mark making implements
Pen, pencil, Sharpie markers, & colored pencils,
tools for experimenting with paper and light
Pen knife & mat, scissors, hole punchers, rubber stamp & ink
adhesives
Glue stick, washi tape, & double stick tape

Directions

Step 1: Prepare Your Materials

The first step to begin your experiments with paper and light is to customize (if desired) and print out the Shadows and Silhouettes Remixable Templates. Consider printing one or more pages on different types of paper, such as white printer paper, colored printer paper, cardstock, or vellum.

Experiments with paper and light
Templates for experimenting with paper, light, & special effects

Step 2: Create a Light Source

The next step is to create a light source for backlighting the experiments that you’ll be creating on the Shadows and Silhouettes Remixable Templates. Using one of our Simple Circuit or Parallel Circuit templates, construct a circuit with either Copper Tape or Conductive Fabric Tape. In this tutorial, we’ve used a variety of LED colors as part of our experiments with paper and light, but you may opt to use just one or two.

Simple Circuit
Simple Circuit: Light source for experimentation

Step 3: Start Experimenting

The last step is to begin your exploration by drawing, gluing, and taping a variety of materials to the back of the templates you’ve printed. To begin experimenting with different shadow, silhouette, and layering effects, change the location, proximity, and/or color of the light source you’re using to backlight each new example you create.

Some Questions to Consider

  • What does it look like without the light? Can you see what’s behind the page?
  • When you add the light to the back of the page, what do you see?
  • What changes when you move the light closer or farther from the page?
  • What happens when you change the brightness of the light (using the pressure sensitive plastic)?
  • What changes when you add colored light, versus white light?
  • What changes if you use more than one material to make your layers?
Paper Circuit
Experiments with paper and light
Experiments with paper and light

Experiments with Paper and Light

paper circuit
Copper tape on the back of template
paper circuit
Black cardstock on back of template
paper circuit
Black paper cutouts on front & back
Experiments with paper and light
Sharpie markers on clear plastic
paper circuit
Black paper & gauze/ tulle
paper circuit
Laser cut white cardstock
paper circuit
Cardstock and tissue paper
paper circuit
Pencil on the back of template
Experiments with paper and light
Ball point pen on back side
Experiments with paper and light
Washi tape, tissue paper, & printer ink on copy paper
Experiments with paper and light
Black paper on front & back side of template
Experiments with paper and light
Cardboard with cut-out behind template
Experiments with paper and light
Black printer ink on white copy paper
Experiments with paper and light
Laser cut white cardstock on back side
Experiments with paper and light
Cardboard with cut-out behind template
Experiments with paper and light
Black paper on back side
paper circuit
White tulle/ gauze
Experiments with paper & light
Black paper on front and back sides
Experiments with paper and light
Black rubber stamp on back side of yellow printer paper
Experiments with paper and light
Black ink on white printer paper
Experiments with paper and light
Black cardstock and red tissue paper
Experiments with paper and light
Pencil on top & ballpoint pen on bottom
Experiments with paper and light
White cardstock on back side
Experiments with paper and light
White cardstock & sharpie markers on clear plastic
Experiments with paper and light
White cardstock cutouts on back side of template
Experiments with paper and light
Experiments with paper and light

Tips, Tricks & Call-outs
If using word-processed text, edit it to create a mirror image before printing. Then, to avoid seeing the black ink through white paper, glue the white sides of the paper together, shining the light from underneath.

Experiments with paper and light
Back side of template without light shining
Experiments with paper and light
Front side of template with light shining through

Gallery

Related Project Tutorials

Chapter 5 – DIY Pressure Sensor

DIY Pressure Sensor Tutorial

Instead of blinking your LEDs on and off, you can make them fade in and out with a pressure sensor you make yourself!

Night Light Tutorial

Learn to use copper tape and sticker circuits to make a night light that reveals a secret image when you turn it on!

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Featured Products

Chibi Lights LED Circuit Stickers STEM Starter Kit

Chibi Lights LED Circuit Stickers STEM Starter Kit

STEM Starter Kit
$35.00

Pressure Sensitive Conductive Plastic

Pressure Sensitive Conductive Plastic

Pressure Sensitive Plastic
$10.00

Copper Tape

Copper Tape

Copper Tape
$10.00

Conductive Fabric Tape

Conductive Fabric Tape

Conductive Fabric Tape
$10.00

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