Sunday, June 14, 2020

Introduction to DIY Shadow Puppets

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It is simple to stage a shadow puppet show. 

Do your kids enjoy arts and craft? Do they like to tell stories? Are they fascinated by the interactions of light and shadows? 

This is easier thank you think. Of course it will requires some exploration, trial by error, and creativity (kids can surely help you with that compartment) with some supplies collecting dust in your attic, basement, or garage. 

You will need these items.
  • Card Stock Paper
  • Scissors
  • Bamboo Skewers (to operate puppet)
  • Brass Fasteners (for puppets with movable limbs)
  • Electric Tape
  • Cardboard Box
  • Desk Lamp or other light source
  • wax paper or parchment paper for theatre screen

A Shadow Prop Blast Off!

Without relying on much technology, you can make simple shadow puppets to fit any story your kids can dream of. Literally, you can construct your own theatre out of a card board box of any size to bring silhouettes to life. 

Before we proceed Astronaut Buddy Getto and his copilot Zatrix from outer space has transmitted a brief message from outer space about the history of shadow puppets. 

Aside from a lack of solitude between Buddy and Matrix, shadow puppets can allow poetic evening shows and build lasting memories.

If you prefer not to use a box for a theatre, you can still cast shadows on walls with a bed lamp using different shapes and animals. Either way, imaginations will soar.


  • Devote about 10 minutes to think about story theme and to look for shapes or figures online or in damaged children books. 
  • You shouldn't go over 30 minutes in cutting out the puppets
  • It will take about 20 minutes to install theatre (If you wish to have one) and cut out a circle (size of a large tape) in the rear to connect light source (I used a desk lamp).


If you wish to put on a live show for family and friends with a theme geared for very young children, I would recommend the duration of it not to exceed past 10 or 15 minutes. Children have short attention spans and will want to participate! 

The location of the performance should be indoors, preferably in a room that can easily be made dark. 


When I started off doing shadow puppetry a few years ago, it felt like I was involved in some interactive science test. A lot of time was spent I experimenting with different light and learning how it worked to produce the best effects. 

Light travels fast! 186,000 miles per second, or 300,000 km per second if memory serves me right. When an object blocks the path of light, like a cut out paper figure, it creates a shadow. 

When the puppet is move back away from the screen, it appears bigger. If is shifted forward, it becomes smaller. 


You can choose an existing story or make up your own. Here are some suggestions to get the creative juices flowing. 
  • Does the story involve people, animals, or both? 
  • Who are the good guys and the bad guys? 
  • Is the tale happening long ago or nowadays? 
  • Where does it take place? Forest? Savannah? City? Mountains? 
  • Ensure the story is simple so that kids can tell it without a script. 
  • Come up with a cool title for your story and names for your characters. 

All Characters on Deck: Finding Images

Shadow Puppetry is a story told in shadows. You will need a silhouette for every character, prop, and set in your story. Identify the shapes you need. 

1. To accommodate varied scenes and enough twists, use at least 3 characters. For example, one hero and two villains which can be animals or humans. Utilize 3 different backgrounds items such as a tree, house, castle, etc. 

2. If you are having difficulty with finding figures, just go on the internet and type animal shape or whatever easy-to-cut-out character you can find. 

3. Select images with simple silhouettes. Shapes with lots of small legs or pieces to cut out in the middle  are difficult to make and product less distinct shadows. 

4. Resize images before printing them. Ensure each element is right relative size to other elements (for example; a cat should not be bigger than a lion).

5. Cut out with scissors. Use a craft knife for delicate areas. Children will need assistance with more detailed objects. 

Astronaut Buddy Getto


You can hold printed shape over cardstock and cut the puppet out that way. If you opt to cut the arms and legs out separately, you well need a punch holder and brass fastener to reconnect the limbs. 

An Alternative Theatre

If the card board box or wall is not to your liking, you can use a portable coat rack as a stage. 

Wrap a white bed sheet tightly around the coat rack. Fix it to the frame with hair clips or clothes pins. Now, you can take your mobile theatre anywhere in the house. Don't forget a LED clamp for light source! 

Sound Effects

If you want to put a spin to your imagination, you can add sound effects for your show. Sticks, drums, shaking water bottles, and other noises can bring a sense of awe from your audience. 

Maybe you can do something like this. 

Richard Bradshaw is the most well know shadow puppeteer. His videos actually inspired me and you may see some hints in this short video! 

I hope you enjoyed this! 

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