How to Make a Shadow Puppet Theater



Hey there, i’m Liz! I’m the founder of Eat Move Make and a North Carolina mom of two humans and six cats. I love to cook, bake, craft and travel. I’m also addicted to tea (but not sweet tea). When I’m not creating something in my kitchen, and since my kids are now adults, I’m all about my bucket list of travel destinations and adventures.


What is a shadow class 6?

A shadow is a space where light from a light source is blocked by an opaque object. A shadow is formed when a part of light is blocked by the object. A shadow is always obtained on a screen like walls, ground etc.

At what time of the day is your shadow lazy?

Sunrise and sunset will produce the longest shadows of the day, because that’s the most extreme angle possible before the horizon blocks the sun. Noon is going to produce the shortest shadow of the day, though this length will vary based on the time of year and how far north (or south) of the equator you are.

How do we use shadows?

Shadows add facet and meaning to an image. Without shadows the object may appear plain and boring. Lights and shadows establish the correlation of one object to another and their place in the full scene. The position and strength of the lights and shadows also set the general mood of the subject.

Set Up The Shadow Puppet Stage!

1.The Support.

Our homeschool group had two large movable pegboards on stands that we were able to stretch a sheet between for our stage. It worked perfectly for our needs!

If you happen to have a puppet stage, that works too – just cover the opening with a small sheet or other piece of white fabric.

We've also just stretched a sheet across a corner of a room before, securing it on each wall with a few pushpins.

2. The Sheet.

No matter what you use to support the sheet, you want the sheet or fabric to be thick enough that the puppeteers won't be seen, but thin enough that the puppets will!

Also, try to pull the sheet fairly taunt. The puppets won't show up as well if there are lots of wrinkles and folds in the fabric.

3. The Light.

Set up a light on the same side of the sheet that the puppeteers will stand. If possible, place the light between the puppets and the puppeteers so that only the puppets will make shadows on the sheet. You may find that two lights, both behind the sheet but one each side of the stage, may produce better shadows.

Tip 2: Working the Puppets

For best visibility, the puppets should actually just barely touch the sheet during the play. (Any part not touching might not be visible to the audience.)

If you want a puppet to go "off stage," just pull your puppet away from the sheet a few inches.

The kids in our homeschool co-op rehearsed their shadow puppet play for several days prior to putting it on during the end-of-the-year program.

Janiece Tobey (author)

Cut Shadow Puppets with a Machine

If you have a silhouette cutting machine (Silhouette Portrait or Cricut), you can import the designs and have them cut in no time. Below, you will find my detailed tutorials on how to do that.

How to import a JPEG or PNG image in the Silhouette Studio

How to import a JPEG or PNG image in the Cricut Design Space  

Pros: The machine does a good job, and once you invest in it, you can use it for all the silhouettes you will ever need. I’m very fond of mine.

Cons: Not so cheap. On the other hand, for a crafter, it’s a really amazing investment, and cost is similar to a decent printer. Like a printer, there is the ongoing cost of expendables – you need to buy replacement mats and blades occasionally. 

How do you make Coloured shadows?

If you block only one of the lights, you get a shadow whose color is a mixture of the other two. Block the red light and the blue and green light mix to create cyan; block the green light and the red and blue light make magenta; block the blue light and red and green make yellow.

Shadow Puppet Theater

This is my daughter, soon to be 10 years old, posing with her newly created shadow puppets and puppet theater. This craft was so easy to make! We started with a cereal box, rescued from the recycling pile.

Making the puppets

Cut limbs from double poster board
Cut limbs from double poster board
  1. Cut out the body parts with a wide margin and stick them to the black poster board with either a small piece of double sided tape or a double folded piece of scotch tape.
  2. Cut out all body parts with small sharp scissors. Use the pointed part of the scissors to cut out the eye and to make holes in all indicated places where the pieces will be joined.
  3. Compare the silhouette head with the faceless template head and punch the little hole where the head connects to the body.
  4. Separate the paper from the black poster board parts.
  5. Connect the body’s legs to the torso with a small black brad. Do the same with the upper and lower arms.
  6. Connect the arms, face, and body with one metal brad in the (arm #1–body–head–arm #2).
  7. Turn the head forward and backwards to see if any part below the neck will rise above the shoulders. If so, cut that away with your scissors.
  8. For instructions about holding and moving rods go to Holding and  moving the puppets.


  • Be careful if using candles, lamps are recommended.

    Thanks! Helpful 29 Not Helpful 12

  • Be careful when cutting out the cardboard-box and paper.

    Thanks! Helpful 14 Not Helpful 24


A Pioneer Sampler – a great living book

This book is actually the inspiration for our making a shadow puppet theater! In the book, the Robertsons spend a cold winter's evening around the fire watching to Granny cast shadows on the wall as she tells a silly story about hobgoblins.

This is such a wonderful way to learn about the American pioneers. The book centers around the Robertsons, a backwoods family of nine. Engaging stories about their lives teach about the lifestyle of our American forefathers and mothers. Interspersed among the stories are factual pages with beautiful line drawings and activity suggestions. A fascinating book!

Thanks for visiting. I hope that your puppet theater is a grand success!

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  1. Switch on the flashlight and point it at the wall. What do you see on the wall once you switch on the light? How does the appearance of the wall change when you switch the light on?

  2. Hold the cardstock circle up halfway between the flashlight and the wall, just outside the light shining on the wall.

    What do you see on the wall? Does the circle cast a shadow? Why or why not?

  3. Next, hold the circle directly in front of the flashlight, halfway to the wall.

    What do you see on the wall this time? What shape does the shadow have?

  4. Cut two more 2-inch circles from the frosted and clear plastic sheets. One at a time, hold each of the circles halfway between the flashlight and the wall.

    Which material makes the darkest shadow: the frosted plastic, the clear plastic, or the cardstock circle? Can you explain your observations?

  5. Cut a figure or puppet out of the cardstock.

  6. Tape a wooden skewer or popsicle stick to the cardstock puppet.

  7. Cast a shadow of the puppet onto the wall. How does the shadow look? How big is it and what shape does it have?

  8. Decorate your cardstock puppet with stickers or markers. Cast a shadow of the puppet again as you did before.

    Do the decorations change the appearance of the shadow? Why or why not?

  9. Try changing the distance between the flashlight and your puppet. Hold the puppet halfway between the flashlight and the wall, then move the flashlight back and forth (farther from and closer to the puppet).

    What happens to the puppet’s shadow as you move the flashlight?

  10. Try changing the distance between the puppet and the wall. Put the flashlight back in its original position, then move the puppet back and forth (closer to and farther from the wall).

    How does the shadow change as you move the puppet?

  11. Hold the puppet halfway between the flashlight and the wall. Try moving the flashlight around and shining it at the puppet from different angles.

    What happens to the puppet’s shadow when you change the angle of the flashlight? How does the shadow change?

  12. Now that you know how you can change the shape or size of your puppet’s shadow, try making long, short, small, and big shadows. What do you have to do to achieve these different shadows?

  13. Turn your knowledge about light and shadow into a shadow play. Make more shadow puppets and tell a story with them! You can also create scenes on the wall by making trees, buildings, or other figures from the cardstock.

For Further Exploration

  • Make more shadow puppets! Cut out different shapes or other figures from the cardstock and see how their shadows look. Can you make a puppet with moving parts?
  • What happens to your shadow if you use multiple light sources? Test it by using two or three light sources at the same time. Place them all at different positions and observe how your shadow(s) change.
  • Can you find a way to make colored shadows? Look at this “Colored Shadows” activity to find out how it works.

Want to make more complicated puppets?

The youth in our co-op ranged in age from first grade up to fifth grade at the time they did their shadow puppet performance, and this was their first exposure to making shadow puppets, so we opted to "keep it simple."

If you have older youth, or if your youth have already had some practice with shadow puppets, you may like to try some more complicated puppets. You can see some in the youtube videos below!

How To Make Shadow Puppets Details

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Town Mouse and Country Mouse: Shadow Puppets

Using these printable shadow puppets, you can stage a shadow puppet play, based on the popular fairy-tale The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse!