How to make Shadow Puppets

by  Sophia Zaragas and Marilyn Kinsella


For several years I did shadow puppets with Sophia at the Edwardsville Public Library. We called ourselves "Me and My Shadows." Below are some of the tricks that Sophia taught me on how to construct shadow puppets with some of my own helpful hints. I have included some of the shadow puppet plays that we presented. Please ask permission and let me know how the show goes.



  1. Choose or draw your figure (animal, human etc.).  Many books are available on shadow puppetry with many patterns. 
  2. You can enlarge your figure if you like by using the Xerox.
  3. Make two or three copies if you like to make parts of the body move.
  4. Cut your figure. Cut the moving part as an entirely separate piece from the main body of the figure. 
  5. Glue your figure on the poster board.
  6. Use the ex-acto knife to cut the parts you like to from your figure in order to put on the color tissue. For example, in order to make the eyes show behind the screen you have to cut the eyes out and glue on the color tissue.  BE CAREFUL! Use the ex-acto knife with caution because it is very-very sharp.  BE CAREFUL AGAIN! Always cut your pattern with the ex-acto knife on the cardboard. You donít want to make your kitchen table full of scratches.
  7. Punch a hole through both parts (main body and head) and insert a ľ or Ĺ inch brass paper fastener.
  8. Take a straw - cut and splay the ending part in two. On the other end, attach the rod by taping the splitting parts of the straw onto your puppet.   
  9. Your puppet is ready to use.
  10. When you donít use your puppet, take the rods off and store the puppet flat.

Stage: Make a tri-fold, hinged frame (4' x 3' - main frame and 2" x 3' - side frames). Stretch a cheap shower curtain over the frame and staple gun it into place. Get a table big enough to hold the folded-out stage. The puppeteers will stand behind the table with the back of the puppet stage in front of them. Make sure that you have an outlet nearby for your lights and that there is room enough for you and partner behind the stage. The puppets will be lightly pressed against the back of the stage - too much and the stage will wobble, not enough and the colors used in the puppets will not be bright.

Lights: Use 2 or 3 clip-on lights. Make colored cells using strong cellophane from an arts' store. Get blue, yellow, green, red. Cut them into circles that will fit over the light and tape down on sides. Clip the lights onto the side of the table so it lights the back of the stage. Avoid wearing clothes that have floppy sleeves. They get caught in the puppets and can cause unwanted shadows.

Hints: The room has to be darkened but you must have some light to see the puppets and to read the puppet play (unless you have taped the show ahead of time). Have someone next to the lights to shut them off when the show is ready to begin. Lay out the puppets in order of their appearance. Practice several times ahead of time. Keep supplies handy for emergencies - Scotch tape, scissors, extras tissue paper and light bulbs.

Shadow Puppet Plays:

BORJA- written my Sophia

The Three Sillies - adapted by Marilyn Kinsella

Magic Mushrooms - adapted by Marilyn Kinsella

Stone Soup - adapted by Marilyn Kinsella


                                                GOOD LUCK  -  enjoy your first puppet!