Monday, April 23, 2012

Shadow Puppet Tutorial #1: How to Make a Shadow Puppet Theatre

This tutorial will show you how to make a tabletop Shadow Theatre and set up a shadow puppet show.

The tutorial for How To Make Shadow Puppets is here

Materials for Theatre:
3 sided cardboard display board
Rotary cutter (or box cutter), cutting mat
Masking tape, clear shipping tape
Freezer paper

Other materials:
shadow puppets (paper or cardstock); script
drinking straws
scotch tape
flourescent closet light


1. Lay the display board on the cutting mat;  cut in half.
This will allow you to make 2 theatres.

2.  Fold the display board inside out. The white side will face the audience.
Some boards cannot be folded inside out; in this case, cut the wings completely off and reattach with clear shipping tape.

3. Decide which end of your theatre will be the top. ( If there are any nicks on the edge from cutting, make that edge the bottom.)

4. Cut out a 12x19" rectangle from the center panel to be the screen.
Leave a 2" border around the top and sides of the center panel. The bottom border will be 3 3/4".
5. Cut a piece of freezer paper to be your screen.
The slippery coated side should face the puppetteers.

You should allow about a 1-2" of freezer paper to overlap the edges.
Attach the freezer paper to the inside of the theatre (brown side) with masking tape.

I have used other papers and plastic for shadow puppet screens, but translucent freezer paper is my favorite material.

Your theatre is ready!  You or your kids can decorate the audience side if desired.

 Putting on your show:

 I prefer to use angled lighting (see below) so that there are no sticks showing and no puppetteers showing.

For a clear image, press the puppets gently against the screen.
To keep this theatre from "walking" forward during the show, tape the wings down to the table.

Note the puppet in this picture is laminated; I often laminate my puppets if I expect they will have a rough life. With certain lighting conditions the laminate edges may show very slightly. Adding a second light or an extra layer of freezer paper on the screen will reduce this effect.

Prepare your puppets for the show:

Tape the short end of a flexible plastic drinking straw to your puppet.

Trim straw as needed.

This picture shows a large puppet with a moving arm, so I used 3 straws.

The puppetteer will hold the head & body straws in one hand, and move the puppet arm with their other hand.


The easiest lighting method I have found is a fluorescent closet light. The one pictured is electric but I have also used battery powered lights.

I have used other types of lighting as well. You should experiment to find what gives you the desired effect.

I hope you enjoy your shadow puppets!!