Create Your Own Shadow Puppets!

Have you ever used your hands to make shadow animals? Shadow puppets likely originated in Asia up to three thousand years ago! By the 1600s, shadow puppets also became popular in Europe. Our special exhibition Art of the Stage: Picasso to Hockney looks at how artists work with writers and performers to bring stories to life through theater, ballets, operas, and cinema.

Included in the exhibition is the Shadow Puppet of an Artist Holding a Palette from the late 1800s. This puppet was created over 120 years ago for the Theatre d’ombres (Shadow Theatre) at Le Chat Noir (The Black Cat), which was a famous musical cabaret nightclub in Paris. This puppet is made out of zinc, a type of metal. Metal puppets were durable and allowed puppeteers to use them for a long time. 

Try making your own shadow puppets home! Choose a favorite animal or storybook character to bring to life, or imagine a new character.  Once you’ve chosen your characters, follow the steps below to create your puppet.  Use #MFAfromHome to share your creations with us online!


• Black paper
• Scissors
• Glue dots, hot glue, or tape
• Sticks, straws, skewers, pencils, or other long, thin objects
• Flashlight or other light source


1. Use a pencil to draw your character on a black piece of paper.

2. Carefully cut out your character using scissors.

3. Use glue dots, hot glue, or tape to connect your character to the end of a stick, straw, skewer, pencil, or other long, thin object. This will be the base you use to hold your puppet. Always ask for help or permission before using hot glue.

4. When your puppet is attached to its base and any glue is dried, hold your puppet about a foot away from a wall or other flat surface. Then, shine a flashlight or other light source on your puppet to create a shadow.

5. Extra fun: Create a cast, or group of characters, and make puppets for each one. Then, use them to act out a story. Write a script, or directions for the characters to follow, and follow your script to put on a puppet show!


Art of the Stage: Picasso to Hockney is organized by McNay Art Museum (San Antonio, TX).

Shadow Puppet of an Artist Holding a Palette, ca. 1886-97, Zinc with fabric, Museum purchase with the Victor and Peggy Barton Creighton Charitable Trust


YOuth activities funded in part by: