Shadowgraphy or Ombromanie is the art of performing a story or show using images made only by hand shadows.


Hand Shadowgraphy, as the name implies, is a rare art form where shadow images are created with bare hands only.

The origin of this art is not known.  One of the most probable estimate is that it evolved during the caveman era,  but it probably originated in the Far East as it was very popular in Europe in the 19th century called as Ombres Chinoises which means “Chinese shadows”.  With the invention of electricity and other entertainment appliances, this art declined.  But the interest of the french magician Félicien Trewey in this art, has popularized it.


In any shadow performance, one thing remains constant and that is the presence of the shadowgraphist. Without him, there can be no shadowgraphy performance.


The simple tool of hands are usually exercised and different finger positions are practiced to help aid in forming the shadows.


Light source

The next tool needed is the light source to be used, which should be small and bright. The best shadows come from light proceeding from the smallest possible point like a candle, a flashlight (with the lens and reflector removed), a small arc lamp, a limelight (if used with a high-class jet), acetylene gas lamp or carbide lamp or any very small light.

Trewey suggests unless the chalk for the limelight is cut in a triangular form, it will produce a gray border around the edge of the shadow.

Blank surface

A white or light colored wall or a white sheet or table cloth for a small audience is well suited. For a larger audience called a rear projection screen could be used. But the light must be stronger such as a small spotlight without the projector, lenses, or diffusers.

The last but the most important tool to achieve perfection is patience and practice.


The modern art of hand shadows was made popular by the French magician Félicien Trewey in the 19th century. He popularized the art by making silhouettes of famous personalities.  Since then the art has influenced more magicians than others.

The magician well known today in shadowgraphy is the Australian Raymond Crowe whose hand shadow acts are more popular.