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The internet is a very visual medium. If you’re working on a blog or e-commerce site, you know how important it is to have high-quality photos. Adding special elements, like outlines, can help make your work really pop. Only one question remains — do you know how to make an outline of a picture?

Creating an outline is surprisingly easy, yet impactful. You can do it using any number of photo editing programs. Choose one from the guide below, open it up, and follow along with this easy, step-by-step process to create photos that really zing.

How to outline a picture in Photopea

When people think of image editing software, Photopea is usually what jumps to mind first. If you have access to this program, you have a great picture outline maker already at your fingertips. Here’s how to make an outline of a picture using this program:

1. Open image

Go into Photopea, and open the image you want to outline. The below method works best for subjects on a solid-colored or very simple background since this will make it easier for the program to detect the subject.

Open image on Photopea how to make an outline of a picture

2. Duplicate layer

Duplicating the layer offers you some extra protection. If you make a mistake, you don’t want it to be on the original image itself.

If you already have a bunch of layers, you also might want to merge them to make things less confusing for yourself. You really only need to have two for this process: the original, and the layer you’re going to draw the outline on.

Duplicate layer how to make an outline of a picture


If you’d prefer to use keyboard shortcuts, you can. In Windows, CTRL + J will create a duplicate layer.

Duplicate layer with ctrl j how to make an outline of a picture

CMD + J on Mac

On Mac, CMD + J will do the same thing.

3. To outline the whole image:

3.1. Open the Layer Style Panel

If you want to know how to make an outline of a picture, like a frame, double-click on the duplicate layer to open the Layer Style Panel.

Open the Layer Style Panel how to make an outline of a picture

3.2. Check "Stroke"

In the Stroke menu, set the position to “Inside.” Choose your line weight, and make sure that the fill type is set to “Color.”

3.3. Click "Okay"

Click the “Okay” button on the right. Photopea will outline your entire image, like a frame.

Click Okay how to make an outline of a picture

4. To outline a specific subject:

4.1. Make a selection around the picture

If you need to learn how to make an outline of a picture that’s limited to the picture’s central subject, go to the Object Selection Tool. (You can also hit the W key as a shortcut.)

Make a selection around the picture Properties panel image of a lipstick

4.2. Properties panel

With this tool active, set the mode to “rectangle” in the properties panel. You’ll also want to check “Object Subtract” and “Enhance Edge.”

4.3. Select subject

Click and drag a rectangle around the subject you want to outline. As long as the subject fits completely inside of the box, Photopea will automatically snap the borders of the selection to it. Double-check to make sure that the entire subject is selected, and not any extraneous background objects.

Select subject how to make an outline of a picture

5. Click on the layer mask icon

Next, click on the layer mask icon. You don’t want to change anything about the photo’s subject itself, so mask it for now.

Click on the layer mask icon clipping mask

Cuts out the subject

This will “cut out” the subject of your image, hiding it from view.

6. Double click on your masked layer

Now, double-click the layer you’ve masked. This will open up the Layer Style panel.

Double click on your masked layer Style panel

Style panel

The Layer Style panel allows you to control what kind of outline you’d like to draw. You can leave it as a single stroke in a single color, double strokes, a gradient, or much more. For now, use a single stroke in a single solid color.

Click on the stroke option

On the left side, you should see the “Stroke” option. This lets you choose the thickness of the stroke, the color, the opacity, and whether you want it to be inside or outside of the selection. Experiment with these settings until you’re happy with them.

7. Set the position option to outside

Make sure you have the position set to “outside.” This will place the stroke right outside of the masked selection, as an outline.

Click the “Okay” button on the right side. Photopea will automatically outline the subject of your image in the color and line weight of your choice.

If you’re happy with the result, save or print it.

How to outline a picture on PicsArt

What if you already know how to outline a picture in Photopea on a computer, but usually use PicsArt for all of your photo editing needs? There’s no sense in paying for and downloading a whole program just for one task.

Fortunately, if you have stylish, creative photos that you want to make really pop, you can learn how to outline a picture on PicsArt in just a few steps:

1. Select a photo

Choose the photo that you want to add an outline to.

2. To edit, tap on Effects

At the bottom of the screen, there’ll be an option called “Effects.” Tap on this.

Select a photo To edit tap on Effects how to make an outline of a picture

3. Sketch effect

Effects” will bring up a list of different photo editing effects, including “Sketch.” If you choose a Sketch option, it’ll bring up an overlay that allows you to customize your selection. You can change the line weight, choose different colors, and adjust the positioning of the outline.

Sketch effect Adjusts the thickness of the outline Changes background color

Adjusts the thickness of the outline

By default, the line thickness is set to “1.” You can increase this for bolder, thicker lines.

Changes background-color

Some of the sketch options “dissolve” the background, changing either the entire background or small sections of it to white. You can use this to create some very interesting half-photo, half-sketch artistic effects in your portrait photos.

Four sketch effects

  • Simple Sketch. Simple Sketch produces one sketch of the photo’s subject, overlayed on the image itself. You can choose the exact position of the sketch.
  • Total Sketch. Total Sketch behaves like a photo-to-line drawing app. It creates a black and white sketch of the subject and erases the photo itself. The end product is the minimalist line art.
  • Double Sketch. Double Sketch is similar to Simple Sketch but produces two mirror image sketches instead of one, both overlayed on the photo.
  • Reverse Sketch. Reverse Sketch sketches sections of the photo’s subject, and dissolves the background behind them. The end result is a collage effect, where sections of the finished work are the original photo, and sections are black and white line art.
Four sketch effects how to make an outline of a picture

How to turn photo into line drawing Illustrator

Even if you know how to make an outline of a picture in Photopea, that doesn’t necessarily translate into turning out polished line drawings, or drawings in other programs. If you only have access to Adobe Illustrator and want to use it like a photo-to-line drawing app, the process is different. You’ll need a printer, pens or markers, and a steady hand.

1. Print a photo in back and white

First, choose your photo. It doesn’t have to be one you’ve taken — you can find thousands of interesting, creative photos on sites like Pixabay.

Open this photo in any imaging program, and change it to black and white. Don’t worry about saving it or fiddling with any other settings right now. Once you have it converted to grayscale, print it out.

Print a photo in black and white [type back from black]

2. Trace photo

Next, take the printed copy of the photo, and trace it. If you want to turn photo into line drawing Illustrator will require you to trace it onto blank paper — otherwise, your scanner will pick up on the printed image. Tracing the printed photo allows you to capture only the elements of the photo that you want.

You can make things easier for yourself by placing your blank sheet of paper over the printed photo, and placing these on a glass table with a lamp underneath it. If that isn’t possible, a window will work instead. This will make light shine through the papers, allowing you to see the underlying image more clearly.

Trace photo Trace photo Use a black marker to trace the areas you want to

3. Use a black marker to trace the areas you want to

Once you’ve successfully traced the photo, use a heavier pen or black marker to draw over the elements you really want to pop. If your photo was of a person in a busy street scene, you may only want to trace over the person. This will make them stand out, and allow you to erase whatever parts of the photo you don’t want to convert to line art. You can also add things by drawing them in.

Doing this way will also save you from having to figure out how to make an outline of a picture later. You can just outline whatever you want by hand.

4. Scan pic and save as jpg

Scan the picture using a conventional flatbed scanner, or a scanning app on your phone. (Depending on the image, you may get better results with a regular scanner.) Save the result as a .jpg file. Don’t worry if the quality isn’t perfect — you can adjust whatever you need to later.

Scan pic and save as jpg how to make an outline of a picture

5. Open in Illustrator

Open the image in Illustrator. It might look a little messy or have some scanning artifacts right now, but that’s okay.

Open in Illustrator Object next Image Trace click Make Make any additional tweaks

Object >Image Trace >Make

From the top menu, go to “Object.” This will open a dropdown menu. Near the bottom, you should see a selection named “Image Trace” with a right arrow. Mouse over “Image trace,” then pick “Make.”

6. Make any additional tweaks

Near the top of the screen, you’ll see the Image Trace panel. This gives you plenty of options to make adjustments to your lines. You can make them thicker, hide or enhance fine details, and more. Experiment with these settings until you’re happy with the result, then save your finished line art.

Line art can be the first step to a finished piece, or a visually striking work on its own. If you have a favorite photograph that you’d like to turn into line art, or just want to learn how to make an outline of a picture so your photos really stand out, Photopea, PicsArt, and Illustrator make the process easy and painless. Open your photo, experiment with a few settings, and you can have framing-worthy images in minutes.

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