Deke’s Techniques 134: Adding a Border to an Image in Illustrator

134 Adding a border to an image in Illustrator

I sit in my home in Boulder, CO and it is hot as hell. 101° F. With my laptop on my lap, making it even warmer. The heat is all around me. Like a stench that I can’t escape. Like an insect that won’t leave. Like a quasi-friend that eludes my skills. Which is all good. Because, you see, this is the day that Deke’s Techniques amps up from casual to serious. Today, this very day, I begin in earnest to kick some seriously vector-based ass.

Join me as I poke a toe into the waters of what will come. Specifically, today, I show you how to stroke a border around an imported image in Adobe Illustrator. Which, technically speaking, is impossible. And still, I show you how.

Here is the official description from

This week’s free Deke’s Techniques shows you how to do something that otherwise seems impossible: add a border to a photographic image that’s been placed inside Illustrator. Then, to make up for not teaching you how to fly (this will make sense once you’ve watched the video or if you’re a regular fan of Deke’s absurdity), Deke also demonstrates how to add a fill to the same image. Each of these operations relies on the unintuitive maneuver of using the dynamic effect of converting an image to a rectangle. Apparently, until you perform this move, Illustrator does not understand that the placed object (i.e., the photo) exists to be stroked or otherwise modified in the first place.

See for yourself: Use the Appearance panel to create a stroke. Nothing happens no matter how fat (and presumably visible) you make the outline.

But as you’ll see in Deke’s video, once you explain to Illustrator that there is a rectangle, you can apply a suitable stroke. Not only that, but you can use the same command to convince Illustrator to add a fill that in effect colorizes your placed image. It’s all about believing, and knowing how to talk to Illustrator in its own language. (Which is the only language it cares about, after all.) The result is that you take the plain, unbordered image on the left and add a stroke and colorizing fill as pictured on the right, all with judicious use of the Convert to Shape > Rectangle command.

Stroking an imported image in Adobe Illustrator

And for members of, Deke offers an exclusive movie that demonstrates how to perform another seemingly impossible (or at least, unintuitive) feat of cropping a placed image in Illustrator.

And Deke will be back next week with another reality-tweaking technique.

Some of you might gripe about the quality of this image. But two things: I made it purposefully grainy in Camera Raw. And, c’mon, the composition is somewhat hilarious. For example, every time I read the enclosed story, I make myself laugh.

The dinosaur story in Aobe Illustrator

But, you know, it’s my story so I would laugh. Let me know what you think.

Next entry:Deke’s Techniques 136: Building a Sci-Fi Temple from Scratch in Photoshop CS6 Extended 3D

Previous entry:Deke’s Techniques 132: Adding Photographic Texture to Vector Type in Illustrator


  • InDesign help, InDesign page format numbering

    so why are you lossing your time,where a good job is waiting for you!!! excellent site on Indesign

  • Frame around image in Illustrator using PC CS5

    Doesn’t seem to work with the older versions of Illustrator.

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