How to Outline an Image in Affinity Designer

Graphic artists are consistently looking for new tools to help them maximum the potential of their designs. One of the most widely used editing tools is Affinity Designer, a graphic designing and UX solution that helps artists create and refine concept art, logos, designs, and other types of digital media.

One of the most useful features of Affinity Designer is its capacity to easily make outer drawing lines for complicated images. However, figuring out how to use this function may be a bit of a challenge for artists new to the program. To help in this regard, keep reading to discover 10 simple steps for outlining an image in Affinity Designer.

1. Import an Image into Affinity Designer

While most images are either in JPEG or PNG format, Affinity Designer allows you to import a wide range of file types into the program.

2. Put Photograph into Pixel Version

The default setting in Affinity Designer is vector. There will be a blue icon in the upper left corner of the screen indicating vector mode. You need to click on the icon directly to the right of this blue icon. This button will turn blue and switch the program to pixel mode. As a photograph is a series of pixels and not vector lines, this will allow you to make your outline with much greater accuracy.

3. Choose the Smart Selection Brush Tool

On the left side of the screen, you will notice a vertical array of tool options. Beneath the bucket fill, you will see a paint brush with a series of dashed lines beneath it. This is the smart selection brush tool. Click on this icon.

4. Select Additive Mode

When you click on the smart selection brush tool, a ribbon will pop up directly beneath the image. Be sure that this ribbon says “add” on the far-left side of the ribbon. This will allow you to add the outline.

5. Trace Your Outline

Use your mouse or stylus to begin making a rough outline around your image. Your outline will be marked as a series of moving dashed lines, or “marching ants.” If you find that your outline has missed a section you want, simply go back over where you traced, and the outline will update. Do not worry about making this outline perfect—we will show you how to clean it up later.

6. Change the Width of Outline as Needed

Each artist will have a different preference for how wide they want their outline. The default width will be pretty narrow, with some of the lines overlapping and getting tangled at the turns of the images. As a result, many artists like to make their outline a bit bolder.

To increase the width of your outline, adjust the settings on the task ribbon beneath the picture. Once you have adjusted the width, you can trace back over your outline. It will have the same basic shape, but with much greater girth due to the increased width.

7. Erase Redundancies in the Outline

With the thicker outline, the artist can clearly see what section of the image will be used and decide which areas you want to keep and which you want to scrap. Using your mouse our stylus, scribble back over the inside section of “marching ants” to blot them out and give you a clean, finalized section of the image you wish to use.

8. Refine the Image

On the far right of the task ribbon at the bottom of the image, there is a button that says “refine.” Click this button. You will get the outlined section of your image set against a high-contrast background, making it easier to see and work with the outlined section.

9. Add Layering to the Image

On the same task ribbon beneath the image, you will notice an option that says “output.” There are several output options, but many artists find the most useful to be the layer option.

Toggle to the option that says “layer” and click apply. This will not only give you the option of seeing your image against a high-contrast background, but you can also toggle back and forth to see the image against its original background as a point of reference.

10. Finalize the Outline

Click on the “FX” button on the far-right hand side of the screen. This will bring up a series of editing options. About halfway down the list is “outline.” Activate this option.

Tapping on the outline bar will cause the task ribbon at the bottom of the screen to change. This will allow you to change the color of your outline, pixel width of the outline border, and many other neat editing features for the outline. Play around with these until you find the combination of settings that truly allows your outlined image to stand out!

» MORE: Does Affinity Designer Have a Live Trace Feature?


There are many great software tools that graphic artists can use to enhance their designs. If you are looking for ways to add a bold outline to your logo or any other piece of digital artwork, use the 10 steps listed above for outlining an image in Affinity Designer!