Irregularly Shaped Outlines

This next assignment will show you how to outline an image in order to have it cut out as a sticker or a design that could be heat pressed onto a shirt or bag.

You will create a file in Illustrator that is 27″ wide and 6″ tall. You don’t necessarily have to use up all of that space.

Make sure you Save your file on your computer, in your OneDrive folder (oh, and take a moment to open the program called OneDrive…)

Choosing the right images for this project is very important. You need to find high quality images with a character or logo that is irregularly shaped (not a rectangle or something circular.)

You’ll probably want to find your images via Google Images. (please don’t use Bing. Bing is dumb.)

Google Images is great because there’s a Tools button:

When you click that button, you get some options that will make life much easier here.

Under Size, choose Large. This will limit your search to reasonably high quality images.

I would also recommend looking under Color and choosing Transparent:

You want to find characters and logos that do not have a background. Ideally, you will also find one image that is connected.

If I want a Star Wars logo, this one will not work well for this project because the letters are not connected so there is space between them:

one like this would work much better:

When you find an image you like, click on it. On the right side of the screen, you will see a larger version of the image. If you’ve chosen a Transparent background, you will see a checkerboard pattern around the image:

Right click on that larger image and choose Save Image As…

Save the image(s) wherever you like (Downloads is fine for now.)

In Illustrator, you need to add your image to your Artboard (page), by going to the File menu and choosing Place:

You can save yourself some trouble and skip a step below by turning OFF the “Link” button when you choose your file. If you do this, you do not need to worry about the important step below where you need to Embed your file:

Once you choose your image from your Downloads folder, or wherever you put it, you want to add it to your Artboard.

If you were to just click on the Artboard (white page), your image would probably pop up very large (assuming that you downloaded a high quality image)

It would be better to drag out a box on your page when placing the image:

If you are going to resize an image, make sure you hold down the SHIFT key on your keyboard and pull from the corner:

If you select your image on the Artboard, you can check the Properties panel to see how big the sticker would be. a 1 inch sticker would be quite tiny. 6 inches is pretty big.

EXTREMELY IMPORTANT: When you Place an image, you need to make sure you Embed. You can find that option on the bottom of the Properties panel under Quick Actions:

If you turned off the “Link” button when Placing your file, or if it is already Embedded, you will instead see a button that says Unembed (you don’t really ever want to do that…)

If you do not Embed your file, your sticker will not turn out well. The image will look terrible, if it shows up at all.

You can make sure you have Embedded your images on the Layers panel. Embedded images will be called Image. Unembedded files will be called “Linked File.”

You could also check the Links panel. If you see any links of chain, you know you have something that is not Embedded.

Open your Layers panel.

Your image(s) will likely be on Layer 1. You need to add another layer on top. You can do this at the bottom right of the panel with the + button:

Or with the top right Hamburger menu:

Using the Selection tool, Select your image(s) either by dragging a box around them on the Artboard, or you can click the blue squares next to the Image(s) on the layers panel.

Make a Copy, either with the Edit menu, then Copy, or by pressing Ctrl + C

On your Layers panel, select the new Layer 2. You may have to click off of the selected images first to deselect those.

Go to the Edit menu and choose Paste in Place to put a copy in exactly the same spot as the original image(s)

You should now see the Images on the new, top layer

Now take the original layer (Layer 1) and Lock it

I also like to turn that layer off so I can’t see it

Select ONE image at a time. When you have ONE image selected, you can get Illustrator to trace it and turn it into Paths.

With the image selected, you can go to the bottom of the Properties panel and click Image Trace

There are different types of tracing depending on the quality of the finished image. For our needs, we don’t need anything fancy, so I’ll click Black and White Logo, which is one of the simpler drawings:

You can also find this option under Object/Image Trace/Make:

if you’ve chosen that option, you should now see a black and white version of the image:

Once the Image is Traced, you need to Expand, in order to Convert the Tracing objects to paths. You can find this option on the Properties panel:

or in the Object menu:

Now you’ll see the red anchors that indicate that we now have a series of lines/Paths

You will notice that the Image has now turned into a Group:

Go on the Layers panel and expand that Group:

You need to get rid of the bottom layer, which will likely just be a rectangular box around the image. Scroll down to the bottom layer in the Group and select it:

Press Delete on your keyboard and that outside layer will disappear. You’ll see the Path Anchors going around the image:

Next, select the entire Group layer

Use the Pathfinder to Unite all of the paths into one shape

Unfortunately, my logo has a few stray lines and shapes that I need to get rid of. All I want is one outline around the entire logo.

With all of it selected, I need to Ungroup. You can do this on the Properties panel or the Object menu:

Now I have a series of separate paths:

Click on a blank  spot to Deselect

I’ll switch to the Direct Selection tool so I can get rid of some of those stray paths:

With that tool, I’ll draw a box around some of those extra paths to select them:

…then I’ll press Delete on my keyboard to get rid of those extra shapes:

I’ve got some more of those on the inside of my logo, so I’ll continue doing the same thing to get rid of those extra points:

Because I have so many of them, another way to do this would be to select and lock the big outline that I want to keep:

With that layer locked, I could Select all of the other extra points/paths and Delete those:

In the end, ideally, we will be left with ONE outline path:

I now have a big black shape that is blocking my image below.

I need to outline that shape with a very specific colour.

DOWNLOAD the file called Roland

You will need to access the Swatches panel to load this special colour:

Click the three stripe hamburger menu at the top right of the Swatches panel

At the bottom of the pop up menu, choose Open Swatch Library, then Other Library

Find that file that you downloaded, which is probably in your Downloads folder:

That will open a new panel called Roland VersaWorks. We need the pink colour:

Drag that pink block into your Swatches panel in the first blank space:

In the Properties panel, you will see that you currently have a black Fill and no Stroke

Change the Fill to No Fill (white square with a red line through it)

And the Stroke colour should be that Cut Contour colour:

Change the Weight (thickness) of the Stroke to .25 pt

Your outline properties should look like this:

Now we have a pink outline that is going around the image.

Unfortunately, the cutter doesn’t cut very precisely, so cutting that close to a line is not a good idea. We will have to move that outline a bit so that there is some white space around the image.

Go to the Object menu, choose Path, then Offset Path…:


I like to move my path about 1/10th of an inch. Changing the Miter limit to Round looked better for my image. I want the smoothest possible outline.


This will create a second path that is 1/10th of an inch away from the first one. You need to get rid of the first one.

Select just the inside path (the one right on the outside of the image:

Delete that path!

You should be left with just one outline and it should leave some white space around the actual image:


Make sure you know how big your stickers are going to be! Think about what you are going to do with your stickers when they are done. Do you want them to be very small ( 1 inch?) or bigger (4 inches?). Resize your stickers as necessary. The bigger the stickers are, the harder they are to place without getting air bubbles underneath. If they’re small, you don’t want really fine lines that are going to be a mess to cut out. Talk to me about the size of your stickers.


Put your stickers as close together as possible on the sheet without touching! We don’t want to waste a lot of material if we can help it, so moving them together really helps.


If you aren’t going to use the whole 27″ width of the roll of sticker material, you may have to wait until I have other stickers to print for other people.


If you aren’t going to use the whole page, use the Artboard tool to resize the Artboard. Select the tool or press Shift + O

Drag the edges of the page in toward your designs in order to eliminate wasted space:


In the end, make sure that all of your Cut Contour outlines are on the very top layer

There’s one more important step that you need to follow. Select all of your outlines.

Go into the Object menu and choose Flatten Transparency…

In the box that pops up, change the Preset to High Resolution:

The rest is fine so just hit OK

Now it’s time to check your file and prepare for printing. Go to the File menu and choose Save As…

Change the file type to PDF

Hit Save

Now, check on the left hand side of the Save box for the word Summary. If it has an exclamation mark after it, there’s a PROBLEM

Click on it and you will see a warning at the bottom

This often means that the layer with the images also has transparency that needs to be flattened.

I like to lock my top, outlines layer before doing this

Then select the images layer

And again, Object/Flatten Transparency

MAKE SURE your outlines are still at the very top! If so, go through the Save As… step again. If the Summary now looks like this:

You’re good to save your .pdf file and hand it in for printing & cutting!

Tell Mr. Robson what's on your mind!