Project #7: To Outline or Not to Outline?

Posted by Jennifer Impey on 4/25/2022

Today’s essential question: Should I add an outline to my design or utilize color and implied line?

Today we will:

  1. Explore tattoo and sticker designs that incorporate line and implied line.
  2. Decide whether to outline or not outline our designs.
  3. Continue working in Adobe Illustrator to create our tattoo/sticker designs.


To outline, or not to outline?:

When it comes to tattoo and sticker designs, you’ll often see two variations. Some artists like to use a hard outline, or contour, to outline their designs. Other artists will utilize blocks of color instead, creating an implied line, or “invisible line” around the object. An implied line is created through color contrast.

As you start finishing up your tattoo/sticker design, I would like you to decide how you are going to approach this idea of the outline for your design. Take a look at these two daisy tattoos. One uses a hard, black outline around the design and the other uses color and value contrast to create implied outlines around each form.

Likewise, here are two examples of daisy stickers that incorporate the same idea of outline vs. no outline. (Notice that both stickers have a white outline around the edges…this is common for stickers as it is difficult to print to the edge of paper, especially when a sticker is an organic form.). One sticker has a definite hard, black outline to it’s design and the other sticker utilizes value contrast to create the edges of the petals.

As you continue working on your tattoo/sticker design, you must design how you are going to outline it. Use the “Appearance” adjuster in the “Properties” panel in Illustrator to adjust your Stroke as seen in the pictures below.