Deke’s Techniques: Adding a stroke (or fill) to a photographic image in Illustrator

Published by | Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

This week’s free Deke’s Techniques shows you how to add a border to a photographic image that has been prepped in Photoshop and placed inside Illustrator—a feat that, at times, can seem impossible if you don’t know the right steps. 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 in this week’s free tutorial how to add a fill to the same image, which is great if you want to give your image a nice purple tint, as we see in the dinosaur example below.

Adding a fill color to an image in Illustrator using the Effect menu.

Adding a fill color to an image using the Effect > Convert to Shape > Rectangle command.

Adding a fill and a border may sound like simple tasks, but in this case both are reliant on one unintuitive maneuver—using the Effect menu to convert your photograph into a rectangle shape Illustrator can see (Effect > Convert to Shape > Rectangle). Apparently, until you perform this unintuitive move, Illustrator does not understand that the placed object (in this case, the photo) exists. Not convinced? Try using the Attributes panel to create a stroke or a fill and see for yourself—nothing happens no matter how fat, bright, and presumably visible you make the stroke or fill. You have to use the Effect menu to “explain” to Illustrator that there is a rectangle in order to apply a suitable stroke or fill. At the heart of it, it’s all about knowing how to talk to Illustrator in its own language.

For members of, Deke also has an exclusive video this week called Two ways to crop in Illustrator that demonstrates how to crop an image placed in Illustrator, which, in the vein of this week’s theme, is another unintuitive feat.

See you back next week when Deke will return with another reality-tweaking technique.


Interested in more?
• The entire Deke’s Techniques weekly series on
• All Illustrator courses on
• All Design courses on
• All courses by Deke McClelland on

Suggested courses to watch next:
• Illustrator CS6 One-on-One: Fundamentals
• Illustrator CS5 One-on-One: Fundamentals
 Illustrator Insider Training: Rethinking the Essentials

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