How To Add A White Outline Around A Transparent PNG

How To Add A White Outline Around A Transparent PNG 1024 602 Nick Saporito

Today I’ll be demonstrating how you can add a white outline around a transparent PNG using a simple and free piece of software called GIMP. GIMP is an open source alternative to Photoshop. It works for Windows, Mac and Linux. You can download GIMP here.

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The following is just a brief overview of the steps taken to add a white outline around a transparent PNG with GIMP. If you’re new to the software — especially if you’re a first-time user — it is highly recommended that you watch the video tutorial at the top of the page instead. The video tutorial offer voice narration and step-by-step instructions.

Outlining Your Transparent PNG with GIMP

The first thing we need to do is open the PNG file with GIMP. Go to File > Open and locate your image. The transparent area will be represented with a checkerboard pattern as depicted below.

PNG image with a transparent background

If the subject of your image runs all the way to the edges of the document like mine does, we’ll need to add some extra space around the edges of the document to accommodate a white outline. We’ll do that using the Canvas Size setting. Go to Image > Canvas Size.


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Canvas Size setting in GIMP

Add a few extra pixels to each dimension (width and height) in order to accommodate a white outline.

Next we’re going to create a selection around the subject of our PNG by going to Layer > Transparency > Alpha To Selection. This will create a dotted line going around your subject.

Alpha to selection

Now we need to increase the size of the selection by going to Select > Grow. Choose how many pixels you’d like to grow the selection by. This will determine the thickness of the white outline around your transparent PNG. For my example I used 20 pixels.

GIMP grow selection

You will notice the thickness of your outline increase after applying

Now we’re going to create a new layer and move it below the current layer. Simply go to Layer > New Layer, name it “Outline”, then click and drag it beneath the current layer in the Layers panel to the bottom right of your screen.

By default, your foreground color in GIMP should be set to black and your background color should be set to white, so all we have to do now is fill in the selection with white by going to Edit > Fill with BG color.

Fill with BG color

Now go to Select > None in order to remove the dotted outline from your screen.

Once you’ve done that you are finished! You’re successfully used GIMP to add a white outline around a transparent PNG.

White outline

To save your work, simply go to File > Export As… and make sure you choose to export it as a .png file.

Export PNG with GIMP menu

If you have any questions or run into any problems simply leave a comment below. And if you’d like to learn more about how GIMP works, be sure to check The GIMP Series — a collection of 60+ videos where I go over all of the major tools and features in GIMP and explain what they are and demonstrate how they work. Information is listed below.

Get Started with GIMP!

Want to learn more about how GIMP works? Check out The GIMP Series – a comprehensive collection of over 60 videos where I go over all of the major tools, features and function in GIMP and explain what they do, how they work, and why they’re useful.

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Nick Saporito

Nick Saporito is a Philadelphia-based graphic designer who specializes in branding-specific design. A full portfolio and information regarding services offered can be found at

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  • Melissa Smith

    Thank you for this – however, when I go to fill BG color with the outline layer selected, it is grayed out as an option. Any tips for why that may be?

  • Lolis

    WOW! I have been looking for a program NOT Illustrator that can do that, Thanks a lot let me download the program and start practicing….

  • Lavinia

    Hello! Thank you so much! is by far the most explicit video on this topic, which I found.
    I feel as if I am learning a foreign language : ) … I would have some questions:
    1. images with .jpg extension, can I outline that in your demonstration?
    2. Is the UNDO button in this program? can i select another color, other than white?
    4.Do you have a video demonstration on how to add an outline to a word?
    Many thanks for your help and support!

  • Dee Bowers

    Is it possible to use outline without adding a layer? I have a design that I got done that I want to print on a shirt. I realized it would need an outline to make it stick out. I was told the png should not have layers. Is there anything I can do?

    • Nick Saporito

      PNG files don’t have layers once they’re exported. It’s the source XCF/PSD file that you’re editing/creating that has layers.

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