It’s tempting to use vectors as a time saver, inspirational starting point or addition to any design. The challenge, however, is that each vector comes with its own style and visual “language”. Without proper assimilation, the element can be aesthetically rejected from a designer’s given style.

This tutorial uses a free coffee stain vector from to create a fun to-go cup. We’ll focus on identifying and speaking the “language” of this vector to create a coffee cup design for a fictional company called “Original Coffee Roaster”.

1. Choose the vector


Be sure to familiarize yourself with stock image licensing before jumping in to make sure you won’t hit any snags further down the line. If the vector is free, you should be especially dilligent when looking into its source and licensing.

The vector in this tutorial comes as a kit. What I am doing here is basically looking through the stains for one that has potential as a coffee cup design.


This mug stain looks good because it is fairly complete, readily identified as a mug stain, and has a certain charm to it.

2. Block out the text


A good place to start is by blocking out some rough ideas for how the coffee cup design will come together. This part of the process doesn’t have to be pretty and often won’t be. That’s OK and will be addressed later. The main focus here is creating a crude balance and composition for the design.

3. Identify what needs to be fixed


One of the first differences I notice between the vector and my added art is the line thickness. The coffee mug stain has a thick “stroke”, while my typography, line work and coffee beans are thinner. To achieve more cohesive line thickness, I chose to bleed my design out a bit to echo the stain.


The roughening is continued in an attempt to get closer to the visual “language” of the coffee mug stain. I also use the eraser tool (Shift+E) to break up some of the line work, similar to the breaks in the mug stain. This process is done to everything –including the typography – keeping in mind that the goal is a completely cohesive look.

Final touches


Finally a background and cup color are chosen with coffee in mind; dark browns and cream colors. Complete!


Finished coffee cup design tutorial

How you use vectors in a design requires careful observation and adjustment. In the example above, all of the inherent visual traits were extracted from the coffee mug stain and emulated upon the text and other design elements to create a cohesive look.

This process might very well look different when you use vector. Trust your instinct!

How do you use vectors in your designs? Share your work in the comments!