This is the third lesson in my series on using the drawing tools in the Silhouette program. In the previous lessons, we’ve covered drawing lines and non-regular shapes. In today’s tutorial, we’ll cover the last tool in the first section of drawing tools — the arc. As in the other lessons, I’ll cover the info in detail and then share a video at the end. That’s especially helpful with this tool because it’s a bit hard to explain.
Note: This post may contain affiliate links. That means if you click the link and purchase something, I receive a small commission. You pay the same price. This helps me to be able to keep my business going and provide more tutorials.
The thing I find tricky about this tool is getting it to start and stop in the same spot horizontally.Even if you get the correct number of degrees in your arc, getting the left and right sides to start at the same spot on the y axis is tough. I’ve exaggerated this, but the black line is perfectly horizontal. Notice that the right point is higher than the left point.
Besides looking off, your arc isn’t centered inside your bounding box. That can cause troubles as you resize or rotate the arc.
There are some ways to work around that, but I want to start by showing you how the tool works. That way you get familiar with the mechanics before you try to tweak the arc. In other words, start with the big picture, then zero in on the details.
The basics of drawing an arc
Most often you’ll want the arc to be like a rainbow — the top half of a circle. You can do it other ways, but start this way to get the hang of it. Think of the arc you’re going to draw like a slice of pizza — with a point at the bottom and a curved top.
To start, click the last icon in the menu that pops out. As before, your cursor changes to a “+” to let you know you are in the mode where you’ll create a shape of some kind. Then pull your mouse over to the Design area. Click where that bottom point of your slice of pizza would be. Drag your mouse up and left to where you’d like the left side of the curve to be. Notice that as you drag it, you can see the length of the radius, if that matters to you. Once it’s where you want it, click again and that sets the left point.
Now drag your mouse to the right and you’ll see the software draw the arc. Click again on the right side where you want the arc to end. Your arc is done.
If you prefer, after you set that first point (the tip of the pizza slice), you can go up and to the right instead of left, or you can go down instead of up, or even sideways. Just always imagine what piece of pizza you want to get from the pan — start with its point and then create the curve.
Notice as you draw that the number of degrees in the arc shows at that starting point.
Getting a more exact arc
If you’ve played with this even a bit, you’ve probably already experienced that it can be tricky to get those left and right sides of your arc at the same spot. If not, purposely make them uneven and then look at the arc and its bounding box. See how it’s not centered in the box? There are 2 tricks to getting it more exact.
- My first bit of advice is to turn on your grid, or pull out guidelines. That gives you a reference point so that it’s easier to keep the left and right starting point even. It helps to start the bottom point along the center of the page as well.
- Let’s say you know you want a nice, 90° or 180° arc that’s flat on the horizon. You can use one of the really helpful keyboard shortcuts in Silhouette Studio — holding the SHIFT key. Click to add your bottom point, then before you begin to drag to set the left edge point hold down your SHIFT key. You’ll notice the software will only pull out your radius straight left, right, up or down. That way you know you’re starting precisely horizontal or vertical. It doesn’t help you set the right side point, but just watch for your number of degrees in your arc.
Adjusting the arc
If you’ve never used any other drawing tools, you might not be familiar with the little red dots and slider you see on your arc. Those allow you to control the arc.
The red dots
Click and drag one of the red dots to increase or decrease the number of degrees in your arc. If you want to do it by the same amount on each side, just move them by the same number. For example, say you drew a 180° arc, which would be exactly half a circle. You can move the right side up 30° so the arc is 150°, then pull the right side up by 30° so you’re at 120°.
The gray slider
The gray slider changes the radius of the arc. Click on that and drag and you’ll see that you’re arc gets smaller or larger, but stays at the same number of degrees.
The white squares
You can adjust the small squares at the corners and sides of the bounding box as you would with any other shape to adjust the size. Let’s say you wanted a bit of a flatter arc. You can use one of the squares along the top or bottom edge to make it shorter. I actually recommend using the one along the bottom so that you don’t grab the gray slider accidentally.
Click once on the arc to see both the bounding box and adjusters; click a second time to get just the adjusters. Keep clicking to toggle back and forth between the two.
If you want to adjust the amount of curvature and none of the previous adjustments works, you’ll have to change the arc to a regular shape and edit its points. You do that with the option called Convert to Path. Select the arc, then find it in either use right click menu or the Object drop down menu. Make all your other adjustments before you do, because after its a regular shape you won’t have those red dots or gray slider to adjust any more.
How it cuts
There are several things you need to understand about how an arc cuts.
- What we’re talking about here is an open shape. If you cut the arc, it’s just a slit in your material unless you do something to it to make it cut differently. If you want to cut a closed shape like a piece of pizza, we’ll do that with a different tool we’ll cover later in this series.
- Often, you’ll use this for something like text on path or object on path, where you use the arc as a way to shape the text or other object along a curve. In that case, you don’t need to do anything. Pulling the text or object onto the arc means it won’t cut, as the software assumes you are only using it as a way to make the text or shape curve around it. You can see here that I’ve put a text on one of my arcs and a shape along the other. Notice that in each case, the arc has turned gray. That indicates it won’t cut.
- Let’s say you do want it to cut like a shape. You can–
- Raise the line thickness, select the line, then in the Send area choose Cut Edge or AutoWeld. That cuts along the outside of any thick line, while Cut goes down the middle of the line. The only issue with this is that if you change the size of your arc, it doesn’t increase or decrease proportionally with other images. I’ve detailed that more here.
- Start again by raising the line thickness. Go into the Modify panel, select the shape, and choose Detach Lines. Your thick line become a regular shape. Make sure you’ve made it as thick as you want it first.
This is definitely one of the drawing tools that hard to explain well, so this video will help.
Okay, we’ve already gotten through the first set of drawing tools. In our next lesson, we’ll go on to the next set that includes rectangles, rounded rectangles, ellipses and regular polygons. You won’t want to miss these, because I’ll show you the trick to getting exact squares and circles.