Did that title surprise you? It sounds insane, right? I mean, we hear all the time from other users that if we don’t weld text the letters won’t all be connected and you’ll get little tiny pieces at the overlaps. It’s true that you need to do something to keep the overlapping parts from cutting, but there’s a much better way than welding.
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What is welding?
Welding is a common Modify option that joins 2 or more shapes and erases all lines in the areas that overlap. In fact, it’s so common it has it’s own icon in the Quick Access Toolbar on the top of the software. Just like in metal work, the pieces are joined together permanently. Here’s an example of a pair of shapes before and after welding. I’ve raised the transparency some (my favorite trick when using Modify options) so you can see the part of the lower shape that is covered by the upper shape:Notice the area where the purple butterfly overlaps the green one. If I had sent this to cut without doing something, the tip of the purple butterfly would have cut into the wing of the green one, and vice versa. Now they are permanently joined into one piece. Notice also that once I welded, the butterflies are both green. These last 2 statements are only 2 of the reasons I don’t use weld much anymore.
What’s wrong with welding?
While there’s nothing really wrong with welding, there are some consequences of welding that you might not know about or like. It’s almost a bait and switch.
When you weld, the pieces are joined together forever more. The only way to undo the action is to use your Undo button, but that only works while the file is open. Once it’s closed, you’re stuck with the single piece. So, if you change you mind, you’d have to do a good deal more work to get back to 2 pieces again.
If you wanted to do a print and cut with these 2 butterflies, and wanted a different pattern for each one, you couldn’t do it with Weld. Shapes that are welded together become 1 piece. You can’t have separate fills within a single piece
So far, that may not be a big deal. But with cursive (script) text, that IS a big deal. ONCE YOU WELD TEXT, IT BECOMES AN IMAGE. What that means is you can no longer edit the text, select a different font or even figure out what font you used.
Let’s say you make a cute t-shirt for yourself. Your sister admires it, so you decide 3 months later that you are going to make one for her for Christmas. You open the file again and see that you welded your script font. Let’s say you’re like me and have over 1100 fonts (don’t judge). Not only can you not change the text from your name to hers, you can’t even figure out what font you used. You could make a sticky note that you save with the file, but you still have to start your text box from scratch and mess with the sizing all over again.
So what’s a Silhouetter to do?
Fortunately, there’s another way to get the effect of welding without permanently joining the pieces or changing your text to image. The option lives in the Send area of the software (or, in version 3, in the Cut Settings window). It’s Cut Edge or AutoWeld.
NOTE: In the current software versions, when you type text it is automatically set on Cut Edge in Simple Cut Mode. I suggest you read this post anyway so that you have a full understanding of ways to use Cut Edge and how AutoWeld works.
You may have never understood the difference between Cut and Cut Edge (or even noticed it). Many people assume that if they choose Cut Edge, internal pieces on designs won’t cut. That’s not necessarily the case. In order to understand why, you need to understand the difference between a grouping and a compound path. That’s something that confuses LOTS of folks, so I came up with an illustration that makes it much easier. Just make sure you’re not hungry.
Let’s say it’s time for breakfast and you decide to fix pancakes. You make your mix and cook them, then start stacking pancakes on your plate. You make a stack of 2 pancakes. If you look at them from the side, you see a stack 2 pancakes tall. You can move them to a different plate, you can take your plate into the dining room, you can put the smaller one on the bottom. You still have a stack of 2 pancakes — round, solid, edible pieces of yumminess, each one a pancake.
That’s what grouping is like. When you group several shapes together, you can move them around the drawing area together and resize them together, but they still remain separate, solid images. If you were able to look at them from the side in the software, you’d see a stack of solid shapes sitting on top of one another. Even though you have temporarily put them together, you can take them apart again by ungrouping because they are still separate, solid images. When you fill a set of grouped shapes with color, you don’t see any holes in the middle because they are all solid shapes.
Let’s say instead of pancakes you have a craving for donuts (who doesn’t?). So you hop in your car and drive to the donut shop and buy a donut for breakfast. If you look at the donut from above, you see 2 circles, but not 2 donuts. There’s an inner edge and an outer edge and all the scrumptious fried dough goodness is between those edges. The middle is empty where the donut hole was taken out and sold to someone else. If you look at it from the side, it’s only 1 donut tall.
That’s a compound path. You don’t have 2 solid circles. You have a single shape with 2 edges — an inner edge and an outer edge. The 2 circles are considered one line, even if they don’t touch or cross. The 2 circles are part of a single shape. If you were able to look at the shape from the side in the software, you’d only see 1 level. When you fill a compound path with color, you see empty spaces because the “meat” of the shape is between the lines (the circles in this case).
Text is both
When you type a word in Silhouette Studio, you are creating a group of letters, and some letters, like the letter “o” will be in a their own compound path. Even a single typed letter is grouped even though it’s all alone. It’s the way fonts are made.
What difference does it make?
Each set of 2 circles I showed above (the “from above” views) will cut exactly the same way with Cut. BUT, they respond differently to the Cut Edge/AutoWeld option that is the whole point of this lesson. We’ll get to more of that in a minute, but here are other reasons why you need to know the difference between a grouping and a compound path:
It affects how you combine and break apart designs
- If you try to break apart a design and can’t ungroup, you need to release the compound path.
- If you try to combine parts of a design and they don’t look like you expect (don’t have holes in the middle when you fill), you need to make a compound path.
- Some of the designs you get in the Silhouette Design Store or from other sources in are compound paths, some are grouped images. It depends on the designer.
It’s important in tracing
- Tracing creates compound paths, so to separate pieces of a traced image you need to release the compound path.
It affects Modify options
- Every Modify option responds differently to a grouping vs. a compound path. This is why when you weld sometimes your inner pieces “disappear.” They were a grouping and so were completely absorbed by the outer piece during the weld, kinda like if you had poured more pancake batter on top of a pancake that was almost done. If they had been in a compound path, they wouldn’t have gotten lost like that.
It can alter cutting time
- A compound path is 1 piece; a grouping is many. So, a compound path can be easier for the software to process and therefore shorten cutting time.
It helps you remove unwanted pieces more easily
- Removing pieces by releasing a compound path is easier than using the eraser or knife.
It’s important in point editing
- When trying to point edit a complex design, you can release the compound path to cut down processing time.
- Separate images must be in the same compound path to join them with point editing.
How can you tell if your design is in a grouping or compound path? The easiest way is to fill it with color. If you see holes (you can see through it to the background), it’s a compound path. No holes? It’s a grouping.
To make or release a compound path select an image and then right click, open the Modify panel (window), use the Object drop-down menu or use a keyboard shortcut (check the back of the User’s Manual for a list).
So what is Cut Edge?
When you choose Cut Edge on shapes that overlap, the overlapping parts don’t cut — just like with Weld. Here’s the good part — the pieces remain independent. They are more like a grouping than a compound path.
Remember how I said that text is a grouping of letters? That means you can choose Cut Edge on a script font and the areas where the letters overlap will not cut BUT the text remains text. The beauty of that is that you can go back later to choose a different font, change the text, figure out what font you used, change the character spacing, etc. And yes, the inside of your letter “o” will still cut because that letter is a compound path. The inner circle IS an edge, so it will cut.
There is an important thing to keep in mind. If you raise the line thickness above the 0.0 default, you need to fill your shapes with color. Otherwise Cut Edge will cut twice — once outside the line and once inside the line. This shape has a line thickness of 10 and no fill. (Using “cut” will cut right down the middle of a thick line).
Seeing is believing
I’m a visual learner, so let me show you with images. Here’s a pair of flowers. Other than the colors being different, they look the same.
When I go to my Send area (Cut Settings in version 3), I get what’s called Cut Preview. The preview tells me what pieces are set to cut and how they will cut. Here’s the lighter flower with 3 different settings.
The one on the left has pale line color. That tells me it’s set to No Cut.
The one in the middle has a bold line color. That tells me it’s set to Cut.
The one on the right has a brighter (or thicker) bold line color. That tells me it’s set to Cut Edge.
Notice also that the fill color got lighter so I could see the lines more easily.
This is the terminology used in the Action: Simple mode (Standard Cut Mode in version 3). I’ll show you something different in the Line/Fill/Layer mode (Advanced Cut Mode in version 3) in a bit. Here’s what this area of the Send panel looks like. Notice how I’m in the Action tab and on the Simple tab within that. In this mode, you select each shape and choose No Cut, Cut or Cut Edge. If you don’t change anything, the typical design will be set to Cut. It might be something different on a Print and Cut. If you open an SVG file, you will usually need to set it to cut in this area of the software.
Okay, now I’m going to show you what happens when 2 overlapping shapes are both set on Cut. Every line of every piece cuts.
Now let’s see what happens when I choose Cut Edge for both flowers.
Do you see it?
The overlapping areas aren’t cutting. But notice something else strange. On one flower the middle is cutting, on the other it isn’t. This is because of the difference between a grouping and a compound path.
In a grouping, if a shape is completely enclosed by another, all of its lines are overlapping within the other shape. So, that inner shape wouldn’t cut. That’s what you see happening on the darker flower. The middle of the flower is a white circle that’s grouped with the purple petals.
If the image is a compound path instead, that inner part of the flower is an edge. It’s like the hole of the donut. Since it is an edge, it cuts. That’s what’s happening with the lighter flower.
Sometimes if a design has white pieces you may think it’s in a compound path. You couldn’t tell by just looking at my first picture of the 2 flowers. That’s because the mat background area drawing area is white in the software, so you don’t know if there’s really a hole or not. Here’s how to tell — just pull it off the mat area. If you see gray in the middle, you can see through it — it’s a compound path. Still white? It’s a grouping.
If you are using a Cameo 3 or Curio (a machine with 2 tool holders), the 2 pieces must use the same tool in order for Cut Edge to work.
And what is AutoWeld?
Autoweld is a different name for the same thing, but in the area where you cut by line color, fill color or layer. Those are in the Action part of the Send area.
When you cut this way, you can make choices quicker by setting all pieces with the same line color, fill color or in the same layer (layers are in Designer Edition and above) to the same option. There’s a check box for each line color, fill color or layer. Uncheck means No Cut. Check means Cut. You can also choose a different material, action and tool for each color or layer.
I’m gonna be honest with you — I thought for the longest time there wasn’t a way to do Cut Edge when cutting by line, fill or layer. But then one day I was preparing for a class and I saw something for the first time — the AutoWeld icon. It’s hidden right there between the check box and the color box.
It’s no wonder I never saw it. My eyes are north of 50 years old. This is how to Cut Edge when you are cutting by line, fill or layer. You click the icon to toggle between AutoWeld off or on. Here, I’ve got AutoWeld off for black and white, but on for the 2 purples and the yellow. See how it looks like the circle and rectangle in the icon have been welded on those latter ones? That means it won’t cut the overlapping parts.
For AutoWeld to work, overlapping shapes must have the same line or fill color or be in the same layer, depending on how you are cutting. If you are using a Cameo 3 or Curio, they must also use the same tool/tool holder.
Does it REALLY work on text?
Yep! It does. Here’s text with Cut (top) and then Cut Edge (bottom). The red lines of Cut Preview don’t lie. On the word set to Cut, the overlapping areas cut. On the word set to Cut Edge, you can still faintly see the lines where the letters overlap but the fact that they are pale is telling me cuts won’t be made there.
In fact, as I mentioned above, this is so important that the software developers have now made text default to cut edge when you type it and use Simple cut mode.
And now with the red line (top) with AutoWeld off and the black line (bottom) with AutoWeld on.
Is there any time you would need to weld text?
Yes — there is. I know I said never, but I just really needed to get your attention. There are 2 instances when I would weld text.
On a print and cut with a pattern fill on the words
When you fill a shape with a printable pattern, the size of the pattern (the scale) is based on the size of the shape. Here’s an example of 2 shapes, different only in size, filled with the same pattern.
Normally, to make the pattern the same scale in shapes of different sizes I would make the shapes into a compound path. That’s what I’ve done here.
Remember how I said a word is a grouping of letters? Since the letters are different sizes, the scale of a pattern in a word will be different.
But if I made a compound path of the word, it would create holes at the overlaps.
In that case, I would go ahead and weld. That will keep the scale of the pattern consistent throughout the letters, even that first letter that’s separate. It’s a good idea to go ahead and make all the pieces a compound path after welding just to keep them together. But before I weld I always make a copy of the text box to save. In version 4.1, you also have the option to create a sticky note with the name and size of the font.
When using Subtract All
Subtract All is a great Modify option that lots of folks don’t know how to use, but it’s particularly helpful with vinyl or HTV. Typically you can layer those materials on top of one another without a problem. But there are some cases where you can’t–
- When lower pieces of HTV are glitter, flocked, metallic, etc. You can’t layer another type on top because it won’t adhere to the unique texture. The same would be true for glitter vinyl if it has a texture.
- When you are layering vinyl where an upper piece is half on, half off a lower piece. You get a noticeable ridge in the vinyl when you do that. Here’s an example of a design like that. The “A” and “e” are only partially on the baby buggy. That’s where I would get a ridge if I just laid the purple vinyl on top of the pink.
If I use Subtract All, the name will cut a hole down through the baby buggy, leaving a space where I can slide it right in. With block text, it words great. But look what happens when I do it with cursive text (I’ve scooted the name over a bit so you can see the holes it made.)
What’s the problem?
You may need to look closely to see it. The letters aren’t cutting into one another, but they did exactly what I told them to do. Remember that a word is just a grouping of separate letters. The small “a” at the end was the last one I typed, so it’s on top. It cut a hole in the letter below it, the “i,” but they are still separate pieces. Follow that all the way backwards in the word and you see it happens with each letter. I want the word to cut as a single pieces, not individual letters (although you could if you wanted to do a mix of colors of vinyl).
How to fix that
This time, I’m going to weld the name before I do the Subtract All. That will make the name all 1 piece except for the “A” and the dot on the “i.” Because they are not overlapping before I start, they are separate pieces after the weld. To keep it together with the rest of the name, I can make them a compound path after I weld or after the Subtract All. So my steps would be–
- Weld the name, make it a compound path while all pieces are still selected, do Subtract All with the name and baby buggy.
- Weld the name, do Subtract All with all the pieces and the baby buggy, make the 3 parts of the name a compound path.
It’s as simple as that — a way (almost always) to connect script letters without losing the ability to edit them. I hope you never look at welding the same way again.
That was a GREAT lesson! I will not look at Welding letters the same way again! Thanks and have a GREAT day!
Your eyes are north of 50 years old – I never heard that one before, I must be WAYYYYYYY north myself!!
Cindy Eckhoff says
Thanks, Linda! It’s always nice to hear when folks learn something from what I’m writing. It’s learning that keeps our brains in good shape (even if the rest of the body is going).
Patricia Faler says
I have never understood compound path. Will study this until it sinks In.lol
Cindy Eckhoff says
Patricia — Compound paths are confusing for LOTS of folks. The more you practice with them, the easier it is to understand. I will cover this extensively in my Craftsy class, so something to look forward to! Think of it like this: if you look at the stack of pancakes from underneath, you only see the largest pancake. If you look at a donut from underneath, you still see the hole in the middle. A stack of pancakes is very different from a donut. In the same way, groupings are very different from compound paths. Because of that, they will respond very differently if you use the same action (filling with color, modify options, etc.) on each of them. If you always fill your shapes with color, it makes it much easier to see what you have. Hope this helps!