I LOVE LOVE LOVE mystery/detective shows, particularly British ones. And I really enjoy doing puzzles and playing games where I have to solve a problem. Lots of folks do. But very few of us like to have to solve a mystery when working with Silhouette. We just want to get our projects DONE. So, in this series I’m trying to demystify things you encounter in the Silhouette Studio software. (Just think of me as you Silhouette Sherlock Holmes.) Today, I’ll show you one that stumps even very experienced users — when you try to change the fill color on a shape and it simply will not work.
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Why you can’t change the fill color
Let’s say you have a design you got from a source other than the Silhouette Design Store (typically it’s an SVG). It’s “filled” with color, but when you select a different color it doesn’t change.
Take this apple for example. It has 3 pieces — the apple, the stem and the shine.
Say I try to change the stem color to brown, the apple to green, and the shine to yellow. Here’s what happens.
Well, that’s odd. The apple changed fine, but the stem and shine didn’t. I can see the colors at the sides of those pieces, but not fully filling them.
Here’s what’s going on — you have a thick line, not a closed shape, for the stem and shine. Instead of creating closed path like for the apple, the designer used open-ended lines (open paths). In other words, they drew a 1-dimensional straight or curved line segment, not something 2-dimensional like an oval. Then he or she raised the line thickness and set a round end type. You can see it more clearly if I get into point editing mode.
See the red dots? Those indicate an open path. And notice that there aren’t points all the way around the “shape.” That’s because it’s only 1D, not 2D.
Another tip-off is that the bounding box doesn’t appear to go on the outside of the shape as it normally does.
This is not uncommon for graphic designers making SVGs, as they are usually focused only on what the design looks like. After all, it’s a file type that’s common in graphic design because it doesn’t lose resolution when you enlarge it. But when we try to use them in Silhouette Studio, they don’t work like normal shapes.
You need to change the line color instead
Since the stem is really a line, not a shape, I would change the LINE color instead of the FILL color on those 2 pieces. This is what I’d get–
Definitely more what I was expecting.
But wait…there’s more
I think, “Cool, now to make it smaller and cut out enough for my whole kindergarten class.” So I make it smaller and, uh oh, I get this —
Whoa! See how the proportions changed???? That’s because the thickness of the line stayed the same. Since the apple IS a solid shape without a visible outer line, it resizes as we expect. That’s yet another tip-off that it’s the raised line thickness I’m dealing with on the stem and shine instead of closed shapes.
Use Detach Lines
So what do we do with these “shapes” that are really just thick lines when we want to be able to make them any size and cut them? For those pieces that are open paths, you can use a Modify option called Detach Lines. What this does is help separate the line from the shape. In other words, it makes them separate pieces.
Let’s look at the stem. I’ve gone back to the original size, because that’s the proportions I need. I select the shape, open the Modify panel and choose Detach Lines. Now let’s check the points and bounding box.
Yep — we now have a regular shape. I’m going to resize the apple, stem and shine all again so you can compare. This time the apple and stem — both 2D shapes — resize proportionally while the shine — still just a thick line — does not.
This ONLY works when you have a thick line like this. Designs from the Silhouette Design Store and shapes and text you create in Silhouette Studio have a line thickness of 0.o by default.
Beware of how thick lines affect the cut
Using a thick line instead of a closed shape also has implications for how it cuts, depending on how you import the SVG and what Cut Style you choose. You can use them without doing the Detach Lines, but it’s tricky. Keep an eye out for a future post on working with cut styles on SVGs.
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