Here we are in our final lesson on Point Editing. If you need to start at the beginning of this series, go here. In today’s lesson I’m going to give you a few tips on working with points on text, show you how to edit points to help when you’re tracing images and wrap up with some troubleshooting tips and reminders.
Tutorial Level: Intermediate to Advanced
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What about text?
As we learned in an earlier lesson, text is one of those special cases where you need to do something to it before you edit points.When you type something in Silhouette Studio it’s a grouping, even if it’s just a 1 letter. You can’t do point editing on a group of shapes. Even though they are temporarily tied together, pieces within a grouping are still separate shapes (individual paths). You can’t edit points on a grouping because the software doesn’t know which piece of the group you want to edit.
You could use Convert to Path, but with that the letters are still grouped. That means you need to ungroup the set of letters to edit points on a single letter. That’s a 2-step process – Convert to Path, then Ungroup. If you simply ungroup the word instead, it’s a 1-step process. By ungrouping, the letters are automatically converted to image so you don’t have to bother with the step Convert to Path.
Weld would do the same thing, even on block text. But with that things like dots on letter “i”s will be separate pieces, so I usually prefer to just ungroup. I work with each letter individually so it’s faster, then weld if needed when I’m done and then, to make sure all non-overlapping pieces stay with the rest, make everything a compound path.
WARNING: When you ungroup or weld text or convert it to a path, it becomes an image. That means you can no longer edit the words, change or identify the font, etc. Always make a copy of your text box first in case you need to go back to do one of those things.
How can you edit points to help in tracing?
When you’re tracing, you’re starting with a picture – a raster image – and creating cut lines (vectors) based on that image. The ease with which you get the pieces you want is based on the quality and composition of your image, as well as your skill in adjusting the trace filters.
I’m not going to go into a deep discussion of tracing in this lesson – that’s a full series coming in the future. But I just want to show you how you can edit points to help with the trace, both before and after.
Before the trace
A raster image, whether it’s a photo or clip art, is just a rectangle filled with lots and lots of pixels filled with different colors. The more details there are, the more difficult it is to trace. Photos can be particularly difficult to trace in Silhouette Studio because of the complexity of colors, details and textures (although it’s easier in version 4). If you can remove some portions you don’t need BEFORE you trace, the software has less detail to deal with during the trace.
Just as on any other shape filled with a pattern, if you move the points out the pattern begins to repeat.
Conversely, if you move them in you are blocking out portions of the image. Use this to do a quick and dirty crop of your image before you trace.
Draw a poly shape and modify
There’s another way to remove a large chunk of the background but in a more precise way. First, you create a poly shape using one of several tools.
With the Polygon tool or Curved Shape tool
Click at your starting point and click again every time you want to add a new point. You double click to stop.
With the Draw Freehand or Draw Smooth Freehand tool
You click at your starting point and just keep holding down the mouse button, dragging the mouse around the drawing area to create the shape. The software creates the points for you. The more slowly you draw, the more points there are, especially with the Draw Freehand or if you are zoomed in.
When you use the Draw Freehand, the line segments are all flat. With Draw Smooth Freehand, they are all curved. That’s what gives it a smoother appearance. On both, all the points are Smooth, except that the point created where the starting and ending points meet on Draw Smooth Freehand is a Corner. One more small difference is that you see the points as you draw with the Smooth Freehand, but not with the Regular Freehand.
The shape you make can be open or closed, but if you end it close to your beginning point the software will join the points automatically and close the shape for you. For our purposes, we need a closed shape. You can create your shape around the subject you want to trace…
…or around the background you want to remove.
Don’t worry if it’s messy — you just need a general shape to start with.
Once you have the shape, it is helpful to fill the poly shape with color and make it partially transparent. This gives you a better preview of your shape in relation to your original.
Now you add, remove and/or edit points to make it more exact. Again, don’t stress over making it perfect. Our goal is just to make the trace easier to perform, and I’ll tell you in the next section why it’s not a problem if it’s off a little.
Then you use one of your Modify options to isolate the subject. If you drew your shape around your subject, use Crop. Because your original raster image is larger, that’s the fill that’s kept.
If you drew it around your background, use Subtract. Because the shape you drew is in front, it’s the part that goes away.
Now you can trace your subject. Because the background is gone, the busy background is not creating lots of unneeded edit points. This is especially helpful if the subject and the background are similar in tone (not a great deal of contrast) because there is a stronger edge for the trace to pick up.
If you accidentally “lose” a part of the image you need when you Crop or Subtract because your shape wasn’t perfect, don’t sweat it. You haven’t lost anything. That’s because of the way raster images work in Silhouette Studio.
Remember how I explained above that if you move the points out on a raster image you begin to see the pattern repeating, or if you move them in you block out some of the image? That goes for ANY piece filled with a pattern, i.e., with raster information.
Stay with me here. The full image is still there because your cropped image is really just a shape filled with a repeatable raster image, and we know raster images are always rectangles. It doesn’t show the whole picture because the points are pulled in around the outside. You can move the points outward to pick up any of the image you are missing (reveal move of the rectangular raster pattern), or inward to block out any of the pattern you got that you don’t need.
After the Trace
When you trace, you wind up with a closed, unfilled shape and your original raster image is behind it. Your newly formed shape is a vector image – it will cut. If you had some small problems with the traced image, you can edit points to fix it.
On a regular Trace
- The lower quality/resolution of your raster, the rougher the traced image will be. Edit points to clean up the lines for a better cut. It helps to leave your original raster image in place behind your traced shape, fill your traced shape with a color and raise the transparency. That makes it easier to adjust the contours of your shape to match your raster. I’ve traced just 1 flower on this design (I’ve selected it so you can see it better). Notice that you can see some orange behind my fill, which shows me where I need to adjust.
- Sometimes 2 colors in your original only traces as 1 color due to your filter settings. You can break the path and edit the points to separate it, as I’d need to do on this area.
- You can delete points, or release the compound path, to remove entire sections. Both are faster than the knife or eraser tools. Here I’ve released the compound path on that flower and zoomed in on one of the ovals in the middle. I can delete it and draw a perfect oval if I want, instead of having this one that’s not as clean.
This trace has some speckles because my filter settings were such that it picked up only some on one of my colors. I can release the compound path to quickly remove those sections, which saves the rest of the trace pieces.
- Tracing often creates a great deal of edit points. The more complex your original raster image is (like a photo), the more points you’ll have in your traced image. You can click Simplify in your edit points options to remove some of those right off the bat. Then you can do any other modification of your points with the techniques we’ve already covered in this series.
On a Trace and Detach
Trace and Detach probably isn’t something you’re going to use as often as a regular Trace. Many folks mistakenly think that in order to create cut lines based on only a portion of their raster image, they have to use Trace and Detach to separate it them. Or they think that if they only want to trace the colored portions of their raster and not the background, they have to Trace and Detach. Some use this option by default, thinking it’s the standard way to trace.
None of those assumptions is correct, and actually it makes the tracing process harder. Rule #1 is this: Don’t use Trace and Detach unless you have to, because it’s slower and may involve extra, unnecessary steps.
What is it?
But it is helpful in certain situations. Let me explain it first, then I’ll tell you some times you might use it. Here’s how it’s like a Regular Trace—
- You’re still starting with a raster image.
- You’re still creating a new shape based on that raster image.
And here’s what’s different about Trace and Detach—
- It doesn’t create an unfilled shape on top of your original. It takes the trace line and uses it like a cookie cutter to separate the trace shape from the original shape. BOTH are still filled with the raster information.
If you’re using it to separate something like a white background from the rest of the raster, you can then just delete the background part if you want.
- It doesn’t trace internal white pieces. That’s because the primary reason for Trace and Detach is to remove the background around the colored image. The focus is on the raster (how it looks), not the vector (how it cuts).
If you ARE going to cut those internal pieces, you’ll need to trace the interior piece again.
- It’s automatically set on No Cut in your Send area when using Action by: Simple or Line, because it’s as if it’s a portion of your original raster image. Raster images are always set to No Cut by default in those 2 cutting modes. Notice that my woman on the bike doesn’t have the red lines indicating it will cut.
No notice that even when I set it to Cut, the internal pieces don’t have cut lines.
Looks can be deceiving
Notice I said “like” and “as if.” When you Trace and Detach, here’s what really happens. The software makes a copy of your raster image, but moves the points in so that they just outline what you were tracing. And it makes a hole in the original image by adding points in the middle, again around what you were tracing.
The original image you were tracing AND the piece you traced and detached are really just 2 different shapes filled with the same pattern at the same scale. Since the pattern is always a rectangular raster image, the only reason you don’t see parts of it is because of the location of the points. Your original has points in a closed shape in the middle, so the pattern is blocked out in that area. Your traced and detached image doesn’t show the whole picture, because the points are pulled in around the outside.
How does that help us?
It’s a similar concept to the Draw and Poly Shape and Modify we discussed above. You can move the points as needed to tweak the contours around the image, on either piece. You can even get rid of the hole in the original by deleting the points surrounding it or by releasing the compound path so it would once again have the full image.
Here you can see my original flower trace on the left with colors other than the one was after, and the edited version on the right.
HINT: Raster images have a clear line color. If you’re editing points and break the path, we know that means it’s an open shape. Although the fill is still in the shape, you won’t see it if there’s an open path. If you need to break the path, change the line color first.
And here you can see that if I begin to edit points in the middle of the larger piece, I can see that inner flower again.
When is Trace and Detach useful?
Here are some examples of times you might use Trace and Detach–
- To remove part of a raster image background on a print and cut. A background on one image could obscure part of another image placed close to it. Or, that background could interfere with registration marks. Removing unnecessary background also lets you fit more on the page and saves printer ink.
- To remove a background from a raster image before a regular trace, as with the Poly Shape + Crop/Subtract option we discussed earlier.
- To create a stencil based on a raster image by removing the inner portion.
Just remember that if you do want to cut either the traced and detached shape or the background piece, you’ll need to set it to Cut.
About Magnet Trace
Magnet Trace (Designer Edition and up) is new to version 4. It’s like the Draw a Poly Shape + Modify option we discussed earlier, but with a helper. The software assists you by looking for color differences and drawing the line between 2 different colors. In other words, as you’re drawing, the software is finding the edge between the colors for you, rather than you having to draw the line with your mouse movement alone. It’s as if one of the colors is a magnet pulling your drawing line to it.
You can follow the same tips to adjust the traced image, whether you use a Regular or a Trace and Detach Magnet Trace.
General Troubleshooting Tips
Can’t see your edit points?
If you can’t get your points to show on your shape by double clicking or using the Edit Points icon, your pieces are probably grouped. Yes, even a single, solid shape may need to be ungrouped due to the way it’s created in programs like Adobe Illustrator or CorelDraw. Those are the programs that graphic designers use to create files to sell in the Silhouette Design Store and on other websites.
Also, the special shapes I mentioned in Lesson 1 – rounded rectangles, arcs, regular polygons and text – will need to be converted to a regular image before you can edit points. Use Convert to Path for the shapes, Ungroup for text. Don’t forget to make a copy first, because once it becomes a regular path you can no longer alter those special properties.
Too many edit points?
When you use any Modify option (subtract, weld, etc.), you’ll find that after the modification you have WAY more points than you started with. Here’s an example. I have a simple rectangle and a simple oval, each with 4 points.:
But check out the oval portion after I’ve welded.
You can use the Simplify option to remove some.
Try using the Simplify option any time you want to quickly remove excess points. Just watch out for your shape, particularly on curves, getting distorted when you do this.
Point Editing moving slowly?
When you edit points a large design, you may notice that the software moves R…E…A…L…L…Y…..…..S…L…O…W…L…Y… That’s because there are LOTS of points so it’s proecessing a great deal of information. The slower the processor on your computer, the longer it takes.
You can release the compound path so that you’re only working on one section at a time. Once you’ve finished editing points, you can remake the compound path.
Hard to see what’s what?
Sometimes when you’re editing points on a design it’s hard to differentiate the pieces. For example, on the owl we looked at in the last lesson, the eye sockets on the left have a different structure (set of pieces) than those on the right. That’s going to make it harder to figure out what’s what, particularly if you aren’t experienced in point editing.
I like to fill the entire image with a light color, raise the transparency to around 35%, release the compound path, and then start coloring each piece with a different color. That way I can see what each piece looks like. If you seem to “lose” a piece when you release the compound path, it’s probably just behind another piece in the front to back order. Changing the transparency as I suggested helps you see through a piece to any pieces that are behind it.
Trouble with the curve?
The easiest way to edit curves is with just a few points. Delete extra ones and then really work with the ones remaining.
Also, make sure the majority of your points are smooth, not corners. If you draw a circle, you’ll notice it’s just 4 smooth points. That’s a big clue.
Well, that’s all you need to know about how to edit points. Right – it’s A LOT. But as with anything, the more you practice, the better you’ll become at manipulating your shapes. Feel free to ask questions here as well. Have fun!