One of the slick new features of Silhouette Studio version 4 is a Replicate option called Object on Path. This is very similar to Text on Path, which is most often used to wrap text around a circle. What Object on Path does is allow you to put any shape along the edge of another shape in a repeated, customizable pattern. The software uses one shape, which I’ll call the path shape, as a track that the other shape, which I’ll call the replicating shape, will run along. I’ll show you in this tutorial how this new feature works and give you some ideas about how to use it.
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When you are learning to use something new, it’s a really good idea to start with simple, solid shapes. I’m going to use just a circle and a rectangle to show you the basics of Object on Path. The blue circle is going to be my path shape and the yellow rectangle is the replicating shape.
1. Select the replicating shape.
2. Open the Replicate panel and go to the third tab. This is the Object on Path portion of the panel.
3. Click on Show Grab Handle. This puts a control point in the middle of the selected replicating shape to show that you can drag it to the path shape.
4. Click the grab handle and drag the replicating shape toward the path shape. When the edge of the control point touches the path shape, the magic happens. The software places a series of identical shapes along the path shape at equal intervals — object on path. If you make the path shape smaller or larger, the duplicates get smaller or larger in proportion as well.
Observe that the control point is still there and another, smaller one has been added.
The Original grab handle
The original grab handle is split into 2 portions. These represent the starting and ending points of your set of duplicates.
Grab one half in the white portion to scoot the beginning point. Here I’ve moved the starting point to about 3 o’clock.
Use the other white half to scoot the ending point. Here I’ve moved the ending point to about 9 o’clock.
Grab the blue center of either one to move both the starting and ending points in tandem. Pretend it’s a magnet that will pull the whole set of duplicates with it. Here I moved the starting point to about 5 o’clock so the ending point pushed to about 11 o’clock.
The smaller control point
The new, smaller control point that was added when I pulled the replicating shape toward the path shape is where I can adjust the spacing of my duplicates. Click and drag that one to increase…
…the amount of spacing between each replicated shape.
Now, let’s see what else is in the panel.
You can check or uncheck the Perpendicular box.
Checked means the replicated shapes rotate as they go around the path shape to point toward its center, just like the images above.
Unchecked means they stay in the same orientation – they don’t rotate as they go around the shape.
You can adjust the Start Angle. That rotates the replicating shape and all its duplicates the same number of degress. You can still use the Perpendicular setting off or on.
You can set an Increment Angle. That keeps the original shape, the one at 5 o’clock here, at the original angle, but rotates each succeeding shape a set amount from the preceding one.
To adjust any of the numbers in this area, you can use the slider bar, the up and down arrows, or input specific numbers.
Adjust the Start Position to determine where on the path shape the replicating shapes start. Where 0 is depends on the shape, so you have to experiment to figure it out (at least I haven’t found a consistent spot). This is like moving one of the white portions of the control point to change where on the path shape the replicating shapes begin. When you do it manually like that, this number changes.
Adjust the Section Length to control how much of the path shape has the replicating shapes on it. This is like moving the white portion of the control point to set where the shapes stop. Again, if you move it with the control point you’ll see this number change.
Number of Repeats sets how many of the duplicates there are along the path shape. This is like manually moving the smaller control point to adjust the spacing. The number does not include the original shape — just the copies.
Use Step Length to input the amount of space you want between the replicated shapes. This technically moves your ending point, as the spaces between all the shapes need to stay equal.
Once you’ve got your duplicates just where you want them, you can turn them into independent shapes. While they are still dependent on the path shape, they respond to all the options in the panel and are tied to it. Once you release them, they are just like normal shapes. Notice how now that I’ve released the copies, there is no longer a grab handle.
To keep them all together, you can group them or make them into a compound path after you release them.
Clear as mud?
I know it can be really hard to see things like this with just a description and screenshots. Here’s a video to help.
Step up to harder shapes
So when would you use this?
You can use this SO many different ways, but let me show you just a few designs I made with it.
I wrote a post about designing your own wreath using Object on Path. That’s a very practical application.
You can also use it to create a design based on the path shape, then delete the path shape. For example, look at the gears around the letter “A” above. Once you’re satisfied with the layout, you can release the copies, delete the “A” and just have the gears left, and they’ll be in the shape of an “A.”
I do find it somewhat tricky to work with designs that have lots of pieces or lots of twists and turns. It can be difficult to get the starting and ending points where you want them. For those, I normally work with each piece separately rather than as a large compound path if possible.
Troubleshooting Object on Path
The replicating shape won’t attach to the path shape at all
It’s a grouping
If the shape you’re trying to replicate won’t go all around your path shape, even if you try moving the starting and ending spots, that’s because your path shape isn’t a single shape – it’s part of a grouping. It will only attach and replicate around one of the shapes in the group.
To go around all the shapes in the group, what you need is a compound path instead. A compound path is a single shape, while a grouping isn’t. Select all your pieces and make them into a compound path. If you had already replicated around one of the shapes, as you make the compound path the replicating shapes are removed from the path shapes. The original is put back where it was before you put it on the path.
This is true with text, since words are a grouping of individual letter with some letters (like “o”) in their own compound path. In fact, you won’t be able to get it to wrap around text at all without making a change. This is easy if your word is in a block font — just do Make Compound Path. For a single letter, you’ll still need to ungroup.
On a cursive font, you need to weld. If you try just making it a compound path, you’ll get little holes where the letters overlap. As you weld, any overlapping areas automatically become a single compound path. If any letters did not overlap, they become a separate part. You would then need to join them in a compound path with the letters that did weld. And don’t forget to make a copy of your text box first, as welding changes it from text to image. That means you can’t got back and change the letters, change the font, identify the font, etc.
The good news is that a group of images CAN act as the replicating shape. In others words, if you have an owl that’s 6 different pieces, and you layer them up on top of one another and group them, you can replicate the whole owl around a path shape.
You’re not pulling far enough
Another reason the replicating shape won’t attach is if you aren’t pulling the grab handle all the way to the line of the path shape. It’s not enough for the edge of the replicating shape to touch the line — it has to be the grab handle that touches.
The replicated shapes won’t go all the way around the shape, even if you move the starting and ending points correctly
Path shapes with lots of twists and turns can be difficult to work with and you may have trouble getting the replicating shape to go all around. It may be working great until you hit a turn when you’re moving a starting or ending point. Then the replicating seems to stop and reverts to just 2 or 3 duplicates, or the small control point that works with the step length just won’t move.
In that case, an easy work around is to do it more than once and then combine the pieces. In other words, move the ending point back to the spot where it was making duplicates correctly, then stop there. Make a copy of the replicating shape and start a new set right where the old one stopped.
The replicated shapes aren’t pointing to the center of the path shape, even with Perpendicular checked
The replicating shape will retain the angle it’s at when you first select it. Notice in our very first picture above, where I showed you the circle and rectangle I was going to use, the rectangle is straight up and down. That’s the angle it keeps as I pull it to the path shape. Notice here that my rectangle is rotated — the green dot shows that I’m rotated about 120°.
So when I replicate the shapes along the circle, they are all at an angle. Notice that at 12 o’clock, where the beginning of the set of duplicates is (our larger control handle shows us that), the angle matches my original.
The path shape is or is not cutting
Why it’s not
When you bend text around a shape, the lines of the shape turn gray.
The software assumes you are using the shape only as a path for the text and don’t intend to cut it. The change of the line color to gray is a reminder that this is what’s happening. If you select the shape look at the cut style in your Send area, you’ll see Cut for the selected shape. But it won’t actually cut. Notice that the circle isn’t bold in the cut preview. That’s another clue. HINT: Learning to read the cut preview will help in many ways.
When you use Object on Path, the path shape changes to gray just as with text. Again, it’s assuming you are only using the circle to create a path for the rectangles.
How to change that
To cut the path shape, you need to separate the replicating shapes from the path shape. There are 2 ways you can do it.
–Select the replicating shape (so my rectangles here). Then use Object>Convert to Path. The right click option is not active.
–Select the replicating shape. In the Replicate>Object to Path panel, select Release Copies at the bottom of the panel.
The path shape line then turns back to normal (its original color) to indicate that it has returned to Cut.
Be sure to comment here if you have any more questions about this feature and I’ll do my best to answer them.