Today we’re digging even deeper into the world of Point Editing in Silhouette Studio. We’re going to look at the concept of breaking and joining paths. We’ll talk about when you need to use these techniques, plus what open shapes are and how to close them. You definitely need some good experience with point editing to understand this lesson, so you’ll want to make sure you’ve gone through lessons 1-5 already. To start with Lesson 1 go here.
Tutorial Level: Advanced
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Why you might want to break or join paths
First, you’ll want to understand why in the world you’d want to know how to break or join paths. Here are the top reasons:
–leave an opening in the design
–fix a bad design
–connect broken lines in a trace
–make your own design from individual parts (such as lines, open shapes, etc.)
–combine different parts of 2 different designs
How to break paths
Start by selecting a point. When you do, take note of which line segment is bold red because that will matter in the next step. Then select Break Path.
The point is replaced by what looks like 1 red dot, but it’s actually 2. Those red dots are open end points for the line segments on either side of the break. They are sitting on top of each other. So that single point you selected has now split into 2 points.
Moving the open end point
Hover over the red points until you see your Point Select icon. You can move that red dot (the end of the segment) to a new location by clicking and dragging. That pulls the line segment with it. Then you’ll see the second red dot that was underneath the first.
The red dots will want to jump toward one another and re-connect, so for right now make sure to drag away from the former connection point. We’ll talk about joining paths (connecting points) in a bit.
The line segment that was bold red in the previous step (above the red dots in my example) is the one that stays put when you drag the red dot. The segment on the other side of the point (the one below the red dots in my example) is the one that moves. The red dot that’s on top is the end point of the next line segment – not the highlighted one – so when you move the dot that’s the segment that moves. When you break the path, you are telling the software that the part you want to keep is the line segment you have selected (it’s the one that’s bold red) and that you want to alter the one on the other side of the point.
Making a second break
Now that your line is an open path (has a break in it), you can leave it that way or make another break. If you’re doing the latter, what happens next depends on the design.
On a solid shape
If you have a solid shape, the concept flips when you make the second break. Again, pay attention to the line segment in bold red.
This time it’s the highlighted segment that moves. It’s as if you are breaking the path a second time to connect the second break dot to the first break dot and that you want to remove anything between the two.
You can then release the compound path. This separates the image into the 2 unconnected parts so you can select and move or remove a portion.
You could also do the normal process of selecting and deleting points one a time or by group to remove the section you don’t want anymore. Since it’s no longer connected to the other pieces, the contours of that other piece won’t change at all.
On a shape in a compound path
If you have a shape in a compound path, it MAY work differently. It depends on if your breaks are along the same continuous line of the shape or not.
If both breaks are on the same on a continuous line, it is the same – on the first break the highlighted line segment stays in place, on the second break the highlighted line segment moves.
Here’s what’s different if the second break is on a different line in the design. On the first break the highlighted line segment stays in place, but on the second break the highlighted line segment also stays in place.
Open design paths
Because we’ve broken the path in the samples above, we have open design paths, or open designs. An open design is one that has any spot where a point is not connecting 2 line segments. There are 2 quick ways to see if you have an open design.
A design cannot be filled with color or fills abnormally
If you create a design in Silhouette Studio and there are any line breaks, the path is not complete. That means you can’t fill the image with color or pattern. Think of a bucket with holes in it – it can’t hold water. This shape looks like a bucket, but it’s really just an arc and an open-ended shape I drew. When I try to fill it with color, nothing happens.
What about a design with a broken path that was created in a different graphics program? If it’s been filled with color in that other program or you fill it yourself in Silhouette Studio, it may remain filled but it will look odd. You will have open edges where you don’t see a cut line.
HINT: Always work with filled designs because you can see issues like open paths. You can also more easily see the front to back order of your images and if you have grouped pieces or a compound path.
You’ll find this when a designer has created the shape in a software like Adobe Illustrator or CorelDraw and doesn’t understand well how they will be used in Silhouette Studio. Designing for look vs. designing for cutting is a different process. Yes, I’ve seen designs like this from the Silhouette Design Store (I’ll show you some in our next lesson). That’s why you want to understand how to fix a design. You can always contact Silhouette America Customer Support to get a refund on a poorly-made design, but it’s nice to have the option to use it if you really like the look of it.
You see red points when you enter Point Editing Mode
Let’s say you’re working with unfilled shapes. The other tipoff that you have an open image is the presence of red dots in point editing mode. Red dots, as we have already learned, indicate a point that has only 1 segment coming off of it instead of the normal 2. Here’s my bucket again.
This can be tricky, because the pieces may be grouped instead of being a compound path. They may be open images that are placed so closely together that they appear to be connected, but when they cut there could be a slight gap or an overlapping cut. When I zoom in, you can see the 2 unconnected points and a gap between them.
If they are placed in this way and grouped, when you try to get into point editing mode you won’t see any dots. That’s because although the pieces are temporarily tied together with a grouping, they are still separate pieces and not a single compound path. Since they are individual pieces, when you try edit points the software doesn’t know which piece you want to edit. Remember — you can only edit points along 1 path at a time. You have to ungroup first, then you can go into Point Editing for the individual pieces.
Joining paths (closing the shape)
At this point you can leave it as an open path if you like. But you normally don’t want open paths, because they don’t cut correctly. For example, in the blue-filled car shape in the previous section, the cut will stop at each red dot. That means I won’t be able to remove the car from my material. The section that doesn’t have the cut line (no purple outline) will remain attached to the background.
In order to make the car cut correctly, we need to connect the dots to close the shape. Yes, it’s just like the connect-the-dots puzzles you did when you were little. The image isn’t fully formed until you connect all the points.
Select the open end point by clicking on the red dot, just as you would with any point. You can then drag it toward another red dot to join them and complete the line. The 2 red dots “pop” together to form a single black box point. That newly-formed point will always be a corner.
Here’s my bucket again. I’ve closed the shape by joining the paths (connecting the points at the corners). That eliminates the red dots and allows me to fill with color. It can now hold water :).
When would I need to connect open points?
There are many cases where you may need to connect open points, but here are 3 of the most common times.
- Sometimes you’ll need to join points in a poorly-created design. I’ll show you some specific examples of that in our next lesson.
- If you want to quickly remove a section of a design, you can break the path in 2 spots, release the compound path to move/remove the section you don’t want, then reconnect the remaining open end points. Here’s the simple rectangle example we used above.
- If you are making your own designs, you may need to connect individually-created pieces by connecting points.
What do I need to watch out for when connecting points?
Remember in our last lesson that I taught you that lines cannot come together in a “T” junction like this?
There’s not a way to connect a horizontal line coming in to a vertical line. 1-dimensional shapes can’t do that. A straight line is only 1 dimension so only cuts a slit in the material. We are normally wanting to cut out 2-dimensional images, not just slits in the page. A thin rectangle is 2 dimensions, so will cut a shape we can remove from the material. That’s what you normally need to use when creating designs.
Yep — I know — this is heady stuff. So let me show you a video of how breaking and connecting paths works.
In Part 2 of this lesson, we’ll look at breaking and joining paths on more designs. I’ll show you how to fix some broken shapes with point editing.
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