I hope you’re learning how much you can alter your designs in Silhouette Studio by editing points. If you haven’t gone through the previous lessons in this series, start here. Otherwise, this lesson won’t make much sense. In Part 1 of this lesson, we looked at the basics of breaking and joining paths. Here in Part 2, we’re going to look at ways to use those techniques to fix some broken designs.
Tutorial level: advanced
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Problem Example #1: Unconnected Points = Open Design
This flower looks like a single image.
But it’s really several different pieces grouped together. When I fill it with color, I see this:
The incomplete fill is a tip-off that there’s something wrong. The lack of an outline of the petals at the center of the flower also tells me there’s a problem. If I wanted to use this for a print and cut, I’d be out of luck because I couldn’t fill it completely.
We need to investigate more. The ungroup option is available, so I ungroup. That doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a problem. But I see this:
Notice the 6 different bounding boxes and points on only some of the flower. That tells me this is a set of petal pieces, not a single shape. And I have red dots, which tells me I have some unconnected points.
I had to zoom in very tightly here but see how there’s a break in the red cut line? That would leave an uncut area on the flower — it would still be attached to the background material at that spot.
And here, the lines cross each other. That gives me the opposite problem — a corner that’s cut through too much so that the cut line for one petal slices into the petal next to it.
Here’s how I can join the open points
In order to get a complete fill and a good cut, I need to connect the points.
I select all the petals and then Make Compound Path with a right click, in the Object menu or in the Modify panel. We need to do that because you can only join points that are within the same compound path. Notice that now I can see all the points of all the petals.
I hover over a red dot and, in this example, don’t have to do much to connect it. That’s because the points are very close together (almost on top of one another), so they will connect easily. Notice that where I’ve highlighted, I now have a black dot indicating the path is closed there. Also notice that the fill changed in that area.
I continue doing this until all the points are connected. You know they are all connected when the image fills normally with color all all the points are black.
Problem Example #2: 1-D lines instead of 2-D pieces
I’m going to use another part of the design from Example #1. It’s a gatefold card – each side folds in to meet in the middle. Here’s what it looks like (the dotted lines are score lines to fold along).
That looks okay, but when I ungroup and start to move the pieces, I notice the problem.
The score lines are all separate little 1D lines. That’s actually fairly common so no big deal. I can group all the pieces of each score line so that they stay together. Personally, I would also change their line color. That allows me to more easily choose a different cut setting for the score lines than for the outer edge of the card.
It’s the card base itself that’s the real issue. Rather than creating a rectangle, this designer used 1-dimensional lines – open-ended paths — and just grouped them together. But we can fix it – yes, we can!
First, we’ll combine all the parts of the card base into a single compound path. I’ll say it again — you can only join points that are in the same compound path. Notice the red points.
HINT: I wouldn’t include the score lines in the compound path. Since they are all simple 1D lines, I don’t want to see all the red dots. Plus a single compound path can only have 1 line color, so I couldn’t cut by line color to use different cut settings for the score line and cut line.
This is a pretty easy fix again, because the points are close together. I click on a red dot and it will easily pop in to connect to the point that’s sitting right under it.
Finally, I group the 2 score lines with the card base and I’m ready to cut.
Problem Example #3: Improper use of 1-D pieces
I recently opened this image I purchased from the Silhouette Design Store.
It’s sold as a cut file but breaks some of the rules. We have open paths on the face and chest. How do I know? Because they are 1-dimensional.
I don’t want to call out the artist, but this design is made by someone who knows Adobe Illustrator or CorelDraw but doesn’t understand how designs cut in Silhouette Studio. In other words, the designer knows how to make the image LOOK nice but doesn’t understand how to make it CUT right.
Let’s think about this logically. What’s going to happen when those arcs are cut on the trunk? You’ll just get slits in the paper. The same goes for the ears and chest piece.
And look at the ends of the trunk where they come up on the face. We have “T” junctions there. We’ve already learned that’s a no-no.
Let’s investigate further. Here I’ve filled it with color.
The pieces are still grouped, so I’m going to ungroup them and separate them. Now we can see the problems. Here’s that tip-off – shapes that look odd when filled.
Plus, I have 2 pieces that are just straight, open-ended lines…
…and others with red points.
So do I give up on this design, or can I make it work? It’s up to you, but I like a challenge!
The ears and trunk wrinkles
What did the designer intend on the ears and trunk? Since we have a base piece that the other pieces can be stacked onto, my guess is that you’re supposed to be able to see through these portions of the head to that background piece. Let’s make that happen. The Silhouette software understands the Silhouette machines. That means it’s going to help you by assuming you want to cut a 2D image (length + width). In other words, it’s not going to typically create an open shape. We can use that to our advantage.
Let’s start with the ear. I’m going to change the problematic piece to a different color and adjust the transparency to around 35%. You’ll see why in a moment.
HINT: Normally you can select a filled piece by clicking anywhere on the fill. Since the parts we’ve identified aren’t closed paths and therefore not really filled, you can’t click just on the fill color you see. That’s another tip that you have an open path.
Now I’ll open the Offset panel. When I click on Offset, notice that it creates the offset around the actual lines, and not the fill. Because I raised the transparency on the original piece, you can see the lines of the offset more easily.
Awesome! That’s what we need. I’ll adjust the amount of the offset to make it smaller and then apply it. I’ll filled the offset with a new color here so you can see it more better.
I’ll move the original piece out of the way (like on the left), select the offset and face and choose Make Compound Path (like on the right).
I can do the same with the trunk wrinkles. When I put that base piece behind the head now, I get the right look.
Now let’s see what we can do about the sides of the trunk. The process is going to be similar but not exactly the same. Again, I’m going to fill them with a different color to see them easier.
The idea again is that we want the back base piece to show through. We’ll start the same way — creating a small offset.
Here’s what’s different. Because these pieces are at the edge, making a compound path of the head and offset we created won’t work. We’d get this.
Let’s work it a little differently. First, I’m going to move the offset piece so that the curve is in line with the trunk. I want the inner edge of the offset to be along the outside curve of the trunk like this:
Now what we’ll do instead is select the head and the offset and choose Subtract in the Modify panel. That will use the offset to cut a hole down through the head. But hey, that’s child’s play now that we’re in Lesson 6.
You may need edit the points a bit right where the curves met, as it’s hard to get those exact.
The idea is the similar on the chest piece, but this time, I’d need to make sure my offset goes past the lower edge. Right now it’s too far away. I’m just going to move the left piece down, and elongate the right one a little. It’s slight but important.
Here are the offsets I created, filled with tan.
Then I’ll subtract again. Because the offset on the right side went across the entire piece, when I subtract it splits my chest into 2 pieces (notice the 2 bounding boxes).
Now I have usable pieces. Here are my head and chest stacked on the base piece.
Is it worth it?
I’m probably not going to go through this very often, because it’s too much work for a design I spent $1 on at most. Even when fixed, the pieces on this particular design don’t fit together well for cutting. If you raise the line thickness, that covers those gaps so the designer didn’t worry about them. That’s the difference between an image LOOKING right and CUTTING right. (I’m not criticizing the designer — she did a good job creating a cute-looking elephant according to standard graphics techniques. It’s just not something that should be in the Silhouette Design Store as is as a cut file — that’s on the company).
But sometimes you’ll LOVE the look of a broken design from the SDS or will get an SVG with similar issues (again — not all SVG files are made specifically for cutting in Silhouette). You’ll want to know how to edit the points so that you have the option to fix it.
Problem Example #4: Broken lines in a trace
You can also use point editing if you have a break in a line from a trace and want to connect the break. Any image you trace is a;ready in a compound path so you don’t need to create one.
Here’s an owl image I’d like to use to create a cut file with pieces I layer on top of one another.
When I trace it and fill it with color, I get this:
So far, so good. But if I release the compound path to get a set of pieces, the body doesn’t separate as I expect.
That white area in the middle isn’t it’s own piece. If it were, it would have turned blue. If we zoom in at the bottom left, we see a gap in the original design.
Bridging the gap
I need to fix the gap, so I’m going to start back after the trace but before I released the compound path. To connect the lines, I can–
- Select a point on one side of the gap, making sure that selecting that point highlights a segment I want to have remain in place.
- Break the path at that spot. Notice that the fill goes away because I now have an open shape. That’s actually want I want.
- Select another point across the gap, taking note of which segment is highlighted.
- Make my second break at that point. If it’s in the same continuous line as the first break point, the point I just selected was on top and the segment that was just highlighted will be the one that moves in the next step. If it’s on a different line in the shape, the red dot for that point was on the bottom. That means the segment that was just highlighted will remain in place and the segment on the other side of the point will move in the next step. I have the former — my second break was on the same continuous line along which I made my first break.
- Hover over the red dots and move each one out a bit. By moving both, I’m doing a back-up check to make sure I know which segments are going to move (which red dots are on top).
- Connect those 2 dots, then the lower 2.
- I then delete the 2 new points I just made, or make them smooths. Each join spot will be a corner point, which means they often create odd bumps or sharp turns in my line segment that I want to eliminate. You can see that in my pic in the previous step.
Now I can release the compound path and I have the pieces to create the owl. I’ve recolored some here so you can see them all more easily.
(On this design, I could have drawn a rectangle across the gap and welded in first place, but that’s not always going to work.)
If I want, I can keep breaking and joining paths to create more pieces. I’ll show you more in the video.
Knowing how to break and join paths can be a HUGE help in fixing broken designs. Believe it or not, sometimes we actually DO want open paths. In our next lesson, I’m going to show you some examples of ways you can use open paths to your advantage. Don’t miss it!