Compound paths in Silhouette Studio

Today’s tutorial is all about “compound paths”. This is a fancy design term that is used in Silhouette Studio, Photoshop, Illustrator, and dozens more programs, but most people haven’t heard of it. Basically what it is, is a way to take a shape or a letter and not have the middle be filled in. You might run into this when trying to cut a word that includes a letter that is hollow like a “D” or “O” (as opposed to a “T” or “S” for example that have no holes). You go in to weld it and the middle fills in. So frustrating! The trick there is to tell Silhouette that your shape (or letter) needs to be a compound path. This is also super useful for when you’re designing a fancy shape like a lattice or lace, or something where you need an outlined shape with empty spots inside of it. Check out the video or transcript below and you’ll see how easy it is to do.

Video 1 and 2 are below, and transcripts for each are below that, in case you're at work and can't watch a video right now ;-)

Transcript Video 1

Hey, Everyone. This is Sarah from sarahdesign.com.

Today I’m going to show you how to make an interesting shape in Silhouette Studio and then turn it into a compound path so that you can see through it to the color behind it.

Grab the regular polygon tool. Go over and start drawing. You can see how it has this little house shape.

Then there’s a hash line in the middle with the number five. That’s talking about how many sides there are.

You just grab this little slider handle. You can drag it over and make it six sides, if you want six sides for this project.

Then take this little red dot and just turn it. We can actually make this bigger, easier to see too. First to make it upright, then we’ll grab the arrow and drag this over to the grid lines to double check that it’s straight up and down.

The next step is to give this some thickness around the edge. Make sure that the line style is set to this solid line. We’re going to give it a thickness. See this little triangle here where it says line thickness? You can drag that around to experiment with different thicknesses. See what you like. I think I’m going to go with eight. Hit Return.

Then the corner style is looking a little round because over here in the corner style menu rounded is chosen. The other choices are beveled where it chops off the corner or corner where it has just a sharp ninety degree edge.

Next thing I’m going to want to do is draw a line down from the top to the middle. Then connect that from the middle over to one corner and again over to the other corner. To do that we’ll grab the line tool and just start drawing in our shape. I’m going to hold down shift to make sure my line stays straight up and down.

Then we will grab the arrow tool, click on it and make the line thickness eight again.

I’m going to change the color of this line so you can see it a little better. Change it to black.

We can see a few things about it. We can see that since it’s a loose line it doesn’t have this corner style that we just applied because there are no corners. There’s only ends. The end is called an end cap. If we go over to our line style menu again, select the line, we can see that. Go ahead and pick the same our corner style so it matches what we had before. In end cap style we’re going to hit square. Going to scoot you down a little.

Then we’re going to duplicate this line. Right click, Duplicate.

Take this new line and we want to turn it so it’s angled to fit in here perfectly so we have this diamond shape in the corner. To get this angle right we just need to find a similar angle and line it right up to it. That similar angle is right here. If we grab this green corner and rotate this, let’s go ahead and get it up here on top. Using that as a comparison, we’ll see if we’re straight.

Then we’re going to Duplicate.

We’ll go up to Object, Mirror and Flip Horizontally because this is what we want to put over on this side. If we compare I can see this is not straight there. I’m just going to adjust that a little bit.

Now put these in place. Try to get them all lined up in the corners. If it’s looking weird then it’s just probably not quite straight. Then select them all. We’re going to change the entire thing to black. It’s still separate pieces though. The next thing you want to do is make this into a compound path. Right click, make compound paths and we’re done.

To show you what I meant by being able to see through it, I’m going to draw a shape here and fill it with red. Then we will send to back. Grab the fill. Change it to red. Right click. Send to back. There you can see how you can see through this shape into the back.

Compound paths are not so bad, are they? Next video I’m going to take this shape, multiply it and stack a few of them all together so that we come up with a really cool design that we can print out and maybe hang on our wall. Stay tuned for that.

Transcript Video 2

Continuing from the last video (compound paths 1), I show you how to take your compound path 3D looking shape, and duplicate it so you can create a larger more complex shape all in one! 

Welcome back! This is where we left off in the last video. We drew our shape, we made a compound path out of it and then just to show that we could see through it, we created this red block and put it behind so that you can see the parts that are transparent. I’m going to delete that red block and zoom out a little, grab our shape and drag it over here. What I’m going to do is duplicate this and make a pattern out of it and you can see what that looks like.

If I select it, right click and hit Duplicate, it puts it right there.

I can hold down shift and arrow over. I’m going to try and line it up and one easy way to do that as you’ve seen me do in many videos is to change the color of the lines and then we’ll zoom in and just scoot it over a little bit more. I’m using the arrow keys on my keyboard to make sure that it is lined up.

Now, if we were to take that and change it to black.  Go shift click on the other one so they’re both selected.

Right click and say Group.

Then we can right click and say Duplicate again. This new group, we’re going to put down here so it makes this really cool M.C. Escher effect. We’ll zoom in and make sure we’re lining things up the way we want. This is kind of a neat shape. You could go on and on with this but I’m going to stop here.

Next I want to show you how to make everything one unified piece that’s all one compound path.

Right now we have two groups and each one of those has a compound path inside of it. Select this group, right click, and hit Ungroup. I’m also going to right click and hit Release Compound Path. Then, I’ll go up to the other group and do the same – right click, hit Ungroup, right click, hit Release Compound Path.

I’m going to select all. You can  go up to Edit, Select All or hit Command A.

Then right click again, click Make Compound Path. Now it’s just one nice big unit that you can move around as one.

Again, we do our little test to double check that this is a compound path. I’ll hit the color fill, change it to red, right click on it, send it to back and you can see right through it. There you go.

There’s all kinds of shapes that you could make. I encourage you to experiment and see what you can come up with.

I hope you enjoyed this video and I’ll see you in the next one.