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I am used to editing vector graphics in FontLab, which allows you to simplify vectors like this:

The behavior I'm used to

If I delete a point from a curve, the program will roughly maintain the original shape by adjusting the handles of neighbouring points to compensate. Result: A curve that looks roughly like the original.

However, in Illustrator, the default behavior seems to be different, and it drives me a little bonkers—not quite because I'm used to the behavior above, but because in 90% of cases it's actually better for my particular use case and illustration style.

The behavior in Illustrator (it seems)

If I delete a point from a curve, the result is a straight line between the original points. If I want to recreate the original shape, I have to do some combination of joining points and adding/adjust handles.

Is there something I could be doing differently to get the behavior I'm used to? I would love for it to be as straightforward/keyboard-friendly as I'm used to Fontlab, without having to click a bunch or manually add or adjust handles. For all I know I'm using the wrong tool or action; though I'm not new to Illustrator, I haven't used it much to directly edit curves before.

6 Answers 6

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Unfortunately, no.

The Illustrator behavior you are seeing is simply how Illustrator treats Bezier curves and anchor removal.

If you're interested, there is a third party vendor who makes a plug ins called VectorScribe and InkScribe. Both these plug ins have "smart" anchor removal tools which allows you to remove anchors and maintain curves.

Merely go to Astute Graphics.com and search for VectorScribe or InkScribe. Due to web site updates at AstuteGraphics, links to individual product pages tend to rot away, but the products are still there as of 2023.

It's a shame you need third-party tools for such, seemingly, basic path operations.


Disclosure: I have no ongoing affiliation with Astute Graphics. However, in the past I have received complementary software from Astute Graphics in return for my evaluation. i.e. They have given me software in the past, but I do not benefit in any way if YOU try or purchase their software.

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  • Thanks, Scott. It is reassuring to hear that you agree, since you are a major AI expert. I will check out those plugins.
    – supertrue
    May 24, 2013 at 18:40
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    Those two plugins are brilliant, and have since become indispensable to me. I highly recommend them to anyone reading this. You can do exactly what I described in my question, and a lot more.
    – supertrue
    Jul 7, 2013 at 17:20
  • This is a very old answer and no longer correct. Please see Scot's answer for a solution.
    – clayRay
    Oct 28, 2023 at 1:02
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With the same Pen tool you can subtract the point. The resulting curve won't be the same but it will be joined and if the adjacent points had handles they will keep them. It's not perfect but it's better than selecting and deleting.

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Illustrator will recalculate the curve in only two instances I'm aware of.

  • Adding points
  • Using the simplify command

When you delete a point, Illustrator does that an nothing more. If you're left with a straight line, it's because the remaining points had no bezier handles to begin with. Illustrator does not change those remaining points on deletion.

I don't know of any way to change this behavior.

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If you delete an anchor point with the Delete anchor point tool while holding Shift, Illustrator will try and maintain the curvature of the original curve by automatically adjusting the handles of the neighboring anchor points. Try it out!

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I think Scot's answer should be the correct one.

You can delete anchors and keep the shape curvature with Delete anchor point tool while holding shift.

This is behavior original question author was asking for. The feature is less known and was added in Adobe Illustrator CC 2020 release.

I recorded a mini-demo: https://imgur.com/a/sPiG8MG

First I expand Inter font CTRL+SHIFT+O that produces particularly dense shape with redundant points. Then I select whole shape with direct selection tool and pick Delete anchor point tool. Then holding shift and clicking points I remove redundant ones while keeping the curvature of a letter S relatively the same.

I couldn't comment, so I made a separate answer

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I use a combination of the Anchor Point tool and the Smooth Tool. If you select your vector and run the smooth tool over it, it will "simplify" the curves. After that, adjust the remaining points using the Anchor Point tool or the Direct Selection tool. The Anchor Point tool allows you to edit the vector's point handles independently (so they can be asymmetrically angled or sorter or longer). I hope that helps!

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