I'm having some trouble with a vector image I downloaded from shutterstock. I'm trying to lasercut a Christmas present for my cousin. I need to be able to get an outline of the vector image (it's composed of many parts) so that I can cut the shape out of acrylic then engrave the details on that cutout. I can easily do this once I can get an outline. I have access to inkscape, corel draw and adobe illustrator, and have tried various combinations of combining parts, tracing images, taking unions of vector paths, but none of them work. Suggestions?

In the picture below, (a) is two different vector paths. I'm trying to get (b), which is one vector path.

Diagram of what I'm trying to do

  • 2
    In Illustrator that's done by selecting both and then using the Union command. I'm not sure why that didn't work but it should based on your sketch. – Ryan Dec 1 '15 at 21:53
  • The same for Inkscape. – Paolo Gibellini Dec 1 '15 at 22:21
  • Are there any possible problems when using this for laser cutting? e.g. compound shapes being etched as individual outlines or whatever? – Yorik Dec 1 '15 at 22:40
  • I've done a fair bit of lasercutting with raster/vector mixes and the laser cutter has handled it okay so far, although they were much simpler. – Gabrielle Taylor Dec 1 '15 at 23:31

Using Adobe Illustrator, here is how to combine Shapes in the way you describe:

  1. Select the two Shapes you want to "join".
  2. Under the Pathfinder palette, select Unite.
  3. Done.

enter image description here

enter image description here

There may be some other tweaking or options depending on whether you are actually using Paths, Strokes or Shapes, whether they're filled, outlined, etc. With lines/outlines, you may need to adjust whether the stroke is inside/outside the shape or the Corner/Cap. It is difficult to tell without seeing exactly how the shape is drawn.

Hope this helps!

  • So I usually start editing vectors for the laser cutter by converting everything to paths, then changing the line width to hairline (~0.01"). – Gabrielle Taylor Dec 1 '15 at 23:33
  • Would it be helpful if I showed the vector I downloaded from shutterstock? – Gabrielle Taylor Dec 1 '15 at 23:35
  • It couldn't hurt. The shapes I used in the demo above are still paths with a 1px stroke. This method should work in your case. – paulmz Dec 1 '15 at 23:38
  • Got a 404 on that link. – paulmz Dec 1 '15 at 23:40
  • My bad. Was trying not to give you a mobile link. Here it is. shutterstock.com/pic.mhtml?id=94802731 – Gabrielle Taylor Dec 1 '15 at 23:41

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