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
    Commented Dec 1, 2015 at 21:53
  • The same for Inkscape. Commented Dec 1, 2015 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
    Commented Dec 1, 2015 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. Commented Dec 1, 2015 at 23:31

1 Answer 1


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"). Commented Dec 1, 2015 at 23:33
  • Would it be helpful if I showed the vector I downloaded from shutterstock? Commented Dec 1, 2015 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
    Commented Dec 1, 2015 at 23:38
  • Got a 404 on that link.
    – paulmz
    Commented Dec 1, 2015 at 23:40
  • My bad. Was trying not to give you a mobile link. Here it is. shutterstock.com/pic.mhtml?id=94802731 Commented Dec 1, 2015 at 23:41

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