I am trying to make a laser cut pattern in illustrator and I want to make the following image etched into wood (red lines etched). enter image description here

So, here is the rub. Right now those lines are just a blend under a white object. I need to get the image to be just strokes so that the robot can follow them. Somehow I need to get that image to just be simple strokes. I am sure there is some way to make an object, subtract out the white space and then add in a hatch then convert that to primitive line elements. But I have no idea where to begin.


2 Answers 2


You can do this using the Pathfinder panel.

  1. Create your lines.
  2. Create your shape, convert it into a compound path and place it above the grouped lines.
  3. Select both the lines and the shape and, on the Pathfinder panel, click Outline. This will effectively 'chop' your lines but won't remove the negative areas.
  4. Select all of the resulting paths and add a stroke to them, to make them easier to work with.
  5. Now, with the Direct Selection tool (A) or the Lasso tool (Q), select all of the paths you don't want and Delete them.

Alternatively, you can use the Shaper Tool.

  1. Create your lines.
  2. Create your shape, convert it into a compound path and place it above the grouped lines.
  3. Now click the Shaper Tool in the Tools menu (or hit Shift+N), and simply draw little scribbles over the segments of the lines that you want to remove.

The nice thing about the Shaper tool is that it's non-destructive – the sections of the lines that you remove are still there (but hidden) until you go Object > Expand.

  • Not a good idea to outline lines meant for laser cutting as it will make the laser double stroke with a very small gap. @Murenrb Use shapebuilder.
    – joojaa
    May 11, 2016 at 4:40
  • @joojaa The Outline command in the Pathfinder panel doesn't actually outline the paths, it slices them. Try it yourself and see.
    – Alex
    May 11, 2016 at 4:43
  • ahh yes sure my bad. Still it is more work than using shapebuilder which splits and deletes in one go when holding alt.
    – joojaa
    May 11, 2016 at 4:48
  • Or you could use the new Shaper tool. Actually, I might add that to my answer as another option.
    – Alex
    May 11, 2016 at 4:52
  • Shape builder in this instance is better and has a wider user platform.
    – joojaa
    May 11, 2016 at 4:57

While pathfinder outline and sharper are nice, they both require you to do quite a lot of pruning. Using shape builder is actually faster here since it requires the least amount of manual dexterity on your part

  1. Select the lines you want to participate in the cutting and cut.
  2. Activate the shape builder tool (Shift + M)
  3. Alt + Click or drag on line you do not want to keep.


    Image 1: Trim lines using shape builder.

The nice thing of this is that it does not dice the cutting curve so if you color the cutter with a different color then you can easily select all of them later with Select → Same → ...

Other similar related use case:

  • Ok, I played around with this. The major issue is the complexity. It takes illustrator about 10 min to calculate each trim. Then when it is done it has created some truly weird lines. Because of the complexity, it makes it hard to make sure you are alt-drawing the correct line. Then 10 min later you find that you had some weird overlap. its a good thought though! I had no idea how to do this before.
    – Murenrb
    May 11, 2016 at 15:41
  • @Murenrb well it is dependent on your path complexity. I tried this with a million point world map and a hatch and it didnt take more than 30 seconds. Maybe your running low on memory?
    – joojaa
    May 11, 2016 at 16:29
  • huh. I am running CS5 on a 2012 MBP with 16GB. I don't think its a memory thing as I am not really doing much else. Maybe I am actually doing it wrong. I will have to give it more work tonight.
    – Murenrb
    May 11, 2016 at 17:57

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.