Is there a way to shrink a curved path (with two open ends) down by a specific length in Adobe Illustrator?

I searched for hours now and still can't find a solution. Do you know any way to do it?

4 Answers 4


Yes, it is possible. What you do is you use the stroke palette with a dashed array with following properties:

  • First dash set to the length of curve you need.
  • Second dash set to something so big so its longer than path.
  • Set dash option to preserve exact dash.

You can then copy the curve and expand this curve and use it for reference for a cut if you need the actual curve shorter. You can also use art brushes for same thing, such as when you hit the upper limit of the dash.

  • Cool.. that's kind of what I determined in teh comments below my answer. I figured you may have a more mathematical approach.
    – Scott
    Commented Jun 4, 2017 at 15:57
  • @Metis well i CAn script it but thats a different thing. SHS has a script to this effect by the way. As does the pomax bezierinfo but I dont have time to take my secret sauce out of my code.
    – joojaa
    Commented Jun 4, 2017 at 19:34

Straight or curved?

For straight paths, just enter a new W or H value in the Control bar field or Transform Panel with the path selected.

Curved paths are another matter entirely.

  • Its curved, sadly
    – Chrisstar
    Commented Jun 4, 2017 at 10:12
  • There's no direct input method for a curved path due to it's having a width, height, and arc. You'd have to move to scripting for curved paths. The best you could due without scripting is control the distance between the anchor points, but that is not the same as the length of the path.
    – Scott
    Commented Jun 4, 2017 at 10:18
  • If I remember correctlsy, svg had an option for stroke length, so you could have a sroke shorter than the path. So it should be technically possible I think. I don't know anything about illustrator scripting, what is it?
    – Chrisstar
    Commented Jun 4, 2017 at 10:30
  • Illustrator scripting is essentially javascript... so you have more math function possibilities there to use in order to draw/manipulate objects... adobe.com/devnet/illustrator/scripting.html Illustrator has no such things as a "stroke shorter than its path" except in the case of dashes. So I guess you could have a path, set to dashed with one dash a specific length. So, yeah, I guess that's a possibility
    – Scott
    Commented Jun 4, 2017 at 10:37
  • Full disclosure.. scripting AI isn't my strong point... but @joojaa may come along here. He has a fantastic handle on that sort of stuff. If ti's possible, he'll know if he chooses to answer here.
    – Scott
    Commented Jun 4, 2017 at 10:42

Is there a way to shrink a curved path (with two open ends) down by a specific length in Adobe Illustrator?

Yes there is a way... but it is not native to Illustrator.

The answer lies in using PathScribe, found within the VectorScribe plugin from Astute Graphics. While this plugin is not free, you can try it out during a free trial period.

One of the tools included with PathScribe is the Extend Path tool. This tool (despite its moniker) can also trim paths as well.

Here I have an open curved path which is 1410px in length:

Starting path

Assuming you've already installed VectorScribe, click and hold on the PathScribe button, which gives you access to the Extend Path Tool:

Extend Path Tool location

You'll likely want to constrain your trim to count to full pixels rather than decimal fractions. To do so make sure your Keyboard Increment (found under Edit > Preferences > General) is set to 1px:

Keyboard Increment setting

Then (with the Extend Path Tool selected) hit the Enter key to go into the Extend Path Preferences... Now check 'Constrain Length by Multiples' and under that check 'Constrain Change in Length':

Constrain changes

With your path active, hover over the end of the path and you'll see an annotation appear, then just click and drag:

Trim path length by 40px exactly

You can see from the Info Panel that we have now decreased the total length of our curved path by exactly 40px. Simple!

  • So are you saying that there is no way to do this with native tools despite there being an answer that demonstrates to the contrary?
    – joojaa
    Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 20:28
  • Wasn't trying to step on your toes... I guess I took the "specific" part of the question to mean "precisely specific".
    – BANG
    Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 22:19
  • When someone says "be specific" they usually mean "exact". My answer speaks to removing exactly 40 px. I've tried to follow your instructions but I cannot reproduce the same results on my example using your methods. It is in my experience literally impossible to even get a curved path to be exactly 1410px in length using only Illustrator. let alone to reduce its length by "specifically" 40px! Can you produce a curved path of specifically 1410px? Can you then reduce that same curved path to exactly 1370px using your (unspecified) artbrush method using only Illustrator?
    – BANG
    Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 22:35
  • You've answered to the contrary but I don't think you've really and truly "demonstrated" it.
    – BANG
    Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 22:44
  • Yes no problem, i can make a curve exactly 20px shorter with inbuilt tools. Note that the length of a bezier curve is not exact anyway. The method illustrator uses to calculate the bezier is only correct within 0.01 px anyway.
    – joojaa
    Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 4:20

If the path is only slightly curved towards the end, and nobodies' life depends on it, you can of course draw a circle at the end of the path:

Screenshot of circle at the end-node of the path

Draw the circle using cmd + shift while dragging and make sure its' center has snapped to the last node of the path. Enter the amount you want to trim as the W and H value of the circle.

Then, select the path and use the scissors tool ( C ) to cut the path where it intersects the circle. (Illustrator will 'snap' the tool to the intersection if you have 'smart guides' enabled.)

Disclaimer: this is reasonably precise. But not exact. So, it might not answer the question well enough. But maybe, it's still useful for others.

Your Answer

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

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