Welding and Merging Shapes in Illustrator

In this tutorial we'll show you how to merge, weld and exclude your objects in Illustrator.

Making sure your objects are combined correctly is important for laser cutting. Using the tools in the Pathfinder Palette, you'll be able to combine shapes and remove them from another - resulting in clean, closed paths. We recommend exploring these commands on your own and discovering how they can help. We'll go over the two most used and most important tools in this tutorial.

 

WELDING/MERGING SHAPES

This is best explained by example. Let’s pretend you’re me and you want your logo cut out on a nice little stand. You’d start with something like this:

Looks great, right? Well, before we get too excited, let’s view our design in Outline mode (CMD/CTRL + Y). I suggest doing this numerous times as you’re designing.

Uh oh, see all those overlapping lines? I see that I have multiple objects all piled on top of one another. I also see a couple stray points, an open contour and a line that isn't connected. There’s an easy fix for this.

Select this group and find your Pathfinder Palette. Click the Unite tool. Select all and you'll see that everything is connected and nothing overlaps.

 

EXCLUDING SHAPES (MAKING HOLES)

The example above was pretty simple, because I had already made use of the Exclude tool. It seems like a good time to talk about that. The exclude tool lets you reverse one shape out of another while making it all one object. For this example we’ll just look at the laser gun.

To start I basically have one gray shape, with white shapes layered on top, where the holes should be. If we were to select all and apply black, you’ll see that I don’t really have holes. I need to make these one object and cut those areas out. Select both the base and the holes shapes. Find the Pathfinder Palette and click the Exclude Tool.

Now I have one shape with the appropriate areas cut out from the main shape. One thing to keep in mind when using the exclude tool is you may end up with some empty shape objects. An easy way to see if you have empty objects is to move your main object slightly and select all. You'll quickly see if you have any empty shapes.

When designing in Illustrator, please send us your files in .ai format. As always, before you upload your design, go through the usual checklist:

My file is 2D
My file is built at a 1:1 scale
All my type is outlined
Reversed type have bridges
I have cleaned up all stray points, empty objects and text areas
All my objects are on the same layer