Edit paths

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Learn about how to edit, reshape, smoothen, and simplify paths using different tools available in Illustrator.

Select paths, segments, and anchor points

Before you reshape or edit a path, you need to select the path’s anchor points, segments, or a combination of both.

Select anchor points

Do any of the following:

  • If you can see the points, click them with the Direct Selection tool  to select them. Shift-click to select multiple points.
  • Select the Direct Selection tool and drag a boundary around the anchor points. Shift-drag around additional anchor points to select them.
  • You can select anchor points from selected or unselected paths. Move the Direct Selection tool over the anchor point until the pointer displays a hollow square for unselected and filled square for selected paths in a magnified state, and then click the anchor point. Shift-click additional anchor points to select them.
  • Select the Lasso tool  and drag around the anchor points. Shift-drag around additional anchor points to select them.

Select path segments

Do any of the following:

  • Select the Direct Selection tool  and click within two pixels of the segment, or drag a marquee over part of the segment. Shift-click or Shift-drag around additional path segments to select them.
  • Select the Lasso tool  and drag around part of the path segment. Shift-drag around additional path segments to select them.

Select all anchor points and segments in a path

  • Select the Direct Selection tool or the Lasso tool.
  • Drag around the entire path.

If the path is filled, you can also click inside the path using the Direct Selection tool to select all anchor points.

Copy a path

Select a path or segment using the Selection tool or Direct Selection tool, and do one of the following:

  • Use the standard menu functions to copy and paste paths within or between apps.
  • Hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (macOS) and drag the path to the desired position.

Add and delete anchor points

Adding anchor points can give you more control over a path, or it can extend an open path. However, you should not add more points unnecessarily as it makes the path complex. A path with fewer points is easier to edit, display, and print. You can reduce the complexity of a path by deleting unnecessary points. 

Add or delete an anchor point

To add an anchor point: 

  • Select the Pen tool  or the Add Anchor Point tool 
    Note: The Pen tool changes to the Add Anchor Point tool as you position it over a selected path.
  • Click over the path segment.

To delete an anchor point:

  • Select the Pen tool or the Delete Anchor Point tool  and click over the anchor point. 
    Note: The Pen tool changes to Delete Anchor Point tool as you position it over an anchor point.
  • Select the point with the Direct Selection tool and click Remove Selected Anchor Points  in the Control panel.
Note:

Don’t use the Delete and Backspace keys or the Edit > Cut and Edit > Clear commands to delete anchor points. These keys and commands also delete the line segments that connect to that point.

Find and delete stray anchor points

Stray anchor points are individual points that aren't connected to other anchor points. It's good practice to find and delete stray anchor points.

  1. Deselect all objects.

  2. Choose Select > Object > Stray Points.

  3. Choose Edit > Cut or Edit > Clear commands, or press Delete or Backspace on the keyboard.

Disable or temporarily override automatic Pen tool switching

You can temporarily override or disable automatic switching to the Add Anchor Point tool or Delete Anchor Point tool.

  • To temporarily override switching, hold down Shift as you position the Pen tool over the selected path or an anchor point. This is useful when you want to start a new path on top of an existing path. To prevent Shift from constraining the Pen tool, release Shift before you release the mouse button.

  • To disable switching, choose Edit > Preferences > General (Windows) or Illustrator > Preferences > General (Mac OS), and select Disable Auto Add/Delete.

Create a simple and a smooth path

Illustrator provides you features to smooth the appearance of paths as well as simplify paths by removing excess anchor points. For more information, see Simplify a path.

Average the position of anchor points

  1. Select two or more anchor points (on the same path or on different paths).

  2. Choose Object > Path > Average.

  3. Choose to average along the horizontal (X) axis only, the vertical (Y) axis only, or both axes, and click OK.

Convert points on a path

You can convert the points on a path between corner and smooth points. Use options in the Control panel to quickly convert multiple anchor points. Use the Convert Anchor Point tool to choose to convert only one side of the point, and to precisely alter the curve as you convert the point.

Convert one or more anchor points using the Control panel

To use the anchor point conversion options in the Control panel, select relevant anchor points only, not the entire object. If you select multiple objects, one of the objects must be only partially selected. When entire objects are selected, the Control panel options change to those that affect the entire object.

  1. To convert one or more corner points to smooth points, select the points and then click the Convert Selected Anchor Points To Smooth  button in the Control panel.

  2. To convert one or more smooth points to corner points, select the points and then click the Convert Selected Anchor Points To Corner  button in the Control panel.

Convert an anchor point precisely using the Convert Anchor Point tool

  1. Select the entire path you want to modify so that you can see its anchor points.

  2. Select the Convert Anchor Point tool .

  3. Position the Convert Anchor Point tool over the anchor point you want to convert, and do one of the following:

    • To convert a corner point to a smooth point, drag a direction point out of the corner point.

    Convert Anchor Point tool
    Dragging a direction point out of a corner point to create a smooth point

    • To convert a smooth point to a corner point without direction lines, click the smooth point.

    Convert Anchor Point tool
    Clicking a smooth point to create a corner point

    • To convert a smooth point to a corner point with independent direction lines, drag either direction point.

    Convert Anchor Point tool
    Converting a smooth point to a corner point

    • To convert a corner point without direction lines to a corner point with independent direction lines, first drag a direction point out of a corner point (making it a smooth point with direction lines). Release the mouse button only (don’t release any keys you may have pressed to activate the Convert Anchor Point tool), and then drag either direction point.

Erase artwork

You can erase portions of your artwork using the Path Eraser tool, the Eraser tool, or the eraser on a Wacom stylus pen. The Path Eraser tool  lets you erase parts of a path by drawing along the path. This tool is useful when you want to limit what you erase to a path segment, such as one edge of a triangle. The Eraser tool  and the eraser on a Wacom stylus pen let you erase any area of your artwork, regardless of structure. You can use the Eraser tool on paths, compound paths, paths inside Live Paint groups, and clipping paths.

Erase artwork
Using the Path Eraser tool to erase portions of a path (left); using the Eraser tool to erase part of a grouped object (right)

Erase part of a path using the Path Eraser tool

  1. Select the object.

  2. Select the Path Eraser tool .

  3. Drag the tool along the length of the path segment you want to erase. For best results, use a single, smooth, dragging motion.

Erase objects using the Eraser tool

  1. Do one of the following:

    • To erase specific objects, select the objects or open the objects in isolation mode.

    • To erase any object on the artboard, leave all objects unselected.

    When you have nothing selected, the Eraser tool erases through and across all layers.

  2. Select the Eraser tool .

  3. (Optional) Double-click the Eraser tool and specify options.

  4. Drag over the area you want to erase. You can control the tool by doing any of the following:

    • To constrain the Eraser tool to a vertical, horizontal, or diagonal line, Shift‑drag.

    • To create a marquee around an area and erase everything inside the area, Alt‑drag (Windows) or Option‑drag (Mac OS). To constrain the marquee to a square, Alt‑Shift‑drag (Windows) or Option‑Shift‑drag (Mac OS).

Erase objects using a Wacom styluspen eraser

When you flip a stylus pen, the Eraser Tool automatically becomes active. When you flip the stylus pen back over, the last active tool becomes active again.

  • Turn over the stylus pen and drag across the area you want to erase. Press harder to increase the width of the erased path. (You may need to select the Pressure option in the Eraser Tool Options dialog box first.)

Eraser tool options

You can change the Eraser tool options by double-clicking the tool in the Tools panel.

Note:

You can change the diameter at any time by pressing ] to enlarge or [ to reduce.

Angle

Determines the angle of rotation for the tool. Drag the arrowhead in the preview, or enter a value in the Angle text box.

Roundness

Determines roundness of the tool. Drag a black dot in the preview away from or toward the center, or enter a value in the Roundness text box. The higher the value, the greater the roundness.

Diameter

Determines the diameter of the tool. Use the Diameter slider, or enter a value in the Diameter text box.

The pop‑up list to the right of each option lets you control variations in the shape of the tool. Select one of the following options:

Fixed

Uses a fixed angle, roundness, or diameter.

Random

Uses random variations in angle, roundness, or diameter. Enter a value in the Variation text box to specify the range within which the brush characteristic can vary. For example, when the Diameter value is 15 and the Variation value is 5, the diameter can be 10, or 20, or any value in between.

Pressure

Varies in angle, roundness, or diameter based on the pressure of a drawing stylus. This option is most useful when used with Diameter. It is available only if you have a graphics tablet. Enter a value in the Variation text box to specify how much more or less the original value the brush characteristic will vary. For example, when the Roundness value is 75% and the Variation value is 25%, the lightest stroke is 50% and the heaviest stroke is 100%. The lighter the pressure, the more angular the brush stroke.

Stylus Wheel

Varies in diameter based on manipulation of the stylus wheel.

Tilt

Varies in angle, roundness, or diameter based on the tilt of a drawing stylus. This option is most useful when used with Roundness. It is available only if you have a graphics tablet that can detect the direction in which the pen is tilted.

Bearing

Varies in angle, roundness, or diameter based on the pressure of a drawing stylus. This option is most useful when used to control the angle of calligraphic brushes, especially when you’re using the brush like a paintbrush. It is available only if you have a graphics tablet that can detect how close to vertical the pen is.

Rotation

Varies in angle, roundness, or diameter based on how the drawing stylus pen tip is rotated. This option is most useful when used to control the angle of calligraphic brushes, especially when you’re using the brush like a flat pen. It is available only if you have a graphics tablet that can detect this type of rotation.

Split a path

You can split a path at any anchor point or along any segment. When you split a path, keep the following in mind:

  • If you want to split a closed path into two open paths, you must slice in two places along the path. If you slice a closed path only once, you get a single path with a gap in it.

  • Any paths resulting from a split inherit the path settings of the original path, such as stroke weight and fill color. Stroke alignment is automatically reset to center.

  1. (Optional) Select the path to see its current anchor points.

  2. Do one of the following:

    • Select the Scissors tool and click the path where you want to split it. When you split the path in the middle of a segment, the two new endpoints appear on top of the other, and one endpoint is selected.
    • Select the Knife tool and drag the pointer over the object. The cuts created using the Knife tool appear as strokes on the object.
    • Select the anchor point where you want to split the path, and then click the Cut Path At Selected Anchor Points button  in the Control panel. When you split the path at an anchor point, a new anchor point appears on top of the original anchor point, and one anchor point is selected.

    For details, see Cut, divide, and trim objects.

  3. Use the Direct Selection tool to adjust the new anchor point or path segment.

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