Combining Shapes

Combining Shapes

In VectorStyler, complex shapes can be created from geometric primitives or freely drawn curves using the various boolean shape operations. The commands to use these operations can be found in the Object - Combine and Object - Composite menu. Complex shapes containing multiple paths can be broken apart using the Break Apart command to create individual objects from each path. The Object menu contains a number of additional commands to help with the shape and curve creation and editing process.

Boolean Shape Operations

The following boolean operations are available to combine shapes and paths:

  • Merge - combine the selected paths into a single complex path. Winding or even-odd fill modes will determine how overlapping parts of the paths are painted. The original paths will become sub-paths of the new object shape.
  • Intersect - Creates an intersection of all shapes.
  • Union - Creates a union of all shapes.
  • Exclude - Exclude all shapes from the last shape.
  • Cut Out - Cut a shape into two or more parts using other shapes.
  • Inside - Cut out parts that are inside the first shape.
  • Outside - Cut out parts that are outside the first shape.
  • Remove Overlaps - Remove overlapping parts.
  • Exclude Back - Exclude all shapes from the first shape.
  • Divide - Divide shapes by separating overlapping and non-overlapping parts.

When combining shapes with the boolean operators, the user may choose between destructive or non-destructive combination modes. In destructive combination mode, the selected objects are deleted and replaced by a single object with a shape resulting from the boolean operation. The original shapes and paths cannot be changed, unless the whole operation is undone (using the Undo command).

To combine shapes using destructive boolean operations, select the objects whose shapes must be combined. It is important to note that for some of the combination modes the selection order matters. Select one of the boolean operation commands from the Object - Combine menu. The selected objects are removed and replaced with a single object containing the resulting shape.

In non-destructive mode, a new shape is created that will contain all the selected shapes and paths. This new shape is a Composite Shape and its result is a boolean operation over its member shapes. The member shapes can be selected and edited using the Shape selector tool from the toolbox. The non-destructive Composite Shape mode has the advantage that the original shapes are retained and can be modified, saved as styles and presets, or replaced at any time.

To combine shapes in a non-destructive mode, select the objects whose shapes will be combined, considering that the object order matters. Select one of the operations in the Object - Composite menu. The selected objects are removed and replaced with a single object having the composite shape. The members of this composite shape can be edited and modified at any time.

A second non-destructive shape combination mode is to use object groups and adjust the group by selecting one of the boolean operations from the Object - Composite menu. When a group of multiple objects is selected, applying a non-destructive boolean operation will result in the creation of a single virtual object inside the group, with the style picked from the first object of the group.

To combine shapes using the grouping mode, select the objects and group them using the Object - Group command. The selection order of objects can be important, depending on the combination operator. Having the group of objects selected, select one of the combination commands from the Object - Composite menu. The group content is replaced with a single object containing the resulting shape. The original members of the group are available for editing and changes at any time, and the combined shape will be remade after those changes are performed.

Using Composite Shapes

Composite Shapes are created using the combination operations from the Object - Composite menu, as described in the previous section. A composite shape (like any other shape) can be saved as a preset or style and reused on other objects. This allows both editing and reusing of complex composite shapes created from geometric primitives or other shapes.

Shape panel with composite shape selection.

The combination operation used in a composite shape can be changed at any time. Select the object with the composite shape and open the Shape panel. When a composite shape is selected the shape panel contains a Mode field showing the current combination operation used in the composite shape. Use the drop-box of the Mode field to select another operation for the composite shape.

The member shapes of a composite shape can be selected and modified using the Shape Selector tool (open the tool pop-up from the Pointer tool). The shape selector tool can select individual shapes inside a composite shape and move, scale, rotate or skew these shapes. The selected member shape attributes can be edited from the Shape panel.

The Node tool can be used to interactively edit the properties of geometric shapes or the nodes of paths also for member shapes of a composite shape.

Modifying Shapes and Paths

The Object menu contains a number of commands that can be used to modify shapes of selected objects. These commands may be required when working on complex shapes and creating complex artwork.

The Break Apart command breaks a composite shape or a path containing multiple sub-paths into separate objects. A path may contain multiple sub-paths (from example after a Merge combination), filled using the winding or even-odd filling rule. The Break Apart command will extract these sub-paths into separate objects. If a composite shape is selected, the Break Apart command creates separate objects using the member shapes of the composite shape. The original shape is removed in both cases.

The Reverse Path Direction command reverses the direction of paths. This command is available when the selected object shape is a path of curve and line segments. The path direction may determine the filled area if the winding fill rule is selected. The Reverse Path Direction command also works with the Node tool, when the reversing is restricted to the selected sub-path of the edited path.

The Convert to Curves and Convert to Curves With Corners commands convert the selected geometric shapes to curves. In VectorStyler, drawing a rectangle, ellipse, polygon, star or other shapes will result in a geometric shape. This shape can be edited by editing its parameters either interactively (with the Node tool) or from the Shape panel. The internal curves and lines making up the geometric shape are not immediately available for editing. To convert a geometric shape to a path (sequence of curves and lines) use Convert to Curves command. The resulting shape will be a freely editable path consisting of curves and lines. If corners were used in the shape, the Convert to Curves command will also convert these corners to curves and lines. To keep the corner attributes editable, use the Convert to Curves With Corners command. In this case the geometric shape is converted to curves, but the corner attributes are kept and remain editable using the Corner or Node tools.

The *Simplify Path* view.

The Simplify Path command is used to remove nodes from the selected path by further smoothing out curves. The precision of the new path following the original path can be set in the Simplify Path view in the Precision field. Higher values mean a larger difference and less nodes of the simplified path from the original path. Smaller values of Precision result in a simplified path that is closer to the original path, but less nodes are removed.

The Normalize Winding command rearranges a path along its self intersecting points, so that the winding and even-odd fill modes will result in the same filled region.

The Intersection Points command finds self intersection points in a path (may contain multiple sub-paths), and adds these as nodes to the path. The nodes created by the Intersection Points command can be then edited using the Node tool to rearrange the path.

The Clear Object Shape command removes the shape from the selected object. This command is available only if the selected object contains a content that allows the removal of the shape. The typical use of this command is to remove the (clipping) shape from a group object.