Illustrator: cut outline on vector line art

I’ve been playing around with scoring vector line art and am trying to figure out the best way to add a cut outline to an image mostly made up of open paths. I use Illustrator CS6.

Because of the way I drew these, pathfinder > unite or a stroke/fill swap doesn’t work to give me a clean outline of the shapes. For the house, it was easy enough to draw an offset cut line and use pathfinder for the hanging loop, but I wanted a more precise cut for the wings.

I ended up using live paint to get a filled shape, then expand > rasterize > image trace. That worked ok, but I had to do enough cleanup on the trace that it probably would have been faster and about as precise to just draw my line with the pen tool and then slightly offset it to adjust for kerf.

Anyone have another method to handle this kind of thing?


Looking at your examples I’d try (on a copy of your line at in a new layer, lock or hide your other layers so they’re not affected)

  • select all (ctrl+a)
  • object/path/outline stroke
  • draw a rectangle/shape larger than your artwork and entirely covering it (make it a solid color to help see what’s happening)
  • select all again
  • switch to Shape Builder tool (shift+m)
  • holding down alt key hover just inside edge of rectangle (should change appearance and your cursor should have little minus sign next to it) single click will remove the outside part of overlapping rectangle leaving just a shape the exact shape of your line art

At this point all your line art is still under the new shape.
Lock the new shape (select it and ctrl+2) and delete all the bits underneath or delete them all from the layers palette.


Yes! This works perfectly and is a huge excellent change to my workflow. And is also the first time I have ever touched Shape Builder on purpose. I’ve been using Illustrator for over a decade and am often amazed at all of the stuff I still don’t know about it. Thanks so much for taking the time to step through this for me!


:smile: happy to hear it worked for you!

Shape Builder is seriously underated and one of my favorite tools for speeding up workflow. :+1:t2:

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sweet! i learned something new in illustrator today, too. thanks, @ekla.


You’re quite welcome @shop !

I just tried this Shape Builder outline technique and it’s great! Thanks so much for posting that.

I have to capture stuff like this or I will forget it–here is the note card I made myself, in case it helps someone else.

Time to read more about the Shape Builder!



Can I give this 1000 :heart:s. Please!?