Lining complex shapes up in vector programs

I’m trying to trace an image in Affinity Designer, and would like to be fairly precise. I am tracing different parts of the image as independent curves, but does anyone have any tips on how to get them to be next to each other, but not overlap? Does it matter If the shapes overlap for cutting and scoring?

I’m mostly just practicing for when my Glowforge arrives (probably in late November, since I ordered just a few months ago).

I don’t have access to Corel, or Illustrator, but can probably still use techniques from those as guidance.


Don’t know about AD, but in other vector programs (I use inkscape) there’s almost always a way to connect/join/merge the ends of two paths.

I didn’t see anything Affinity Designer related in the tips and tricks category. Best I can suggest is to search the forums for posts by @Xabbess that include affinity designer as I believe that is the tool she uses. I don’t recall her posting much about the process, but every once in a while there is one.

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In Affinity Designer you can use the Subtract/Intersect/Divide commands, the icons are near the top right of your toolbar at the top of the screen.

Say you trace one shape exactly the way it needs to be, then the adjacent shape is drawn slightly oversized/overlapping, then use those tools to trim away the oversized part.

Perfectly overlapping cuts or scores will result in slightly wider kerf cuts in those areas. It maybe not a big deal for cuts since the pieces will be cut apart anyway, but overlapping scores will be a bit more noticeable. For those, you can break one of the paths into an open shape so it just stops at the point where it intersects the other one.

There is a process in the graphics trade called “Color Trapping” which is basically digging through artwork and removing areas that overlap. In modern digital printing this is not required but it is in press printing or screen printing where overlapping press plates or screens will result in colors that print through/over each other and don’t look good. That has carried over into the vinyl cutting side of things, and machines like vinyl cutters, lasers, CNC etc that rely on tool paths you generally don’t want overlap.


This is what I was working with before, but I was getting some very strange results when using combines curves to try to remove an overlapping area.

This is probably what I needed. I’ll have to play with these types of shapes and see how fills work with them.

Thanks for the quick tips. I was pretty sure I new the tools (lots of tutorials so far), but I’m really new to the actual workflows.

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Fills won’t work well with open paths. The software will let you give it a fill, but it will create a straight edge between the ends of the open path. Luckily for cuts and scores, you don’t need to assign a fill color, you only need a stroke.

Two filled shapes for engraving, that butt right against each other, will not pose any issues.


Awesome! I’m in a place where I’m learning the software for other uses (stickers, embroidery) as well, but trying to keep lasering in mind so I can hopefully use one design for multiple mediums. This is really helpful, thanks!

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No problem!

Embroidery is another animal all to itself, those files actually have instructions for the machines to zig-zag every individual stitch! But I think the software for the specific machines handle that conversion.

Anything that overlaps will be cut/scored twice. I’m not all that educated in AD, yet, either…but I do have my Glowforge and I use AD exclusively for designing. Hope that helps and I’ll try to help further if you need. Welcome to the forum!


That’s the concern that drove me to ask. While I’m practicing on some designs now, I don’t want to end up finding out it “looks” okay on screen, but cuts a bunch of other lines I wasn’t expecting.

My wife has some software for this that accepts vector art and lets her apply stitching styles to it. It’s not always a perfect file to embroidery pattern match, but when a file is close, it’s a lot easier to manipulate in her software (she’s using StitchArtist and Embrilliance if anyone was wondering).


This question is outside our team’s scope. I’ve moved it to Beyond the Manual so the discussion can continue there.


When working with vectors, it’s important to keep in mind:

  • Stacking of shapes (as @Xabbess stated, multiple paths over the same area will be lased over and over again)
  • Joining of paths. You can extend an existing path by adding points to a previous line path, or combine them using the NODE tool to take two paths and make them one with the “Join curves” (image) operation).
    If you use Layer > Geometry > Add, it’ll convert two open paths to a single closed path – not necessarily what you want.
  • Make sure your engraves are closed. What I’d do for this is create a separate group called “Engraves”, and that way you can select each path and use the NODE tool’s “Close curve” (image) to close it off.
    Sometimes the act of closing a path will add an unexpected change to the path, especially if the last node of the path is a curve point–if so, undo the Close curve and try using the Smooth curve operation before you use Close curve. This will change the two endpoints to Sharp endpoints, and when the path is closed off it will put a straight line between the first and last points.
  • Aligning shapes: can’t understate that “snap to node points” is your friend. Better to only have one shape in the area, and snap everything that one shape. Remove all double stacked shapes.

The SNAP functions are definitely your friend. You can eyeball it all day and still not get perfectly aligned (zoom in tight and you’ll see)


@dan_berry these are awesome tips. Thanks!

I zoomed in, and realized, I should ask for some tips before I get too far and don’t like the final result.


If you ever want someone to review your design / layout, feel free to zip your design up request to have it reviewed. A number of regulars can give you a hand. If you don’t want it quite so public, feel free to reach out in private message and I’ll be happy to help if I can.