Introduction: Vector Tools

This section will run through how to use most of the vector editing tools. It will start with the basics, such as selection modes and cursor types and then go into more complex editing tools.

Note, shortcuts are listed in brackets following the function description.


Select mode - Default mode for standard vector work and multiple vector selection (Esc)

Node Editing mode - Edit the nodes and spans of a vector (‘N’)

Transform Vectors mode - Transform (rotate, move, scale, shear etc.) currently selected vectors ('T' to enter mode, 'TT' to open Transform function)

Group Vectors - Group a selection of vectors

Ungroup Vectors - Ungroup a previously grouped set of vectors

Vector Doctor - Fix loops and identifies coincident points on a vector

Spline Vectors - Smooth selected vectors by fitting curves and reducing nodes

Block and Rotate Copy - Copy vectors in rectangular or circular array

Center In Page - Align selected vectors to center of page (F9)

Mirror Vectors - Mirror selected vectors

Offset Vectors - Offset currently selected vectors inwards or outwards

Fillet / Extend Tool - Radius a corner or extend two vectors to meet

Trim Tool - Trim vector to intersection of another vector

Weld Vectors - Combine selected vectors by merging together and keeping outside

Join Vectors With A Line - Join two selected vectors with a straight line

Join Vectors With A Curve - Join two selected vectors with a smooth curve

Join Vectors By Moving Ends Nodes - Join two selected vectors by moving end points together

Close Vector With A Line -Close a selected vector with a straight line

Close Vector With A Curve - Close a selected vector with a smooth curve

Close Vector Move End Nodes - Close a selected vector by moving end points together

Join Multiple Vectors - Join multiple vectors with coincident start or end nodes

Nesting - Nest multiple vectors inside a boundary

Reduce Colours - Reduce number of colours in the model.

Bitmap to Vector - Trace primary (current) colour with vector curves

Some functions are grouped together in flyout toolbars and others are found in the pull down menus:

Importing Vectors:

Vectors can be imported in 2 different ways, through the Vector pull down menu and through the Vector Layers.

Vector pull down menu: When importing through the Vector pull down menu, it will import the vectors onto the current Vector Layer. Also if there were layers on from the original file, the separate layers will be preserved.

Vector layer: When importing from the Vector Layers, it will create a new vector using the name of the original file and import the vector onto this new layer.

Example 3-1

Example 3-2

Example 3-3

Birthday Card Tutorial

Vector creation will be introduced with the design of a simple Birthday Card for engraving purposes. Functionality demonstrated will include the Vector creation tools, Text on curve, Node Editing, Block Copy/Rotate, Transform Vectors, Paste along Curve and Importing of Vectors.

1Open New Model.

2Enter a Height 200mm(8"), with a Width 150mm(6").

  • Set the Origin to the center of the model and a resolution of approximately 1056x1408 points (by moving the slider).

A new ArtCAM Model (sheet) is generated based on the parameters defined above.

Creation tools and various other design commands can be accessed in a number of different ways. For this exercise the Design Tools toolbar on the left hand side of the screen can be used.

Create Boundary and Balloons

The outline of the birthday card will be created first.

1Using a method outlined above, open Create Rectangle.

The Rectangle Creation form appears in the Tool settings panel.

2Enter a Width 130mm(5"), a Height 185mm(7.25"), Corner Radii 0mm and a Centre Point X 0 and Y 0.

3To create the shape and close the function, single right mouse click in the main window.

The rectangle is created on the model page and the Create Rectangle function is closed.

To create the shape whilst keeping the rectangular creation form open, single left mouse click in the main window. This can be utilised to create additional rectangular shapes.

4Open Create Ellipse.

5Enter a Start Point X -5(-0.2")Y -5(-0.2") with a Width 30mm(1.2"), Height 40mm(1.55"), and an Angle 0 degrees.

6Right mouse click to create the shape and close the form.

This creates the first center balloon. The other 2 balloons will be the same size, positioned behind the first one. Instead of creating and positioning 2 new ellipses, we can simply copy the existing ellipse.

7Select the ellipse and hold the Ctrl key, and drag the balloon slightly up and to the right.

8Repeat and hold the Ctrl key again, this time dragging to create upper left balloon.

Create Text

1Open Create Polyline.

Polylines can be generated by entering absolute co-ordinates in the X and Y area, by angles and line length and as relative co-ordinates using the dx and dy (distance from last point) or by clicking with the cursor.

Polylines can also be created dynamically in the graphics area either by holding down the left mouse key for freehand sketching, single left mouse clicks to create straight lines.

Sketching smooth curves will be illustrated below.

2Check the option Draw smooth polylines.

3Left mouse click 4 suitably positionedpoints to generate a Smooth Polyline as shown.

4Repeat to create a second polyline as shown.

Pressing the Space bar on the keyboard will complete the first polyline but keep the form open to start a new one.

5Open Create Vector Text.

6Select a preferred font and size or use the following settings.

7 Font as Snap ITC, Script as Western, Size 10mm(0.375�) and Character Spacing 50%.

8 Select the top Polyline you have created and under the On a Curve section in the Text Tool click Select Curve

9 Type the word Happy.

10 Select Create on the text form to create the text and close the form.

11Repeat the above to create the word Birthday!On the second Polyline

12Click Create

13Delete the original two curved polyline vectors to leave the following result.

Create Cake

1Open Create Ellipse.

2Enter a Start Point X 30(1.2")Y -60(-2.36") with a Width 45mm(1.75"), Height 6mm(0.25"), and an Angle 0 degrees

3Right mouse click to create the final shape and close the form.

4With the ellipse vector highlighted, Open Node Editing.

Node Editing is a powerful tool which allows the structure and appearance of a vector to be changed easily. Node Editing will be shown in greater detail later on.

The ellipse shape will be split into two halves. This can be achieved in Node Editing by cutting the vector at the end node points.

5Move the mouse cursor directly over the right hand blue node.

6Right mouse click and select Cut vector from the local menu.

The node itself changes colour from blue to black.

7Repeat the above to Cut the left hand blue node

8Exit Node Editing by selecting Esc or N on the keyboard.

9With only the Lower Ellipseselected, click on the Block and Rotate Copy from the Fill ToolsToolbar.

The Block and Rotate Copy allows you to create a block copy in X and Y or a rotated copy around a point.

The distances can be set as centre offset value or by a gap value between each item.

10Open Block Copy and choose Distances are offsets options.

11Select an X Offset 0mm, and a Y Offset -7mm(-0.275�)

12Number of Columns as 1and, with Number of Rows as 4.

13Select Apply and close the panel using the X in the top right corner.

The lower vector has been copied into 4 rows to create the birthday cake.

14Snap a single polyline from the bottom of each balloon ellipse to the left hand corner of the cake ellipse as shown below.

15Open Trim Vectors from the Vector Creation Toolbar.

16The internal vectors representing the balloons will be removed using this tool.

  • Select the inner ellipse and polyline vectors to trim as indicated.

Candles will now be created for the cake itself.

17Create a Rectangle with a Width 10mm(0.375"), Height 30mm(1.2"), Corner Radius 0mm and a Centre Point X -50(-2") and Y -50(-2").

18Create a Circle with a Centre Point X -50 (-2"), Y -31 (-1.25") and a radius 4mm (0.15").

19With the new circle selected, enter Node Editing

20Use the cursor to select and dynamically drag the top node upwards as shown.

21Drag the upper control point (white squares) of the right hand node inwards to create a flame effect.

22Exit Node Editing.

23Select the rectangle and 'flame' vector and then open Transform (or hit T on the keyboard).

24Change Scale to percent % and ensure both width and height are linked.

25Change the Scale to 25% and then press Apply.

Both vectors are relatively scaled down to a realistic size, and will now be moved into position.

26With both vectors selected, dynamically drag the vectors onto the cake as shown.

Multiple copies of vectors can quickly be achieved by using/holding the CTRL key.

27Ensure both candle vectors are still selected.

28With the Ctrl key pressed, use the left mouse to select and drag a new copy of the candle to a suitable position on the cake.

29Repeat three more times to produce a total of 5 candles.

30Use Trim Vectors to remove the small ellipse vectors passing through the candles.

Create Year Number

1Open Create Vector Text and apply the following settings.

2Use a text size 25mm(1").

3Position the cursor in the bottom left area of the model and enter the number 5.

4Open Create Circle.

5Move the cursor over the center of the number 5 until it changes to an icon indicating the center is located.

6Drag out a circle to approximately 25mm(1") radius.

7Create a Star vector with the following settings. No of points 5, star centre at X -10(-0.375"), Y -80(-3.15"), Radius of first points as 5mm(0.2") and second points as 2mm(0.075"). Click Create and Cancel

8Shift-select the star and the large circle vector around the number 5.

9From the Fill Tools toolbar, open Paste along Curve.

The vector is pasted incrementally along the curve either by dividing the curve equally (Specify Number), or by a fixed distance, leaving any surplus at the end of the curve (Specify Distance).

10Select Specify Number and enter Number of Copies as 5.

11Select Paste.

12Delete the original Star vector and the large circle.

The card will be completed with an imported border feature.

13Select and delete the large original border rectangle.

Vectors can be imported by using either the vector layers toolbar (to be discussed later) or from the main pull down menu.

14From the pull down menu, select Vectors and then Import.

15Browse to and open border feature.eps.

16(The design is imported into the current model and completes the design).

17Select File > Save As and enter the name Birthday Card and then Save.

18Select File > Close Model.

Example 3-4

Example 3-5

Welcome Plaque Tutorial

The second tutorial demonstrates further functionality to create a Welcome Sign/Plaque as shown below. Additional tools shown include Offset Vectors, Weld Vectors and Mirror Vectors.

The main design features are generated using Imported Bitmaps. Reducing colours of an imported Bitmap and the powerful Bitmap to Vector will be utilized extensively.

Welcome Plaque Border Image

1 Select Open to open an existing model.

2 Change Files of type: to Bitmap Files.

3 Open the file plaque base.jpeg.

4 Enter a Width of 1220mm (48").

5 Set the Origin to the lower left corner of the model then OK.

The design can done from either 3D View or 2D View. To switch between views, click on the appropriate tab above the view.

A new model is generated from the Bitmap based on the dimensions. ArtCAM displays all the colours that make this Bitmap at the bottom of the screen. The number of colours will firstly be reduced to a manageable level.

The Bitmap To Vector feature calculates the vector boundary of the selected primary colour in the bitmap image. This will be utilized to generate the outside boundary of the plaque border.

Bitmap or image colours can be reduced using the stand alone function Reduce Colors or directly within the Bitmap To Vector function.

6Open Bitmap to Vector.

7Click on the Reduce Colors button.

This form allows the number of colors in the Bitmap to be reduced by entering the required number or moving the slider bar.

8 Change the Number of colours to 3 before selecting Apply.

The colour palette now shows the only three colours that represent the Bitmap.

9Click on the dark blue colour directly from the palette to assign it as the primary color.

10 With the default settings shown above, Select Create Vectors then close the panel.

A vector has been generated on the boundary of the selected primary color. The Bitmap is not required so will be hidden.

11 In In the Project tree, click the plus + next to Bitmaps to display the Bitmap Layers.

12Click on the lightbulbto hide the Bitmap Layers.

Welcome Plaque Vector Layers

The vector data is currently on the Default Layer. The visibility can be shown and hidden by selecting the light bulb adjacent to the Default Layer name.

Ideally Layers should be generated before vector creation so they can be placed into them. It is good practice to give the layer a sensible name. If a new layer is created and then made active (by selecting it), all newly created vectors are placed on this active layer.

However, a Vector Layer can also be created afterwards and the vector moved to the new layer.

13 Ensure the Default Layer is selected in the project panel

14 Select New Vector Layer in the lower panel

*Vector Layer 1 has been created and added to the Vectors tree.

15 Select Vector Layer 1, and change the name in the lower panel to border then Apply

* The new level is now named and visible (denoted by the light bulb icon).

The existing vector can now be moved to the new layer.

16Select the border vector and right click with the mouse.

17Select Move Vectors To...border

Welcome Plaque Border

1 Delete the outer rectangle vector and small cluster of vectors indicated.

The original Bitmap of the Plaque border is not symmetrical, so the above vectors will be modified to 'improve' the final design.

2 With the border vector selected, enter Node Editing.

3 Zoom into the area indicated with the number 1

4 Right mouse click over the left corner node and select Cut Vector.

5 Zoom into the area indicated as 2, and Cut the lowest corner node as shown below.

6 Pres Esc to exit node editing.

The lower left section of the initial plaque vector has been seperated at the node cut points.

7 Select and delete the large vector to leave only the bottom left vector.

The plaque vector will be recreated symetrically using this vector.

8 Highlight the remaining vector and open Mirror Vectors from the Vector Editing toolbar.

9 Ensure Copy the Original Vectors is checked, as well as Join mirrored vectors before selecting Right (Do not close the form).

The vector has been mirrored to its right hand side.

10 Select Top to mirror this new vector upwards.

11 Close the Mirror Vectors panel.

12 With the vector still selected,Select Center in Page or F9 on the keyboard.

The inner plaque design will now be completed.

Welcome Plaque Scroll

1 Select to highlight Bitmaps in the Project Tree, then Import Image from the associated lower panel.

2 Select file scroll single.jpeg and open.

The bitmap is loaded into the current model and listed in the Bitmaps Project tree.

3 Right click on Vector Layers in the Project Tree and select New

4 Right click the new Vector Layer 1 and choose Rename. Call this new layer scroll.

Scroll is the current active vector layer, any vectors created will be drawn on the Scroll layer.

The bold layer is the active layer

Next the colors will be reduced and traced.

5 Open Bitmap to Vector.

6 Click on the Reduce Colors button.

7 Change the Number of colours to 2 before selecting Apply.

8 Click on the dark blue color directly from the palette to assign it as the primary color.

9 Select Create Vectors and close the panel.

10 Hide the Bitmap Layers by clicking on the light bulb in the Project Tree.

11 Select the new scroll vector and then Open Transform Vectors.

12 Increase the scale to 150% and then Apply.

The vector has increased in scale by 50%. The smoothness of the curves can be improved even further by using Spline Vectors, but this is not necessary.

13 Highlight the scroll vector and then Open Spline Vectors (listed with the Arc Fit tool).

The Vectors information area summarizes the number of spans that represent the selected vector. Currently, the scroll vector is made up of 44 Bezier curves, 2 lines and 134 points.

By adjusting the tolerance, the spans will recalculate to produce the shape based on this new fitting tolerance. In this instance, the tolerance will be increased to smooth out the overall shape.

14 Enter a Tolerance 1 (0.05") and press Spline.

Total number of span has been reduced to 26 and points to 78. (slightly different if using imperial units). This also makes it easier to edit the shape in Node editing as the number of nodes are reduced.

15 With the same tolerance, select Spline again. The shape will improve slightly further as the points are redistributed.

16 Close the panel.

17 With this vector highlighted, Open Mirror vectors.

18 Ensure Copy the Original Vectors is checked, before selecting Right.

19 Close the panel.

The two vectors will be combined to create a single design.

20 Select the right hand side (mirrored) vector only and use the arrow key on your keyboard to nudge it left until they slightly overlap.

21 With both vectors selected,open Weld Vectors .

The overlap is removed to create a single closed vector. It will now be moved to a suitable position.

22 With the scroll selected press F9 to center it.

23 Hold the Alt key and drag it down towards the bottom as shown.

The Alt key will hold the vector straight while moving it.

24 Select the scroll vector and open Mirror Vectors from the Vector editing toolbar.

25 Select Over Model.

Welcome Plaque Design

1 From the Bitmap Layers in the Project Tree, Import the welcome bird.jpeg.

2 Click on the New Vector Layers plus sign in the Project Tree next to Vectors to create a new Layer

3 Do a slow double click on the new Vector Layer and Rename it to design

4 Open Bitmap to Vector.

5 Click on the Reduce Colors button.

6 Change the Number of colours to 2 before selecting Apply.

7 Click on the black from the palette to assign it as the primary color.

8 Select Create Vectors and close the panel.

9 Hide the Bitmap Layers by clicking on the light bulb in the Project Tree.

10 Select the vectorsas shown above open Transform Vectors.

11 Increase the scale to 120% and press Apply (Do not close the form).

12 The vectors have scaled relatively in both the X and Y direction. A scaling will be applied again but this time in the X direction only. This will result in the vectors 'stretching' to fill the available space better.

13 Unlock the option Maintain aspect ratio in the Scale and Size part of the form.

14 Change the scale to mm and increase the New Width to 900 mm (35.5").

The Vectors have rescaled but in the X axis (horizontally) only.

15 Click on the New Vector Layers plus sign in the Project Tree next to Vectors to create a new Layer

16 Do a slow double click on the new Vector Layer and Rename it to text

17 Open Create Vector Text.

18 Change to Font Showcard Gothic, Script Western, Size 90mm(3.5") and Character Spacing of 160%.


20 Drag to position the text block as shown.

21 Activate the borderVector Layer by clicking on it

22 Select the outer main border vector and then Offset Vectors from the Vector Creation toolbar.

23 Offset a distance 20mm (0.75") Outwards with Sharp corners.

The design is complete!