One of the defining features that differentiates a vector-based design tool from a raster one is that you can create, edit, and re-edit existing shapes by modifying their points and paths. These paths and points remain sharp and clear, no matter how small or large you make them.
Before getting into details, we should start with the Basics to understand what Bézier Curves are and how to use them to create shapes and paths in any vector tool.
Bezier Curves is the mathematical name used to create curves in almost all graphic design software and that can be defined by the the "Start" and "End" point, and the type of Handles of each Anchor Point.
Each Path goes from the "Start" point to the "End" point while the Node Handles define its curvature, giving it the name of "Curves".
Most design tools allow you to draw Bézier curves thanks to the Pen Tool and let you define those 4 parameters:
- Anchor Points (often called simply points)
We refer to Anchor Points as all the points that compose a path.
Any curves can preferably be composed by a minimum of 2 anchor points.
The Handles are used to control the curve direction and will define the shape's path.
Lines are the connection between 2 single points (without handles).
Creating a path
Tip: All these tools are on the left side of Vectornator’s UI inside the Toolbar.
Selecting Paths can be done by using the:
– Node Tool, that allows you to select instead the Anchor Points that compose your path. Also, you can see the Node Handles appearing around that point when you tap on it.
Selecting Multiple Paths
Located to the right of the Selection and Node Tools inside the Toolbar, you will find the Multiple Selection button (A from the image above). This button allows you to select multiple paths by tapping the objects you want to select.
The Multiple Selection allows you to select the entire path to move it around, while the one placed at the right of the Node Tool allows you to select multiple anchor points at once.
Duplicating a Path with One Tap
While the Selection Tool is active, tap the Duplicate button to the right of the Selection Tool to enable Duplicate Mode. Now tap and drag any selected object to create a duplicate of it.
Resizing a Path keeping the Aspect Ratio
While drawing or resizing objects, hold the canvas with a second finger in order to lock the aspect ratio of the shape. This allows you to resize a shape while maintaining the aspect ratio. It also allows you to draw perfect circles, squares, and more.
Alternatively, you can also resize your path by activating the Scale Mode after you select your object with the Selection and the Node Tool.
Learn more: 3 Ways to Resize an Object in Vectornator ➞
Editing a Path
Any vector path can be easily edited in Vectornator by using the Node Tool. Editing paths works the same way whether you're on the iPad, Mac, or iPhone. The only minor changes between the devices are the gestures controls depending upon tools and platform you are using.
You can edit a path at any time, but there's a difference between closed and opened paths.
The basic drawing tools such as the Pen, Pencil, Brush, Line, and Spiral Tools all draw open paths by default. Since closed shapes enable features that open shapes can't use - like Boolean operations - you may want to close an open element to make it more versatile.
Moving Anchor Points
By selecting the Node Tool, you will be able to see all the Anchor Points that compose the path. To alter them, you can tap on them, tap-and-drag an area, or activate the Multi Select Mode to select more than one point.
After selecting any point, you can move it around by dragging it with your finger or Apple Pencil, or move it with the Mini Joystick at the bottom right of the canvas, or change the object's XY coordinates from the Arrange Tab.
Using a keyboard, you can nudge any path (or node) you have selected by using the arrow keys.
When dragging a point around, you may see the Smart Guides appear, which allow you to align that point to other points, edges, the document grid, or your personal Guides.
Adding Anchor Points
When you select a path with the Node Tool, every Anchor Point in that shape will appear.
To add a new point into your selected path, you can:
- Tap any space between two points on the vector path.
- Open the Path Tab and tap the button Add Anchor Points (1). Your shape will immediately add more points along your existing paths.
This action allows you to add more detailed controls to your vector element with just the tap of a button, without making any significant changes in the original path shape.
Simplifying a Path
The Delete Anchor Points feature helps you remove all the unnecessary anchor points of your path and generate a simplified path for your complex artwork. Simplifying paths can give you different benefits as easier path editing, reduced file size, faster file rendering.
To delete any of the anchor points along your path, you can:
- Select your path with the Node Tool so that every point is highlighted. Then, tap on the point you want to delete and tap the Delete Button inside the Action Bar.
- Alternatively, open the Path Tab and tap the button Delete Anchor Points (2). Your shape will immediately have less points. This is a good way to make larger changes to an element's shape, as any adjustment you make will affect larger sections of the shape.
When do I need to simplify a path?
• To simplifying an auto traced image.
• To reduce the number of anchor points when expanding a shape.
• To reduce the size of your file.
Editing Anchor Points:
As soon as you select an anchor point, the Node Types panel will appear at the top of the Style Tab.
There are four different types of Nodes in Vectornator:
A Single | It has no handles and allows you to create straight paths. You can switch back to a Single Node anytime by simply double-tapping on the node (Anchor Point).
B Mirrored | It creates curved paths which has two mirrored handles. This means that anytime you move one handle, the other does exactly the same.
C Asymmetric |It creates curved paths that have different distances from the anchor point, but share the same angle.
D Disconnected | It creates paths with handles completely independent of each other.
To change an anchor point's type, activate the Node Tool, then tap or drag to select the anchor points you want to change. Choose one of the four Node Types at the top of the Inspector. Tap on your desired node type to change your selected points to that type.
Pro Tip – To change the Node Type of a selected anchor point, there are a few gestures and shortcuts that can speed up your workflow while drawing with the Pen Tool.
Show Node Handles
When multiple anchor points are selected
To show the handles of multiple anchor points, activate the Node Tool and select your desired anchor points by dragging an area on your canvas that contains those points, or simply tap on each point individually by activating the Multi Select Mode (1).
This option displays the anchor point handles immediately and helps you figure out what the node types are. You can immediately see the type at the top of the Inspector (2). If you see no handles, it means that the point is Single Type.
⚠️ You can only display the handles of one path at once.
Joining two open paths
To join two open paths:
- Select two open and separate paths
- Open the Path Tab
- Tap the Join Paths button
Remember that the path that is located in the bottom-most layer will stay in position, while the paths above it will move accordingly to fit together. Also, when the Anchor Points are not overlapping, Vectornator automatically adds a new line segment to connect the paths.
Tip on Mac: You can also use the <key>⌃⇧J<key> keyboard to join paths quickly and easily.
Along with using the Join Paths button to connect two open paths, you can also connect them by using the Pen Tool.
To do so:
- Select the open path with the Node Tool.
- Activate the Pen Tool and tap one of the two anchor points at the end of the line.
- Once that the node is selected, tap the other end node.
- The path will be now closed.
Closing an open path
Starting with Vectornator 4.0, we introduced a new button that allows you to close and open a path in just one move.
The button is placed at the bottom of the Path section and will change accordingly to the status of the selected shape:
- Open – Tap to open your closed path.
- Close – Tap to close your open path.
Editing a closed path
The Combine button will create a compounded path composed of all currently selected paths; merging them into a single path sharing the same visuals. Compounded path holes appear in areas where the paths overlap. The reverse path direction button can change this.
TIP: Using the combine action can be really useful when you want to change all of the color properties of a repeated path in your design at once.
Separate Compound Paths
The Separate button will simply reverse the Combine function.
By tapping this button, you can basically invert the position of the endpoints of the selected path(s). This button comes in handy especially when you have an arrows at the end of your path.
Outline a path
Select any path and immediately convert it into a shape by tapping the Outline button (3) in the Path Tab. This button lets you convert the stroke of any path into an editable new path with a fill.
⚠️ Please note that this action is permanent and not reversible.