Sometimes when we look at artwork, paths appear to be continuous, but when we modify the path thickness, we can see sharp edges where the path ends are near one another. It’s then that we realize that the path is not continuous, but is composed of multiple segments, or open paths. In these situations, it can make perfect sense to connect, or join the open ends.
Adobe Illustrator CS5 delivers new capabilities for joining paths that simplifies the process and adds new options for the joins.
This post explores all the available ways to join paths in Illustrator CS5.
1) Pen Tool: If you want full control over how anchor points of the same path or different paths are to be joined, this is the way to go. But if the anchor points you’re trying to join are “overlapping,” don’t use the Pen tool, instead, choose another method outlined below. Joining paths with the Pen tool did not change in Illustrator CS5.
First, select the Pen tool, then click on the first endpoint to be joined. Now click on the other endpoint to be joined. When you precisely position the Pen tool over the other endpoint, a small merge symbol appears next to the pointer. If you click and drag after these clicks, you’ll get the control handles that help you adjust the path’s curve. If these endpoints are on separate paths, the final path will have the appearance of the last path clicked with the Pen tool.
2) Object>Path>Join (Cmd+J on Mac, or Ctrl+J on Win): Illustrator CS5 adds new functionality to this method, and makes joining two distantly-placed anchor points really easy. In fact, I now use this method for joining paths more often than the Pen tool.
The rule for using this join command is simple:
Select the objects to be joined (yes, objects, not the anchor points), then choose Object>Path>Join (Cmd /Ctrl + J). The nearest anchor points will be connected.
And if you want to join “preferred” anchor points? Simple. Just select the desired anchor points and press Cmd or Ctrl + J.
3) Join overlapping anchor points (Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+Opt+J): There is no change in this functionality for Illustrator CS5 except for the new keyboard shortcut. Using this shortcut will open a dialog to choose either a Corner or Smooth option. A Smooth join is possible only when the end-points are smooth (i.e. both have handles).
And finally, what does it take to close an open path? Well, try it for yourself.