by Neeraj Nandkeolyar


June 24, 2011


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.

Cmd/Ctrl+J to join end points

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.



  • By maciej - 8:43 PM on June 24, 2011  

    Great post!
    3) Join overlapping anchor points (Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+Opt+J) – What is the Opt?

    • By Terry Hemphill - 9:00 PM on June 24, 2011  

      “Opt” is the alt/option key.

  • By itai lustgarten - 6:18 AM on June 25, 2011  

    but what happppend to the smooth or corner popup window and why is it that two smooth points when joined are joined to a corner point????

    • By Neeraj Nandkeolyar - 6:28 AM on June 27, 2011  

      The Smooth/Corner join dialog and the functionality is same as earlier. Except for the keyboard shortcut which is Cmd+Shift+Opt+J (Mac) or Ctrl+Shift+Alt+J (Win) in CS5. To get the dialog, select the two overlapping endpoints (as anchor points) and then press the new keyboard shortcut.

      From the dialog select ‘Corner’ or ‘Smooth’ as needed. For Smooth join is it a requirement that both endpoints ‘must’ be smooth, otherwise the result will be a corner join, irrespective of what option has been selected in the dialog.

  • By Ben in SF - 8:19 PM on July 17, 2011  

    Well, hooray. That essential feature only took 15 versions to add as a standard feature.
    The third-party script by JET I use as a workaround in CS4 is one of the tools I use every day. Maybe I’ll finally upgrade. It’s going to take a few more versions to get AI to work like FreeHand but you’re making progress.

  • By John - 1:07 AM on August 4, 2011  

    Still can’t join two separate open paths (character outlines with gaps cut in them), or two closed paths (character outlines) that overlap. How are both of those done? The Pathfinder cmmd or Pen tool produces diagnostic.

    • By Neeraj Nandkeolyar - 6:01 AM on August 4, 2011  

      When outlining a character, the result is an Compound Path. You first need to Release this Compound Path (Object > Compound Path > Release) to make Join work. Try this and see if it helps.

  • By Learning Design App - 12:06 PM on August 8, 2011  

    This is great to know. The shortcuts make it super easy to join paths. This is a great help. Thanks

  • By Phil - 4:35 AM on September 17, 2011  

    Thanks for these tips. However, I am still having trouble with one of the most basic tasks – joining straight lines so that the next new anchor point joins up exactly with the first line. Each time I try to do this, the new line seems to start from a slight distance away from the original end point of the first line. How do i get each path to join exactly?

  • By Birck - 7:08 AM on January 15, 2012  

    This is all very well, but the “join” command sometimes simply doesn’t function as advertised, and after 25 years of using Illustrator I still wind up in the weeds, unable to join two lines. It happens when the two lines are in the same layer, in Preview or wireframe, connected at the other end or not, same weight or not, using the menu command or keyboard shortcuts, It simply doesn’t work reliably. I have found a lot of things that will prevent joining, e.g., stray points in the field, a double line deeper than the one I am trying to join…I know most of the tricks. So why is it still a problem? Got any ideas?

    • By Neeraj Nandkeolyar - 1:27 AM on January 23, 2012  

      In most of the cases where joining anchor-point fails, it has been observed that the paths are compound paths. It is best to make sure that the individual paths, when selected, read ‘Paths’ in the Control Panel and Compound Path. Hope this helps.

      • By Don - 8:51 AM on June 27, 2012  

        I ran into the same problem that Birck did. One time AI let me join the two paths correctly and when I was construcitng a similar shape and repeating the same operations it wouldn’t execute it and gave me an error message.

        I tried puting them on the same layer… different layers… Making them a compound path… releaseing them from a compound path and all the permutations inbetween… nothing worked.

        This is core functionality of the program and an engineering manager out there aught to be called on the carpet for this bug.

        • By Neeraj Nandkeolyar - 1:21 AM on June 28, 2012  

          It would be nice if you could send us the shortest version of the file which depicts this problem. We would investigate that and get back to you. Please zip it and send it to sharewithai{at}adobe{dot}com


  • By Bob - 2:21 PM on January 31, 2012  

    I’m using AI CS5 on Windows 7 maching and the Ctrl+Shift+Alt+J doesn’t work for joining multiple paths. This is quite frustrating. Do I need to get a third-party plug-in like Concatenate?

  • By Ross - 7:37 AM on April 6, 2012  

    Was scouring the internet for something like this, basically I made one side of a viking hat and wanted to copy it so it was an exact reflection. Did that, then it was 2 different objects, so I literally had no idea how to join the two, looked at creating paths, grouping etc, (I downloaded AI this morning so have looked at like 2 tutorials), then came across this. All I had to do was Ctrl + J, brilliant! Thanks so much

  • By Bob - 1:36 PM on April 25, 2012  

    THANKS! I had actually figured it out! but thanks. But the thing that was frustrating me was that you can’t have a point selected on one of the paths or it’ll give you an error. I use that feature alot in joining tons of paths in GIS maps!

  • By Dave - 12:12 PM on July 15, 2012  

    I struggled with this for a long time – and was about to throw my laptop out the window when, in desperation, I tried something odd – I went to “Object –> Compound Path”, and I noticed that “Release” was darkened, which meant that, somehow, the shape I was building was being considered by Illustrator as a Compound Path. I selected “Release,” and then I was able to start joining points again. Before that, whenever I tried to join two points, Illustrator kept giving me an error, which mentioned groups and such, but never said that it wouldn’t join points that were part of a compound path. So, anyway, if you notice that you somehow have a compound path, release it, then join your points, then, if you have to, re-make the compound path.

    Hope this helps some people!

  • By Ola - 12:38 AM on March 5, 2013  


    Are there any way to navigate to the “Join overlapping anchor points (Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+Opt+J)” via the gui (& not just only via short cuts)? I can’t find it.



    • By Terry Hemphill - 8:09 AM on March 5, 2013  


      Yes, there is. If you’ve the two endpoints selected, say by using the marquee selection tool, you can join them by choosing the Connect Selected End Points button in the Control panel.

      –Terry H.

      • By Ola - 5:50 AM on March 12, 2013  

        The “Connect Selected End Points” button joins the anchor points the same way as Object / Path / Join does. This means that if I have 2 anchor points on the same location it joins it but I still end up with 2 points.

        If I use the shortcut: Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+Opt+J it merges the two points. Are there any button for this or am I missing something?

  • By jg - 8:54 AM on April 17, 2013  

    I agree with Ola, there seems to be no GUI-based access to the join dialog box that gives you the choice between a smooth and corner joint. In earlier versions, I used this feature frequently and enjoyed having the choice of how to join my lines, till it was buried under a 4-key, 2-handed command. Burying this feature in a secret keyboard command is ridiculous. Adobe should restore it to the Object -> Path menu and give a shorter keyboard equivilent.

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