How to Use the Scissor Tool in Adobe Illustrator

With the Scissor tool selected, hover over a line or path. When you are ready to cut, click the line. This will create a split at the exact point you clicked. If you are trying to cut out a segment of that line or path, hover above the second location and click. Now you will have created a segment. You can manipulate or delete it as you see fit.

My name is April, and I’ve been working in the graphic design field for 14+ years now. Through my work in screen printing and creating custom artwork for various teams and businesses, I have learned many ways to create artwork. 

While it can be helpful to do a rough sketch when creating a design, I often find that it’s quicker to create linework right in Illustrator. Using the Pen Tool and shapes, you can make modifications to lines and the Scissors Tool is a great, precise tool for that.

Let’s look further into it. 

Key Takeaways

  • The scissor tool can break a line or path in one click.
  • You do not have to have the path or line selected to use the Scissors Tool on it
  • The keyboard shortcut for the Scissors Tool is C.

How to Use the Scissor Tool in Adobe Illustrator

When creating custom artwork in Illustrator, the Pen tool and the Shape tools are vital. Consider you are creating a custom series of line drawings of a heart being broken. We can take that initial heart and use the Scissors to segment it and work from there. Let’s get into the details.

Note: The screenshots from this tutorial are taken from Adobe Illustrator CC Windows version. 

Step 1: Navigate to the Toolbar in Illustrator. Click and hold down on the Eraser Tool. The fly-out menu will appear and you want to click the Scissor Tool. 

Step 2: I have already created my heart with the pen tool. I have shown it here so that you can see the current linework and anchor points, it is a closed path.

With the Scissors Tool, hover the bottom left line of the heart and click.

Step 3: I want to remove a small section on that lower part of the heart, so I am going to hover and click again.

You can see the small segment that I created with the Scissors Tool. Now I can easily remove that segment by clicking the Delete key on the keyboard.

Step 4: To finish this partial heartbreak, I am going to use the Pen Tool to create the crack and reconnect the sides of the heart where I removed the segment. 

Now to show how you can completely cut an object in half, we are going to make a full heartbreak. I am going to click four times along my heart, two on the lower left, and two on the upper right.

I am going to use the Selection Tool (keyboard shortcut V) and select the two segments from inside the Heartbreak and Delete them.

As you can see, I now have two separate open paths in my heart. I am going to use the Pen Tool to connect the lines to create my finished illustration.

Now you can try the Scissors Tool on other graphics. It works very similarly to actual scissors!

When to Use the Scissor Tool in Adobe Illustrator

The Scissor tool is great for breaking a close path at a precise location or when you have an existing line or path on your artboard. 

The Scissor Tool won’t be able to manipulate a raster graphic or photograph. It also does not draw, as it simply adds two anchor points that literally cut a vector line or path.

Here is a line I drew with the Paintbrush Tool.

We are going to use one click of the Scissors Tool to create a break in the line.

When you do this, Illustrator will keep one part of the line selected, and deselect the other piece. As you can see, I now have two different lines. I can move and manipulate them as two separate pieces now.

Combining Overlapping Lines

One more occasion I like to use the Scissors Tool is to “flatten” overlapping lines. Say for instance you are drawing a cartoon eye in Illustrator and you want to make sure your eye has a nice clean curve. An easy way to do this is to draw an oval with the Ellipse Tool.

For this example, I am going to use the Scissors Tool and cut segments out of the circles I do not want to keep. Click where the paths overlap with the scissor tool. 

Tip: To help make sure you can cut the correct line, double-click and go into isolation mode, that way the other lines won’t even be available to be modified.

Here I used four clicks to create segments that I will delete. I have highlighted them in red so you can see where they end.

Same thing with the circle for the inner eye.

Now I am going to select the pieces and delete them.

We now have clean line work and perfect curves!

Final Thoughts

The Scissors Tool is great for making precise cuts on vector lines or paths. This tool is quick and easy to use for big or small adjustments to your artwork in Adobe Illustrator.

Have you tried the Scissors Tool in Illustrator? What did you create with it and was it for fun or work? Let me know in the comments below.

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