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Join tool : how to join and trim paths in Illustrator tutorial

Learn how to use the join tool in Illustrator CC 2017 etc and join and trim paths and lines. The join tool is a plugin for joining open paths and lines in Illustrator CC.

Join (and trim paths) in Illustrator via join tool

join tool for Illustrator and how to join and trimming paths and lines
  1. Select two open Illustrator paths - two lines for the join tool to be used in Illustrator

  2. Toolbar and shaper tool (join tool is beneath that)

  3. Select the join tool in Illustrator

  4. Pass over the closest ends of the paths

The join tool is found beneath the shaper tool in Illustrator toolbar. The Illustrator join tool works quickly with two paths. Simply pass the join tool over the paths and the paths will be joined (as long as the join tool allows this - if the paths are not pointing in the same direction then they cannot be joined). The Illustrator join tool is super easy to use and apply and combine different paths in seconds. The join tool results in a sharp point design. You can then repeat the join tool and join other paths together in Illustrator. You can also use the join tool to trim lines (if you have crossed lines). You can also join curved designs using the join tool. This tutorial shows you all the ways of using the Illustrator join tool and how to use it with curved designs, how to trim lines, how to combine lines and much more.

The basics of the join tool in Illustrator which can be found in the Illustrator toolbar

join tool in Illustrator toolbar

The join tool for Illustrator is found beneath the shaper tool in Illustrator toolbar and is for joining paths and trimming paths / lines / open paths etc. It works using two lines either selected or not (though personally, I generally select the paths I use and then use the join tool with the Illustrator paths)

  1. Select two open paths such as two lines

  2. Go to the join tool in the Illustrator toolbar

  3. Pass over the closest ends of the two paths (and hope)

I say hope as the Illustrator join tool is a tool with a mind of its own and I am certain it is coded (unless it really does work using magic) in a particular way with logic to work with lines at a certain angle to each other or lines that are crossing but at times, it can also be an amazingly frustrating tool to use as even though the lines look as much the same as another pair, those lines will not join. Anyway, this tutorial shows the observations of the join tool that seem to work 99% of the time with lines and open paths but I am certain you will find times when it just will refuse to join a path even though the path look super close. Another point with the join tool is that it will result in a point, a sharp point in most cases and there is no preference to force it just to create a point to point (as with the pen tool) nor for it to generate anything other than a sharp point in the join (no wavy lines or curved joins)

The join tool in Illustrator works more like a trimming tool when paths are overlapping

If there is a fairly major overlap with the paths, you may find the join fails and instead you will trim the paths. The join tool is very dependent on where you pass over the paths. If you use the tool with a path overlapping another, and you use the join close to the overlap then the paths will be trimmed. The same paths can also be joined if you pass the tool over the end segments. This is particularly the case with multiple point paths or curved paths created with the curvature tool. It also depends where the pass over happens, if the overlap is a fair distance away then the lines will not be trimmed (again this is just an observation and I am certain you will find circumstances where the opposite happens)

Two paths joining at a point and the join tool - when two paths become one

join tool and two lines

You can see two lines with both lines point towards each other at one end and the other ends heading off to eternity. You can use the join tool over the ends that are angled towards each other. There is a cut off point where the angle is too great for the join tool to process the paths and in that case, the join will fail. You can angle the line so they are close to parallel and the join tool will not work, you can then angle them at say about 80 degrees so they are fairly parallel and the join tool will not work but at some point where the angles can be joined (without the join flying off the page / artboard etc) you will get a sharp join when you pass the two lines with the join tool.

  1. Create a line using the line segment tool

  2. Create another line using the line segment tool

  3. Place the lines close together such as on the right

  4. Point the ends of the lines towards each other

  5. Select join tool

  6. Draw over the end of the lines with the join tool

There also seems to be an issue with distance. If you select the same paths on the left image and perhaps move one of those paths down the page a little (but not changing the angle) and then try the join tool, it will at some point stop working even though the displayed angle is exactly the same. lines fail.

You can also use the join tool as a trim tool

join tool and two paths and trimming in Illustrator

The join tool in Illustrator can also be used as a powerful trimming tool as well as a join tool. The trimming works if you have a line butting close to an existing line. The trimming works if the lines crossover. Again, the join tool does depend on the distance of the lines from each other (too far away and the trimming will fail). The trimming is applied to the smallest part of the lines. If you can't trim the crossover lines, the tool just doesn't do anything - there is no dialog box with an error message (a rarity from an Adobe application). You can draw over a different part of the crossover and the trim / join will be ignored.

  1. Create a line using the line segment tool

  2. Create another line using the line segment tool

  3. Rotate them and have the paths crossover

  4. Select the join tool in the toolbar

  5. Draw over the smallest part of the crossover (the trailing parts of the lines) and the join tool should then trim the lines and replace the two with one single sharp pointed line.

Sources and references

1. Join tool in Illustrator on Adobe

Other tutorials

1. Bristle brushes and painted artwork for Illustrator


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Updated: September 2017