6. Cutting your block into panels and manipulating darts

Cutting and slashing your block into different pattern panels is yet another fundamental part of paper pattern making. It’s possibly the first thing that we learn as pattern makers. It’s a very similar concept in Adobe Illustrator, but doing it well can be tricky. This tutorial focuses on two separate methods and introduces the Pathfinder tool. We also explain how to use your pattern panels to close darts by rotating them around the bust point. There’s a lot of content in this tutorial, but it’s well worth watching.

 Tutorial Overview

1. Technique one: Extending your neckline line using the Pen tool to extend it beyond the outline for your basic block in preparation for cutting the block.

2. Decreasing the weight of your line to create a fine cut line.

3. Transforming your fine cut line into an object using the Expand tool.

4. Exploring layers and the arrangement of objects in Adobe Illustrator.

5. Cutting your basic block using the object and the Minus Front Pathfinder tool.

6. Creating your new neckline by removing the upper panel.

7. Technique two: Use your neckline line as a guide to cut your block.

8. Separating the two pattern panels and duplicating the neckline line.

9. Combining the separate neckline lines to their respective separated pattern panels using the Join tool.

10. Bonus – Use the Eyedropper tool to add the attributes of your existing block to your new pattern panels.

11. Dart manipulation: Cutting the block at the shoulder line and bust point using technique two in preparation for closing the existing dart.

12. Use the Pathfinder tool to individually close the separate pattern panels of your block.

13. Ungroup your block to release the individual pattern panels. Regrouping each panel separately in preparation for closing the dart.

14. Selecting and rotate the left block around the bust point to close the lower dart and open a new dart on the shoulder.

15. Using the Pathfinder tool to reunite the existing pattern panels into one block. Includes Add Anchor Point tool and how it affects the Pathfinder tool

16. Repeat the whole process using the back block dart.

17. Repeat the process by cutting the back block in two using a curved line.

18. Closing the top dart to create one seamless upper panel.

19. Locking the upper panel to create a template using the Lock tool.

19. Refining the upper block’s curved line by using the existing curved line as a template.

20. Unlocking the upper panel, joining the new curved line to the upper panel, and removing the existing curved line.

21. Rename the text elements on your block and finalize your pattern.

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  1. Chelsea

    Hi, Thanks so much for these tutorials – they are great. I’m having trouble with the scissor tool. When I go to cut, I get the message “Please use the scissor tool on a segment or an anchor point (but not on the endpoint) of a path”, even though I am clearly cutting at an anchor point. Is this a bug in the new version of AI? Any advice for a work around? Thanks – Chelsea

    • Ralph Pink

      Ah ok, I see the problem. It seems as though you have already cut the object at that point or it was never joined at that point. So essentially there is nothing to do. You have already cut the line at that point, hence why Adobe Illustrator is telling you it is an end point. Thanks for your comment!

  2. Larissa

    Hi Raph,

    I have really enjoyed all your tutorials. I’m having issue with the expand and cut feature you show in this tutorial, when I thin my line weight, “bring to front” and then “expand”, the “cut” line disappears on my block as if it’s behind. So I try all “bring to front”, “send to front” of the cut line and also the “send to back” for the block, but nothing I do seems to fix this. What am I missing?

    Thank you,

    • Ralph Pink

      Hi Larissa,

      Thanks for your comment. It seems like you’re facing a complicated issue. To better understand and assist you, I might need more detailed information. If you’re still experiencing this problem, please reach out to me via email at: info(@)patternlab.london. This way, we can work together to hopefully resolve the issue.

      Thank you!

  3. Lana

    Afternoon, really enjoying your tutorials. I am just having one issue,., When I go to join two lines either by dragging over the area or queuing them both up with the shift key I get the error message “to join, you must select two end points of the same or two different paths”. I have tried locking the piece and then hitting backspace to delete any hidden points and unlocking it again.

    • Ralph Pink

      Hmmm. That is odd. It sounds like you’re doing everything correctly. It might be a simple case of the lines your are trying to join have already been joined. If you really can’t join them then possibly lock everything and then re draw the object by tracing over the existing lines. You can then join those lines safe in the knowledge that there are no more stray points. Once you’ve joined them, unlock and delete the old object/ lines. I hope this helps. Good luck!

  4. Anonymous

    Hello, I’m enjoying your tutorials and am excited to go further with your paid for templates however I’m stuck with this tutorial and I’m not getting the right message when I follow your steps it’s saying “ The filter produced no results. Please select two intersecting paths. What am I doing wrong?

    • Ralph Pink

      Hi there. It sounds like you’re trying to join to end points to create a complete panel or pattern? The error message means that you are trying to join more than two points, which is not possible. This happens often, especially when not hitting the backspace a few times when deleting a line. Points are left behind which are pretty much invisible. Then when you try to join other lines, those points interfere.

      The best option is to select the lines or points you want to join, then lock them using CTRL+2 (keyboard shortcut). Now click and drag over the join area. This should select any left over points that aren’t visible. Next, hit backspace on your keyboard to delete them. Now you can unlock your existing lines using CTRL+ALT+2 and begin the process of joining your lines. Hopefully this helps?

  5. Ivy Vining

    Hi there! I’m a pattern instructor who teaches primarily flat pattern making, and have moderate Illustrator skills, but am new to combining the two. I love your tutorials, and they have already been extremely helpful and informative.

    I just wanted to chime in with another general Illustrator tip that could save a step in your method of placing a notch along a seam line that needs to be duplicated before separating the pieces. Rather than the standard Copy/Paste and then dragging the pasted notch manually into the same position as the original notch, you can do Copy/Paste In Front, (keyboard shortcut would be command F for Paste In Front, instead of command V for Paste). This pastes the new object exactly on top of the original object it was copied from, without having to manually drag it on top and try to align perfectly.

    Thanks again for all these amazing tutorials. Looking forward to continuing!

    • Ralph Pink

      Hi Ivy, That’s a fantastic tip thank you! We’ll certainly use that concept in our future tutorials. Thanks again!

  6. Terri Ann

    When duplicating an element in the same placement instead of using Copy (⌘+C) + Paste (⌘+V), and then moving the new element to where the original one was, you can use Copy (⌘+C) + Paste in Place (⇧+⌘+V) and the new one will have the same positioning as the original.

    If you don’t want to break apart your grouping, you can edit inside the group by double clicking with the Direct Selection tool (shortcut: V) then use the breadcrumb trail above the workspace or the escape key to get back to the main workspace

  7. Indi

    What a fantastic tutorial, no…Fantastic set of tutorials! I have been wanting to learn how to pattern cut digitally and woww! BUT? is it enough to help me land a job in

    the industry?… with Covid rules etc…. like working from home for a designer etc? Any advice?.. Would I need to do more advanced stuff? Any advice would be greatly


    Also, how do I practice this stuff? Do I need to own an AI Programme?

    • Ralph Pink

      Hi Indi, Thanks for your comment!

      Firstly, thank you for the love, we really appreciate it!
      There is no reason why you couldn’t get a pattern making job either working with a company or with individual clients on a freelance basis. It would be far easier to work with individual clients because you are in charge of your own work and how you output that work. However, working with a company (using the Adobe Illustrator technique) might be harder. Purely because a lot of companies use grading software such as Gerber etc to grade their patterns. This software often uses DXF files which is something that Adobe can output but it can be a bit touch and go. Translating Adobe to DXF might be problematic. Companies also tend to have in-house basic blocks that they use and adapt to create their products. These are often cardboard or paper patterns which you would need to scan and import into Adobe illustrator before you could start pattern cutting with them. You could export Gerber files as DXF and import them into Adobe but once again it might need some experimentation. Since Pattern making in Adobe illustrator is a relatively new concept, most companies won’t understand your process of pattern making in Adobe Illustrator.

      To sum up, if you can prove to them that your work is viable in Adobe Illustrator and convince them of the benefits to you and them when it comes to working from home, you should be fine! But once again, you would find it far easier setting up your own freelance company and managing your own patterns and format. I hope this helps?! Either way, enjoy the process!


  8. Renae

    Hi Ralph. Fantastic tutorial, and so helpful. I have two tips for faster workflow in AI 2021.

    1. To deactivate the pen tool,: instead of switching to the direct selection tool and clicking off, you can now just press the Escape key. If you want to deactivate the pen tool AND be ready to select something, press Escape and then A (direct select) or V (select tool).

    2. You can save a few steps when dividing parts of a pattern by drawing your line, skip the object expand option, and under Pathfinders –> Pathfinders (instead of Shapes): press Divide. This does a few convenient things. It saves the step of creating an object AND it automatically trims the excess lines that extend beyond the shape.


    • Ralph Pink

      This is some fantastic advice! Thank you for sharing this with us. This will speed up our process dramtically.

    • Anonymous

      Ralph Thank you so much for this advice… its soooo helpful…. really! I’ve always wanted to work in the industry but I realised that if no one ever gave me a chance I

      may never get that break I need and how am I ever gonna gain the experience required? and now with all this covid… I want to work from home more than ever So

      Im just gonna continue to upskill.:) .

      But what do you suggest about

      1.. grading patterns? is it the only way to do it is by making each pattern individually and saving it as a pdf or is there another way?

      2. when patterns are drawn on here can I do it in actual measurements? printing the pattern would be in segments right? then I would now have

      to trace the entire thing to create a block yes? Not sure if I understood that carefully…However, I will certainly like to practice these tutorials to get to know the keys etc.

      How can I access an AI Programme, without it costing me a fortune? Any thoughts?

      Ralph thank you so much from the bottom of my heart

  9. Fernando

    Hi, Ralph! I ‘ve just found out your website and I’m loving everything about it! I’ve learned how to sew and create patterns during the pandemic, and, as a graphic designer, I’ve already started at Adobe Illustrator since I have more intimacy with the software than to paper and scissors lol. There’s a few tools that I never used on Illustrator and your tutorials were amazing for me to learn them!

    But I have a quick tip for you and your followers: the latetest versions of Illustrator comes with the “Shape Builder Tool”, which is a simple click and drop tool where you need an shape, or line, “intersectioning” on top of other to just click and create a new form. I’ve been using this tool as a much more simple and effective way to cut my patterns where I wanted to. But a warning: it only works when you are using strait lines, dotted lines doesn’t let the tool works.

    Here’s the Adobe Help about the tool. https://helpx.adobe.com/illustrator/using/creating-shapes-shape-builder-tool.html

    • Ralph Pink

      Hi Fernando,

      Thanks for your message and really helpful tip! I’ll certainly give it a shot and possibly add it to a future tutorial. Keep up the pattern making in Adobe Illustrator it’s the best thing since sliced bread!


    • Justine L Kohn

      Fernando, That is what I was going to suggest. The Shape Builder Tool is great for pattern cutting and you don’t have to overshoot/ cross the lines like you do with the Pathfinder: Divide or Minus Front tools. Also dotted lines work now. I too am getting a refresher on less used tools as well as new ways to use old tools.

  10. imman

    I want you to teach us to make a basic bodice block on illustrator.

  11. Liv

    Hey, thanks for the tutorials.
    Any troubleshooting tips for technique two? I’m following the instructions, but after I cut the 2 points when I select with the direct selection tool and drag with the other one it just drags the whole block as if the cuts were never there. I tried rotating it and then dragging, which enabled me to move it.

    I did manage to get the new part to move once, but then I backspaced and it went back to not moving separately.

  12. Kaine Akponor

    Thanks so much for this series. It has really improved my digital pattern making skills. I used to make different layers to divide a block, this has really simplified things.

  13. Kerry

    This is an excellent tutorial, thank you!



    • Helen

      I keep getting this error too

    • Nora Scully

      Yes, Ilana I have experienced the same thing when trying to follow along and use the scissor tool to make simple cuts. It looks so simple on the tutorial, but each time I try to use the scissor tool I get the same message to (please use the scissor tool on a segment or an and anchor point). I also bought the basic sloper, which is double dart and very different from the files shown in the tutorial. I am improvising and I am a beginner with illustrator. It has taken me HOURS to follow these tutorials. I am very appreciative that they are here and excited to move my paper pattern work to illustrator. It all looks so easy until I can’t replicate what is shown. It took me ages to figure out why my lines were not showing up. STROKE on…. drrrr : ) Maybe I will figure it out some day.

      • Ralph Pink

        It does take a bit of time and experimentation. The tutorials are there as a guide but experimenting with your patterns and the Adobe illustrator tools is key. Once you learn a concept or the reason why you are getting an error, it will stay with you and you’ll never make that mistake again.

    • Nora Scully

      Yes, thank you for these tutorials!!!
      I experienced the same thing when using the Scissor Tool. (please use the scissor tool on a segment or and anchor point not and end point) I just cannot figure out what I am doing wrong??
      I bought a basic block, so I could follow along and transfer my paper patterns to illustrator. I was and am still excited to get going, but as an illustrator beginner It has taken me HOURS to make it through just a few of the tutorials. I am not confident that what I can do in paper can be transferred to illustrator. The graded sloper I bought from PatternLab has double dart and the one in the demo is single dart. I don’t think the demo block is available or I could not find it. I also wanted the double dart. I have improvised and still have hope that I will get the hang of it.

      • Ralph Pink

        Hi Ilana, i’m sorry to hear you’re having issues, the basics can be tricky to master but it well worth the effort and you’ll be drafting quicker than ever very soon. Just keep plugging away! The error message you are getting is because the line or corner has already been cut. You don’t need to cut it. The two end points it is referring to are the two end points of each line or the place you are trying to cut. There would not be end points if the line was complete. Hopefully this helps with your issue?


    Just want to say what an amazing tutorial it had helped me loads!!!!!!!!

    • Ralph Pink

      You’re very welcome! I’m glad you found it useful. Enjoy your digital pattern making journey.


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