How to Use Scissors Tool in Adobe Illustrator

It’s almost the same idea as cutting paper with scissors, you’ll need to find a starting point and an ending point. Instead of cutting it all the way through with real scissors, in Adobe Illustrator you only need to define (click) the two points and hit the delete button. 

You can divide and delete paths, cut a shape in half, or make a closed path open path using the Scissors tool. Sounds pretty useful right? And it is! There are just a few things to pay attention to before using the scissors tool. 

I’ll explain more in this tutorial along with other examples of how you can use the Scissors tool for your design. 

Let’s jump in!  

Note: the screenshots from this tutorial are taken from Adobe Illustrator CC Mac version. Windows or other versions can look different. Windows users change the Command key to Control, Option key to Alt.

Using Scissors Tool on Text 

If you didn’t know already, the Scissors Tool only works on paths and anchor points, so if you use it on live text, it wouldn’t work. 

For example, let’s cut part of the text using the scissors tool. When you click on the text with the scissors tool selected, you’ll see this warning message. 

The scissors tool doesn’t work on the live text so you must outline the text first. Follow the steps below. 

Step 1: Select the text and create a text outline. You can quickly outline text using the keyboard shortcut Command + Shift + O

When you outline live text, it’ll become anchor points and you’ll be able to edit the anchor points. Now you can use the scissors tool to cut or split the text/letters. 

Step 2: Selec the Scissors Tool (C). You can find it under the same menu as the Eraser Tool

Click on the path or anchor point to create a starting point for the cut. Zoom in, so you can see the anchor points and path clearly. When you click on a path, a new anchor will appear. 

You must create more than one anchor point to cut. As you can see if you add four anchor points, you’ll split the letter. 

Note: If you click on the fill area, nothing will happen, you must click on the anchor points or path.

You’ll probably see a line between the anchor points. You can delete it using the Direct Selection Tool. 

Step 3: Select the Direct Selection Tool (keyboard shortcut A) from the toolbar.  

Click on the line, and hit the Delete key to delete it. You can also move around the anchor points to create the effect you want for the text. 

Using Scissors Tool on Paths

You can divide lines or strokes using the scissors tool.  

Step 1: Select the Scissors tool from the toolbar. This is a circle with a stroke. Don’t worry about where to click because you’ll see the path hover over the path. 

Step 2: Click on the path to break the path. You’ll notice the distance between the two points you click is no longer connected to the original path. 

Step 3: Use the Selection Tool (keyboard shortcut V) to select the path. 

Now you can move or delete the path separated by the scissors tool. 


More questions related to the scissors tool? See if you can find the answers below. 

Why can’t I use the Scissors Tool in Illustrator?

Most likely it’s because you’re trying to use it on live text. Remember that the Scissors Tool only works on paths and anchor points, so if you want to cut/divide text, you must outline the text first.

How do I cut in Illustrator? 

There are many ways to cut objects, images, or text in Adobe Illustrator. If you want to cut an image, the best option is to use the crop tool or create a clipping mask. You can’t really use the eraser tool or the scissors tool to cut an image because they work on anchor points. 

If you want to split up a shape or path with anchor points, you can use the Eraser tool or scissors tool to cut. 

Why can’t I select the path I cut in Illustrator? 

It happens when you use the scissors tool to cut outlined text and select it with the Selection tool. When you select the letter, it’ll select the whole letter instead of the separated path. That’s the problem right? 

Then the solution is to use the Direction Selection Tool to select the path. 

How can I cut a shape in half in Illustrator? 

If you want to cut a circle in half, you should click the top and bottom center points on the path. 

Then you can use the Selection Tool to move or delete the half-circle.

See how it works? Click on two points across each other, and then use the selection tool to separate or delete half of the shape.

Take Away Points

The scissors tool only works on paths or anchor points and doesn’t work on the live text, so you have to outline text before using the scissors to cut. If you use want to split a letter from text, you should use the direct selection tool to select the split part and edit it. 

Another thing to remember is that you should add at least two anchor points on the path that you’re cutting. 

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