The Scissors Tool in Adobe InDesign

The world of page layout software and the world of scaleable vector graphics were once dominated by distinctly different and separate software programs. As page layout software matured, SVG elements were introduced to those programs, to the point that many simple illustrations can be produced directly within the page layout program. In the case of Adobe, this is reflected in the parallel development of InDesign and Illustrator. Along with the capability to work with vector graphics in InDesign came the need to incorporate the tools most often used with those graphics into InDesign. The Scissors tool is one such tool.

01
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Splitting an Open Path With the Scissors Tool

Any open path drawn with the drawing tools in InDesign can be split with the Scissors tool. Here's how:

  • Select the path with the Selection tool.
  • Select the Scissors tool and click on the path where you want to split it. This action places two new endpoints on the path where you click, one of which is selected.
  • Switch to the Direct Selection tool and click one of the points formed by the Scissors tool. 
  • Move the selected point to a different location and then click on the point that was under it to activate it. 
  • Work with these two points to reshape the two new paths.
02
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Cutting Across a Shape With the Scissors Tool

InDesign Scissors Cut
Use Scissors Tool to cut across a shape. Image by E. Bruno

The Scissors tool can also be used to split shapes:

  • Select the shape with the Selection tool.
  • Click the Scissors tool in the toolbar.
  • Move the Scissors tool to the place you want to cut. The scissors turn into a crosshair when positioned directly above the stroke on the shape. 
  • Click directly on the stroke of the shape.
  • Move to a different position on the shape and click directly on the stroke of the shape.
  • Use the Selection tool to move one portion of the shape away from the other. They are now two independent elements.
03
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Cutting a Piece Out of a Shape With the Scissors Tool

InDesign Scissors Cut
Use Scissors Tool to cut a piece out of a shape. Image by E. Bruno

 To remove a piece from a shape using straight lines:

  • Select the shape with the Selection tool.
  • Click the Scissors tool in the toolbar.
  • Move the Scissors tool to the shape and click in one position directly on the stroke of the shape. The scissors turn into a crosshair when directly over a stroke. 
  • Click in two or more additional positions on the stroke of the shape, which removes a piece of the shape and breaks the single shape into parts.
  • Group the remaining pieces of the shape using Shift-Click > Object > Group if you want to use the pieces as a single unit or use the Selection tool to move individual shapes.
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Cutting a Curved Piece Out of a Shape With the Scissors Tool

InDesign Scissors Cut Curve
Use Scissors Tool to cut a curve out of a shape. Image by E. Bruno

The Scissors tool can also be used to create a bezier curve, much like the Pen tool. Use this capability to cut a curved section out of a shape.

  • Select the shape with the Selection tool.
  • Switch to the Scissors tool. 
  • Click on one place on the stroke of the shape to place a point.
  • Click and hold on another place on the stroke of the shape. Pull out on the point to create a bezier curve that removes a section from the shape.