How To Contour In Cricut Design Space

Wondering how to use Contour in Cricut Design Space? Here is everything you need to know about using Contour to turn on or turn off cut lines within a single image, and troubleshooting some of the most common problems with using the Cricut Contour tool.


The Cricut Contour tool is one of the five basic design tools that allows you to work with layers inside of Cricut Design Space (the others are Slice, Weld, Attach, and Flatten).

The idea behind the Contour tool is really simple: it’s basically an “on/off switch” for cut lines. The Contour tool allows you to hide portions of an image by showing or hiding individual cut lines within that single image.

The Contour tool has SO MANY uses and you can make some really cool things with it. But it also can be a little frustrating because it has very specific rules that you have to follow before it will work properly. This article will teach you how to turn on or turn off cut lines with Contour, as well as troubleshoot the most common problems when using Contour in Cricut Design Space.

How to use the contour tool in cricut design space to turn on or off cut lines

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What does Contour do in Cricut Design Space & why would I want to use it?

The Cricut Contour tool allows you hide portions of an image by “turning off” individual cut lines within the image. This allows you more control of your images and layers so you are not limited to just showing or hiding an entire image.

When you open the Contour window you’ll see all of the cut lines that make up a single image. You can click on any cut line or portion of the image and it will “hide” that area by switching that cut line off. This way you can temporarily hide portions of an image or text without actually deleting anything; you can always go back into the Contour tool later and turn the cut lines back on.

Even though the Contour tool is just basically a simple “on/off switch” for cut lines, there are actually a bunch of pretty cool things you can do with Contour in Cricut Design Space, such as:

  • show or hide details within text or an image
  • pick and choose which parts of an SVG file or Cricut library image you want to cut
  • turn single color images into multi-color images
  • “reverse” an image to create a negative of that image

I’ll go into more detail about those uses after the next section, which shows you exactly how to use Contour in Cricut Design Space (with screenshots!)

How to use Contour in Cricut Design Space

The Basics

Using Contour in Cricut Design Space is pretty simple, but there are a few rules you have to follow.

  • You must be working with just one shape or layer. The Contour button will be greyed out if multiple layers or multi-layer images are selected.
  • Contour only works on images that contain more than one cut line. The Contour tool is designed to show or hide individual cut lines within a “complex” image or shape. Simple shapes (like a square or circle or anything else made with the Shape tool) have just one cut line around the exterior of the shape, so you cannot Contour them. If you need to hide a simple shape, just use the Hide button.
  • Contour does not work on editable text layers. Contour only works on “static images,” so the button will be greyed out if you have an editable text layer selected. You must first Weld the text into a static image before Contour will work.
  • Contouring images is “temporary.” If you hide certain cut lines using Contour, they are just turned “off” so your Cricut will not cut along them, but they are not actually removed or deleted from the project. You can use Contour again later to turn those cut lines back on if you want.
  • Contour does not work on layers that are Grouped, Attached, Flattened, or on multi-layered images. Contour only works on a single layer at a time, so any “groups” of layers, like multi-layered images or layers created when using Group and Attach cannot be Contoured. However, if you select a single layer from within the layer group you will be able to Contour just that one layer. Flattened images also cannot be Contoured because Flattened images are only for use with Print Then Cut. Unflatten any image before Contouring.
  • Contour only works on cuttable images. Contour only works with cut lines. It works with any cuttable image or design found within the Cricut library, or with any SVG file or other image that is uploaded into Design Space and saved as a Cut image. However, it does not work on the printable lines within PNG or JPG files uploaded to Cricut Design Space if the photos are saved as Print Then Cut images.

The Equipment

Technically all you need to use the the Cricut Contour tool is Cricut Design Space, but without a Cricut machine you won’t actually be able to cut out your contoured design! I have shared the file I used for this tutorial below, feel free to use it for practicing.

The Instructions

Start by opening the practice file in Cricut Design Space.

How to use the contour tool in cricut design space to show or hide cut lines in text and images

Imagine you found this cool text image in the Cricut library, but you don’t really like the see-through details in the word “you” and want the word to just be solid instead. That’s what Contour is for!

The image is a multi-layered image: the yellow layer on top and a slightly offset teal shadow layer beneath it. But in order to use Contour we must select just one layer. We only want to hide the extra cuts in the yellow text anyway, so select just the yellow text layer from the Layers panel on the right.

Use the contour tool in cricut design space to turn on or off cut lines select one layer

Click “Contour” at the bottom of the Layers panel to bring up the Hide Contour window.

The Hide Contour window shows you all of the cut lines that make up your image in the main window on the left, and then each cut line broken down into its individual shape or “contour” on the right side of the window.

Use the contour tool in cricut design space to turn on or off cut lines click contour button

In the screenshot above you can see entire layer in the main preview, plus the following pieces on the right:

  • the outside cut line of the “O” in “you”
  • the outside cut line of the “Y”
  • the outside cut line of the “U”
  • the inside cut line of the “O” that cuts out the center of the letter
  • the “detail” cut line from the inside of the “Y”
  • and the top of the outside cut line of the “E”, the rest is hidden by the “Hide All Contours” button

In the main window on the left, the shapes that are actually cut out of the material you choose (in this case, the letters themselves) are a light grey, and the background of the window is white. The darker grey areas like the center of the “O”s are the “negative” areas, meaning the cut lines around those areas will be cut by your Cricut, but that cut material is meant to be discarded: it’s not “part of the image” even though it will be cut out.

You can turn cut lines on or off by selecting them from the main preview window, or by clicking on the individual cut line image on the right.

Use the contour tool in cricut design space to turn on or off cut lines select areas to turn off cut lines 1

When you click on a cut line to turn it off, it highlights the cut line on the right in grey and it greys out the black cut line and shape in the main preview on the left.

Keep clicking on cut lines to hide them until you have selected all of the little cutout details from the word “you”.

Use the contour tool in cricut design space to turn on or off cut lines turn off cut lines by selecting areas

Once you have hidden all the parts you want to hide, click the X in the upper right corner or click anywhere in the grey area outside the window to close it.

Now the cutouts in the word “you” are gone and you have just the solid yellow text with a teal shadow behind it.

Use the contour tool in cricut design space to turn on or off cut lines text with cut lines turned off

It’s a minor difference, but the Contour tool gives you a ton of control so you can take images from the Cricut Design Space library or SVG files that you’ve uploaded and make them your own!

Use the contour tool in cricut design space to turn on or off cut lines in images or text

If you want to put the little cutout details back, just select the yellow text layer again, click Contour, and click on the hidden cut lines to “unhide” them.

What can I do with the Cricut Contour tool?

Show or hide details within text or an image

Contour allows you to take a really intricate design and make it simpler. You can hide lacy details or “turn off” polka dots if you want something to just be solid instead. Contour is a great way to “fill in holes” if you want to nix some of the cut lines and leave a solid outline instead.

The “I Love You” project above is a great example of this use of the Contour tool! Cori from Hey Let’s Make Stuff also has another example of using Contour to hide a few details in a complex flower image.

Pick and choose which parts of an SVG file or Cricut library image you want to cut

If you have a complex SVG file or Cricut image with lots of different shapes in it, you can use Contour to show or hide certain parts of the image. It’s similar to cropping or Slicing the image, but it’s a lot less work, and not permanent!

Erin from Printable Crush took a large Christmas image and hid everything except the poinsettia and snowflakes to make Christmas ornaments.

Megan from The Homes I Have Made took it one step further and used Contour to isolate a small part of a design, then duplicated that isolated part a bunch to make a cool new pattern!

Turn single-color images into multi-color images

One really cool way to use Contour is to turn “flat” single-color images into multi-color images instead! This is how I turned each word in the Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays images into their own colors when making out matching family Christmas pajamas. I basically took the “Merry Christmas” image, duplicated it, and stacked the two copies on top of one another. Then I contoured one copy to hide the “Merry” and contoured the other to hide the “Christmas”. I set them each to different colors and voila: a single-color image turned into a multi-color image!

Sarah from The Simply Crafted Life has a great video on using Contour to turn half of the black stripes in her image into gold stripes to add an extra pop of color to her project.

“Reverse” an image to create a negative of that image

If you have a simple logo or image that you want to make a “negative” of, you can easily “reverse” the image. For example, imagine a stop sign.

Normally it is a red sign with white letters, but if you wanted to reverse the colors, you could easily do it with Contour. Just click Contour, then deselect all of the cut lines, and reselect just the octagon outline and letters that were previously “see-through” to turn on those cut lines.

Use the contour tool in cricut design space to turn on or off cut lines create a negative image

Catalina from Daydream Into Reality has another simple example of using Contour to “reverse” a simple heart and hexagon image so the negative spaces are highlighted instead.

How to show or hide cut lines with contour in cricut design space

Troubleshooting common problems with Contour in Cricut Design Space

Why is the Contour button greyed out?

Ok, this is a big one… Contour is pretty finicky, so there are a lot of possible reasons why the Contour button is greyed out.

1. Multiple layers or images selected

Contour only works on one layer at a time. Make sure you have one single layer highlighted in the Layers panel on the right. This even includes single objects that are in a Layer group, like with Group and Attach. If you click on a Grouped image it technically selects all of the grouped layers at once. Click on one of the “child” layers instead of the “parent” Group layer and you should be able to Contour.

Same deal with a multi-layered image. Many images from the Cricut library are single images made up of multiple layers that are grouped together in the Layers panel. Select just the layer you wish to contour instead of selecting the image preview in the actual Canvas.

2. Contour doesn’t work on Flattened images

Contour only deals with cut lines, but a Flattened image contains both cut lines and a “flat” printable image. If you want to hide part of a Print Then Cut image or other Flattened image, you need to Unflatten them back into their individual shapes first. Then after you Contour you can Flatten them again.

3. Your image is “too simple”

Since Contour is designed to turn off cut lines within a single image, the image you are Contouring must be made up of at least two cut lines for Contour to work. Simple shapes that are just a single outline (like squares or any other shape made using the Shape tool) can’t be Contoured; if you want to turn off the cut line around the outside of a simple shape, just choose to Hide the entire layer instead.

4. You can’t Contour editable text layers

Contour only works on static images. If you select an editable text layer, the Contour button will be greyed out. To Contour text, first Weld the text into a single static image, then the Contour button should be active and clickable.

5. Contour only works on “cuttable” images

If you upload a PNG or JPEG and save it as a Print Then Cut image instead of a Cut image, you won’t be able to Contour it for the same reason you can’t Contour Flattened images. Luckily, you should be able to save any file you upload as a cuttable image when you initially upload it, so if you’re having trouble with an uploaded file, try uploading again and saving it as Cut instead of Print Then Cut. Also, any image from the Cricut library that isn’t specifically called a “Printable” image should work with Contour.

My image is really detailed and I can’t click exactly on a cut line in the Hide Contour window to hide it

There are two possible solutions for this problem. First, there is a small “zoom” control at the bottom left of the Hide Contour button. You can zoom in on the main preview half of the window until you can click exactly on the line you want.

Second, you can also just click on the contour shapes over on the right side of the window to turn on or off that cut line.

I don’t even see a Contour button!

If you’re on a mobile device, the Canvas screen might look a little different. Usually you have to click the Actions button and then select Hide Contour, but you can see the details on that in Cricut’s Contour help article.

I want to “un-Contour” my images so I can use them for something else

No problem, Contouring is totally temporary! If you want to undo your Contours you can just open the Hide Contour window again and click on the cut lines you previously turned off. Contour doesn’t permanently remove or change any cut lines, so you can always show or hide them again later.


Hope that helps you understand more about how to use Contour in Cricut Design Space. If you still have questions, ask them in the comments below and I will do my best to answer!

How to show or hide cut lines with the contour tool in cricut design space

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Below is a printable version of these instructions; click the large “Print” button to print them out. (It defaults to just printing the text in the instructions, no photos, to save you paper and printer ink!)

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Use contour in cricut design space to turn on or off cut lines

How To Contour In Cricut Design Space

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Wondering how to use Contour in Cricut Design Space? Here is everything you need to know about using Contour to turn on or turn off cut lines within a single image, and troubleshooting some of the most common problems with using the Cricut Contour tool.
Active Time 5 mins

Instructions
 

  • Create or open a project in Cricut Design Space with a shape that you want to hide a portion of.
    How to use the contour tool in cricut design space to show or hide cut lines in text and images
  • Select one single layer in the Layers panel at the right.
    Use the contour tool in cricut design space to turn on or off cut lines select one layer
  • Click Contour to open the Hide Contour window.
    Use the contour tool in cricut design space to turn on or off cut lines click contour button
  • Select the cut line or shape you wish to hide by clicking on it in the main preview area on the left, or by clicking on the individual shape in the list on the right.
    Use the contour tool in cricut design space to turn on or off cut lines select areas to turn off cut lines 1
  • "Hidden" cut lines will be greyed out in the preview, and the shape on the right will be highlighted in darker grey. Continue selecting shapes until you've hidden the parts you want hidden.
    Use the contour tool in cricut design space to turn on or off cut lines turn off cut lines by selecting areas
  • Click the X in the upper right corner, or click anywhere outside the window to close the window. You will see your Contoured design on the Canvas.
    Use the contour tool in cricut design space to turn on or off cut lines text with cut lines turned off

Notes

Using Contour in Cricut Design Space is pretty simple, but there are a few rules you have to follow.
  • You must be working with just one shape or layer. The Contour button will be greyed out if multiple layers or multi-layer images are selected.
  • Contour only works on images that contain more than one cut line. The Contour tool is designed to show or hide individual cut lines within a “complex” image or shape. Simple shapes (like a square or circle or anything else made with the Shape tool) have just one cut line around the exterior of the shape, so you cannot Contour them. If you need to hide a simple shape, just use the Hide button.
  • Contour does not work on editable text layers. Contour only works on “static images,” so the button will be greyed out if you have an editable text layer selected. You must first Weld the text into a static image before Contour will work.
  • Contouring images is “temporary.” If you hide certain cut lines using Contour, they are just turned “off” so your Cricut will not cut along them, but they are not actually removed or deleted from the project. You can use Contour again later to turn those cut lines back on if you want.
  • Contour does not work on layers that are Grouped, Attached, Flattened, or on multi-layered images. Contour only works on a single layer at a time, so any “groups” of layers, like multi-layered images or layers created when using Group and Attach cannot be Contoured. However, if you select a single layer from within the layer group you will be able to Contour just that one layer. Flattened images also cannot be Contoured because Flattened images are only for use with Print Then Cut. Unflatten any image before Contouring.
  • Contour only works on cuttable images. Contour only works with cut lines. It works with any cuttable image or design found within the Cricut library, or with any SVG file or other image that is uploaded into Design Space and saved as a Cut image. However, it does not work on the printable lines within PNG or JPG files uploaded to Cricut Design Space if the photos are saved as Print Then Cut images.

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Jessi Wohlwend

I believe that anyone can do crafts and DIY projects, regardless of skill or experience. I love sharing simple craft ideas, step by step DIY project tutorials, cleaning hacks, and other tips and tricks all with one goal in mind: giving you the tools you need to “do it yourself”, complete fun projects, and make awesome things!

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