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How to use Contour in Cricut Design Space

Ready to learn how to use Contour in Cricut Design Space? This comprehensive tutorial will teach you everything you need to know about using Contour to edit images in Design Space.  

You’ll learn what the Cricut Contour tool does, where to find it, how to use it to turn parts of your design “on” and “off”. Plus, we’ll cover frequently asked questions about the Contour tool, and common mistakes to watch out for.

pin image for how to use contour in Cricut Design Space, with a screenshot of the Hide Contour window

The Contour tool is one of the 5 essential design tools for working with layers in Cricut Design Space. But if you’re new to Cricut, learning how to use all of the Design Space tools can be overwhelming.

To help, I’ve put together a series of articles about using the most important tools in Design Space (Slice, Weld, Attach, Flatten, and Contour). And today’s article is all about the Contour tool: what it does, where to find it, and how to use it to edit your images in Cricut Design Space. 

The Contour tool has so many uses, and I’m excited to show you all the cool things you can do with it. After reading this article, you’ll know:

  • What the Contour tool does, and where to find it.
  • How to use Contour to hide cut lines within an image
  • How to use Contour to create multi-colored designs from one image
  • Why the Contour tool might not work, and how to fix it.
  • How to troubleshoot common issues with the Contour tool

After that, I’ll give you my best tips and tricks for using the Contour feature in Design Space. I’ll answer some common questions about Contour and help fix some common Contour mistakes.

Contour Tool in Cricut Design Space

The Contour tool is one of the most useful and powerful tools in Cricut Design Space. It allows you to show or hide details within an image layer so that you can pick and choose which parts of a design you want to cut.

Specifically, the Contour tool allows you to hide individual contour lines – aka cut lines – within an image layer. 

When to use the Contour tool?

You’ll often use the Contour tool to hide a portion of an image layer that you don’t want to cut. But there are different ways to use the Contour tool, as well. For instance, you can use Contour to turn a single-color image into a multi-color image. Or, you can use Contour to separate parts of your image into different layers so that you can cut them out on different mats.

What does the Contour tool do?

When you click the Contour button, Design Space will open up a Hide Contour window. Inside this pop-up window, you’ll see all the individual cut lines that make up a single image layer. You can click on any of these cut lines to hide them (or turn them off.) When you hide a cut line, it will not show up on the Canvas screen – and most importantly, it won’t be cut by your Circut.

screenshot of Cricut Design Space Canvas screen with variations of a heart shape made using the Contour tool

In this image, you can see how I’ve turned different parts of the original flower image “on” and “off” to create 5 new designs – only using the Contour tool.

Where to find the Contour button?

You’ll find the Contour tool inside the Cricut Design Space desktop program or mobile app.

On Desktop:

You’ll find the Contour tool at the bottom of the Layers panel on the right-hand side of the Design Space Canvas screen. The Contour button will be next to the other layer tools: Slice, Weld, Attach, and Flatten. The Contour icon looks like a dashed-line circle.

On Mobile: 

You’ll find the Contour tool in the Actions sub-menu in the toolbar at the bottom of the screen, the last button on the right.

How to Use the Contour Tool

Follow these basic steps to use the Contour function in Design Space. After this brief overview, we’ll walk through 3 more examples in greater detail, with step-by-step screenshots.

  1. Open Design Space and add an image to the Canvas. If the image has Grouped layers, you must Ungroup them before using the Contour tool.
  2. Select one layer to use with the Contour tool. Click the Contour button in the Layers panel. This will open the Hide Contour window.
  3. In the Hide Contour window, click on the contour lines (aka parts of the image) that you want to Hide. Any contour lines that you hide will not be shown on the Canvas screen, nor cut when you send the design to the mat.
screenshot of Cricut Design Space Canvas screen showing the Hide Contour window
image preview on the left, contour lines “panel” on the right

How to Use the Hide Contour Window

In the Hide Contour window, you’ll see a gray-scale version of your image on the left side of the window. On the right side of the window, you’ll see a panel with a list of all the individual cut lines that make up the image. In the bottom right corner of the window, you’ll see a button that says “Hide All Contours.”

You can hide contour lines by clicking on the gray-scale image preview OR on the individual elements on the right panel. Let’s walk through each option.

Image Preview on the left

The lines on this image represent the individual cut lines that make up the image.  

Click on the cut lines that you want to hide (or turn off). The hidden contour lines will change to a lighter shade of gray, indicating that they will not be shown or cut.  

If you want to show a hidden contour, click on the hidden cut lines to restore them. The Contour will reappear on the Canvas, and will be cut.

Contour Lines Panel on the right

The shapes in this panel represent all of the individual cut lines that make up the image. If the Contour has a white background, it is “on” and will be cut. If the Contour has a gray background, is “hidden” or “off,” and won’t be cut.

You can click on any of the design elements to hide them (turn off) or show them (turn on).

Hide/Show All Contours button

You can click this button to hide or show all contour lines in an image. (Even though it says “Hide All Contours,” it will leave one contour line showing by default.)

Using Contour on the iOS/Android App

Using the Contour tool on the mobile app is very similar to using Contour in the desktop version of Design Space, but the screen will look a little different.

On the mobile app, tap the Contour button in the Actions menu to bring up the Hide Contour window.

In the Hide Contour window, the contour lines will be dark gray, with a white background instead of a gray fill. When you tap on a cut line, it will change to a light gray color to indicate that it’s been hidden.

Tips for using the Contour Tool

Before we get into the examples, here are a few basic tips and tricks to keep in mind when working with the Contour tool.

  • Contour works on images with more than one cut line.  In other words, you can only use Contour on “complex” shapes that are made up of more than one cutting line. For instance, Contour will not work on a simple circle, because a circle only has one cut line. But, Contour will work on a doughnut shape, because it’s made from two cut lines (the outer circle and the inner circle.)
  • Contour works with one layer at a time.  The Contour tool will be unavailable if you have no visible layers selected, or more than one layer selected. 
  • You cannot use Contour on a Group of layers or Attached layers. You can, however, use Contour on a single layer within a Group – but only one at a time.
  • Contour works on Cut or Draw layers, not Print layers. You can’t use Contour on Print Then Cut images or Flattened layers. If you want to use Contour on Flattened layers, you’ll have to Unflatten them and change them back to Cut or Draw layers first.
  • Contour does not work on text layers. If you want to use Contour on text, you must Weld the text first.
  • Contour is reversible.  Any time you want to edit your design, you can open up the Hide Contour window again, and click to hide/show cut lines. You can use Contour even after you’ve saved your design.  
  • There must be at least one visible cut line in the layer. You can’t use the Contour tool to hide all of the cut lines within a layer. Instead, if you want to hide everything in a layer, you can toggle the Visibile/Hidden button in the Layer panel.

3 Ways to Use the Contour Tool

Open up Design Space, power on your Cricut machine, and let’s go through some examples.

Use Contour to choose which parts of the image to cut.

In this example, I’ll show you how to use the Contour tool to “turn off” parts of an image, so you can cut only the parts you want. You can use this method to separate parts of your image into different layers, so that you can cut them out on separate mats.

screenshot of Cricut Design Space Canvas screen with 3 light blue flowers on the same layer

First, add an image to your Design Space Canvas. I chose this image of three flowers from the Cricut Access library. Even though these flowers aren’t overlapping, they’re still on the same layer.

screenshot of Cricut Design Space Canvas screen with three flowers onthe Hide Contour window
click the hide all contour lines, except the lines on the center flower

Then, select the Layer, and click Contour. This pulls up the Hide Contour window. Now, click on the different parts of the image that you want to hide. In the screenshot below, you’ll see that I’ve hidden the left and right flowers, and kept the center flower showing.

screenshot of Cricut Design Space Canvas screen with 3 separate flowers in different shaes of blue
each flower on its own layer

Next, duplicate this layer, and repeat the process. On the second layer, hide all of the parts of the design except the left flower. And on the third layer, hide all parts of the design except the right flower.

When you look at the Layers panel, you’ll see I have all three flowers on their own layers. Now, I can edit them individually and cut them out on different mats.

Use Contour to remove details from a complex image

In this example, I’ll show you how to simplify an intricate design by using the Contour tool to “turn off” some of the smaller details. In this example, we’re using the Contour tool almost like an eraser tool to remove unwanted cut lines from the image.

screenshot of Cricut Design Space Canvas screen with a black circle with the white word Merci and leaves

Start by adding an image to the Design Space Canvas. For this example, I’m using a circle image with the word “Merci,” surrounded by a couple of floral motifs.

screenshot of Cricut Design Space Canvas screen with the Merci design in the Hide Contour screen

Let’s say that you wanted to “turn off” the floral designs but leave the word “Merci”. To do this, select the layer, and click Contour. This will open up the Hide Contour window. Using either the preview image on the left or the panel on the right, click on all of the cut lines you want to hide. In this image, you’ll need to hide the botanical motif shapes, as well as all of the little dots that make up the interiors of the leaves.

screenshot of Cricut Design Space Canvas screen with a black circle with the white word Merci

When you click back to the Canvas screen, you see that the botanical motifs are hidden, and you’re left with the circle and the word “merci”.

Use Contour to turn a single-color image into a multi-color image.

In this example, I’ll show you how to use the Duplicate and Contour tools to make different parts of the same image in different colors.

screenshot of Cricut Design Space Canvas screen with the words Quilters Gonna Quilt

Start by adding an image to the Design Space Canvas. In this example, I’m using the phrase “Quilters Gonna Quilt”. Let’s say we wanted to make each word a different color.

Click on the layer, and duplicate it twice. You will now have three copies of the image – one for each color. Select all three layers and use the Align tool to center them horizontally and vertically. Now, all three copies will be stacked on top of each other.

screenshot of Cricut Design Space Canvas screen with the Quilters Gonna Quilt design in the Hide Contour window

Next, select one layer, and click Contour. In the Hide Contour window, click to hide all of the cut lines, except for the cut lines in the word “Quilters”. (For complex images like this one, I find the best way to select the part of the design I want is to click “Hide All Contours” first, and then go back and click on the cut lines I want to show.) Click back to the main Canvas screen, and change the color of this layer to light blue.

Then, select the second layer, and click Contour. In the Hide Contour window, click to hide all of the cut lines, except for the cut lines in the word “Gonna”. Click back to the main Canvas screen, and change the color of this layer to medium blue.

Next, select the third layer, and click Contour. In the Hide Contour window, click to hide all of the cut lines, except for the cut lines in the word “Quilt”. Click back to the main Canvas screen, and change the color of this layer to dark blue.

screenshot of Cricut Design Space Canvas screen with the words Quilters Gonna Quilt in shades of blue

Now that you have a multi-color image, you can cut it out of different materials. Or, you can take an extra step to Flatten these layers together with a background layer, and cut this project out as a Print Then Cut project. For about using the Flatten tool to create printable images, click here: How to Use Flatten in Cricut Design Space

Troubleshooting Common Problems

Here are some FAQs and common issues you may run into when using the Contour tool.

Why is the Contour button “grayed out” or not clickable?

There are a few reasons why you may not be able to use the Contour button.

First, you can only use Contour on complex shapes made of two or more cut lines. So you can use Contour on a basic circle, but you can use Contour on a doughnut.

Second, you can only use Contour on one layer at a time. So if you don’t have any visible layers selected – or you have more than one visible layer selected – the Contour button won’t be clickable. To fix it, make sure you have only one visible layer selected.

Third, the Contour button only works on Cut or Draw layers. So you can’t use the Contour button on Print Then Cut layers or JPGs that you’ve uploaded as Print Then Cut images.

Fourth, the Contour button does not work on editable text layers. If you want to use Contour on text, you need to Weld it first.

Where is the Contour button?

In the Desktop version of Cricut Design Space, you’ll find the Contour tool at the bottom of the Layers Panel on the right-hand side of the Canvas screen in Cricut Design Space. 

In the mobile app, you’ll find the Contour tool in the Actions sub-menu in the toolbar at the bottom of the screen, the last button on the right.

Why is the Contour tool so slow, or clicking the wrong spot?

Sometimes the Contour tool seems slow, especially if you’re working on a large image with lots of detail. The best thing to do is go slow and wait a little bit between clicks to let Design Space catch up.

If you can’t seem to click the correct shape in the Hide Contour preview window, try using the Zoom tool to zoom in on your design. Then, if the Contour tool still isn’t selecting the right shape, use the list of individual cut lines in the right-hand menu. 

Learn More About Cricut Design Space

Isn’t Contour a great tool? I hope this tutorial helped you understand how to use the Contour function in Cricut Design Space

Now that you’re a master of the Contour feature, here are a few more Design Space tutorials for you to check out:

Have questions? Join the Cricut Facebook Group!

I hope this article was useful for you! If you have any additional questions, feel free to join my Facebook Group for Cricut Crafts.

Join the group to share pictures, ask questions, and help each other out.

What’s Next?

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How to use Contour in Cricut Design Space

How to use Contour in Cricut Design Space

Yield: 1
Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Learn everything you need to know about how to use Contour in Cricut Design Space, including what the Cricut Contour tool does, where to find it, how to use it to turn parts of your design "on" and "off". Plus, we'll cover frequently asked questions about the Contour tool, and common mistakes to watch out for.

Instructions

  1. Open Design Space and add an image to the Canvas. If the image has Grouped layers, you must Ungroup them before using the Contour tool.
  2. Select one layer to use with the Contour tool. Click the Contour button in the Layers panel. This will open the Hide Contour window.
  3. In the Hide Contour window, click on the contour lines (aka parts of the image) that you want to Hide. Any contour lines that you hide will not be shown on the Canvas screen, nor cut when you send the design to the mat.

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pin image for how to use contour in Cricut Design Space, with a screenshot of the Hide Contour window

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