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How to Contour in Cricut Design Space and Why isn’t working

Hi Daydreamers!

On today’s tutorials you will be learning how to contour in Cricut Design Space like a Pro and we will also be checking out why is that sometimes the contour tool doesn’t seem to work.

Before we get started, let’s see a quick overview of what Contour is.

Contour, in Cricut Design Space, is a tool that allows you to delete/hide unwanted pieces from your projects. This option is extremely powerful because you can modify your projects to create a whole different effect or feel.

If you are a beginner and are still figuring out Cricut’s software, I recommend that you read my fantastic and Ultimate Cricut Design Space tutorial. 

Contour in Cricut Design Space written as cover for this tutorial.
You got this!

I personally use Contour all the time, and on this tutorial, you’ll find out why!

Tip: if you want to learn everything you need to know about iron-on (HTV) and master how to use it on different surfaces, make sure to check this amazing tutorial I put together.

Why is the Contour tool not working?

Normally I cover why tools aren’t working at the end of my tutorials. But, in this case, I find it necessary to mention it at the beginning, so we can continue the rest of our tutorial with the right set of mind.

First of all, the problem is not that the contour tool isn’t working. What is happening is that you aren’t using it the right way.

Here are some things you need to keep in mind:

  1. Contour doesn’t work on images that DON’T have loose/scattered elements or holes/blank spaces inside them.
  2. You can’t Contour plain text (I have a step by step down below that shows you how to accomplish this)
  3. Contour only works with one layer at the time. So if you have more than one layer selected the tool won’t activate. If you need those two layers together, you will need to weld them first.
  4. Contour only works with SVG or cut files. Even if your PNG or JPEG images have blank spaces or loose/scattered parts, the contour tool won’t work on them.
Examples of the things you can and can’t Contour in Design Space

These are the reasons why your contour tool may not be working. However, if you find yourself in a different situation, please comment at the end of the post so I can take a look and see why isn’t working for you.

How to Use the Contour tool in Cricut Design Space

Now, we are about to get into some pretty cool stuff so you can learn how to use the contour tool like a pro!

In a nutshell we will be covering:

  • Contour Basics: where the tool is located, and the contour window.
  • How to Use Contour with Images
  • Change image color with contour
  • Using contouring with text (there are some extra steps you need to do)

Contour Basics in Design Space

As I mentioned before, Contour is used mainly to hide or delete unwanted pieces of an image or design.

To activate the Contour tool, select the layer or image (only one at the time) you want to edit and click on the contour tool located at the end of the layers panel.

Check out the following screenshot (not the cutest design, I know) to see all the things we can do by just using contour.

Screenshot of an image and where the contour tool is located in Cricut Design Space
Contour is located at bottom of the layers panel

As you can see this image has multiple holes and blank spaces that can be deleted.

One thing that’s really cool about this tool is that you can turn blank spaces (holes) into active parts of the design and hide the active parts of the design and turn them into blank spaces (holes)

I know it sounds a little complicated, but it will make sense in a second.

When you click on contour a window will open were you will be able to edit your image by showing and hiding certain parts of it. Let’s dissect this little window so you take advantage of everything that the contour tool has to offer.

Screenshot of the contour window in Cricut Design Space
Contour Window

Image Area: Here you can see the image you want to contour, each scale of grey represents a separate element that you can click on to either hide or show. The grayest color represents the blank spaces or holes of your image.

Zoom: If you want to fit your image on the contour window, zoom out to have a better perspective. Or, if you are working on a very intricate design, zoom in to select what you want to hide/show.

Individual selection Panel: You can select the piece you want to contour on this panel. When you know what you’re looking for this can be quite handy. However, I don’t use it that much because it’s hard to visualize what you are doing.

Hide/Show all Contours: This little button is very useful, especially if you have a lot elements you can and want to contour on your image.

For instance, if your layer has 20 elements and you only want to show 3, then it’s better to click on “Hide all Contours” and then to click on the 3 you want to show.

After hiding all contours, the button will change to Show all Contour.

Now, look at all of the things I was able to do with just that simple design! I copied and pasted it just so I could change the contour options of each one of them.

Examples of the different things you can accomplish with the contour tools in Cricut design space
Look at all the possibilities!

From one single Image I was able to create another 5. And I could’ve done more of them, but I just wanted to make a point.

How to use Contour with Images

Now, we are going to check out how to use contour with images. You can do this with one of Cricut’s images, or with your own as well. Though, keep in mind that you can only use SVG or CUT files.

If you want to recreate this part of this tutorial, click on Images located on the left panel of the canvas area, then copy and paste this code #M71A34B3 on the search box.

When the image appears, select it and click on Insert.

Take a look at the image. What do you notice?

Insert an image from Cricut's library to add contour
Insert the image #M71A34B3

First off all, there are many elements, little and big that are part of the design, and secondly, since the image is in a single layer we can use the contour tool.

When you click on contour, look at all of the things you can hide, and also show. For instance, you can choose to only show the bear, or the stars. Or just part of a phrase.

How contouring looks when editing an image with multiple elements.
Check out all the things you can contour on this image

From the original image, check out all the different options I came out with in just about three minutes.

Isn’t that awesome?

examples of contouring a complex image in Cricut Design Space
Examples of contouring Cricut’s Image

What about combining two different contours?

I am still amazed of all the things you can do. Can you believe that you can overhaul an image to create something totally different.

The following designs, were made by contouring, resizing, and finally combining the original image.

Create new designs and images with the contouring tool (from a previews one)
Don’t they look great?

How to Change Colors using the Contour Tool

Have you ever seen and image that you would like, but when you insert it is just one layer?

I know, it’s frustrating!

Say good bye to your frustration because with the contour tool you can change the colors of your images very easily.

To follow along click on the images button located on the left panel and search the following code: #M105AD97. Then select the design and insert the image in Cricut Design Space.

Q
Let’s change the colors of this image

Once you insert the image, select it and (copy paste) duplicate it. The idea is to have a copy for each color you want to use.

I wanted a different color for each line, so I copy and pasted until I had four exact duplicates.

After you finish doing that, change the color of each image by selecting it and changing the color box next to linetype on the top menu.

Cricut Quote in four different colors
Duplicate quote and change colors

Once you have all of the duplicates with the color you want to use, select all of the images and click on align (located on the top panel of the canvas area) and select the option center.

Using align center in Cricut Design Space to change colors with the contour tool
Align all quotes center

At this point you will only see one of the images, but behind it you’ll have the other three. Here’s the thing, if you try selecting from the canvas, you will always select the one on the front.

So, when trying to contour each image, select it from the layers panel (located on the right panel of the canvas)

Now, we are going to contour each image hide/delete everything we don’t want in a particular color.

To do this, select one image at the time and click on contour. On the following screenshot I have the colors I used for each line.

  • HOLD ON: Click on the yellow layer and hide all other lines
  • I’VE GOT TO: Click on the blue layer and hide all other lines
  • OVERTHINK: Click on the pink layer and hide all other lines
  • ABOUT IT: Click on the green layer and hide all other lines
Graphic explaining what line goes with different layer colors.
Use contour to change the colors of each line

Tip: Since you will be hiding, more than showing. I recommend you to click on hide all contour, and then manually click on the line you want to keep.

This is how the design will look at the end!

Doesn’t it look pretty?

Final image after changing colors wit contour
Final result after changing colors with contour

Notice each layer on the layers panel. Each image is showing, the line you picked.

How to Use Contour with Text

To finish up this tutorial lets see how to contour text in Cricut Design Space.

By default you can’t use the contour tool on text.

Why?

I honestly don’t know, but my best guess is that text is dependent on the font itself, and with contour you’ll be modifying it so much that the program can’t really take it.

Graphic that shows how to weld text so you can contour an image
Weld text so you can use the contour tool

In order for you to be able to contour text you need to weld it!

To do this, just select the word or text you want to use and click on the weld button located at the bottom of the layers panel. After welding you can now contour your word, and get rid of letters, or blank spaces on your text that you don’t want.

Note: Keep in mind that you won’t be able to edit that text after you weld. So if you think you’ll need it down the road, save a copy of it.

You can also repeat the process of copying and pasting the same design to change colors (like I explained above).

Look how it looks with different colors!

Changing text colors by using the contour method.
You can also change colors!

Before we finish this tutorial I wanted to point out that if you want to contour a single letter Design Space wont let you weld.

Ahggg… I know!

No worries though, you have two options here:

  • The first option is to just write a word with two letters, then weld and with the contouring tool, delete the letter you didn’t want in the first place.
  • The second option (check screenshot down bellow) is to duplicate the single letter you want to use, then align both copies center, and finally weld them both. After welding, you will be able to use contour with no problem.
Info graphic that shows how to contour a single letter in Cricut Design Space
Contour a single letter

Congrats!

If you followed this tutorial, let me tell you that you are a PRO at using contour in Cricut Design Space.

The question is… How are you going to use this tool from now on? Let me know in the comments bellow.

cricut design space digital ebook
Pinterest Image for this post
Pint it for Later!

Marita

Monday 6th of September 2021

Hi I have the Challenge contour font! Please help how can I get rid of the outline with the contour tool an is it possible?

Catalina

Saturday 16th of October 2021

I don't have the font :( I hope you figured it out!

Laurie Kivi

Friday 2nd of July 2021

I have given up on the Contour in DS ... ever since the update to 6.10 came up I no longer can contour and it comes up blank on my screen. I have written to cricut who instructed me to delete a bunch of directories, un-install and re-install, force reload, and now they just ignore me.

Catalina

Tuesday 27th of July 2021

I haven't had these issues. I am sorry to hear. Is it working now?

Carin Jansen

Sunday 7th of March 2021

The contour option is working very slowly, I can't see what I'm doing. Is it because the image is too complex with too many items I can turn off and on? I'm trying to make a layered mandala with it so I will be doing this many times, but with the option being so slow it will take me a month to complete. Is there a way to speed it up somehow?

Catalina

Friday 2nd of April 2021

I am sorry. Sometimes, Design Space can be a little glitchy :/ Have you tried the app? Also, try using the zoom in and out to speed up the process.

Ashley Nietz

Monday 31st of August 2020

Hi I'm trying to add color to my picture of babs and buster bunny but when i go to use contour either turns one completely black even when I duplicate I still end with a black outline no color how do I get color back

Catalina

Monday 7th of September 2020

you have to contour different parts of the image, don't click on "Hide all contour" otherwise you'll have this. Also when contouring your image should be one color. You add color to each peace you want to contour.

I have another tutorial about "filling" and image with Color in Design Space.

Coco lucier

Thursday 2nd of July 2020

This was great thanks so much ! I definitely will pass this info on to anyone else wanting to learn. Your time and effort into all these great tutorials is so very appreciated.

Catalina

Tuesday 14th of July 2020

Thank you for sharing! I am glad my tutorials are helping you!