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The Importance of The Winding Rule

When I mention “The Winding Rule”, you may think it has something to do with The Beatles song The Long and Winding Road. It might make for good listening while I try to explain, but they are completely unrelated.

When a curve is drawn as a vector graphic, the path can either be followed clockwise or counter-clockwise. Most of the time, it doesn’t really matter to users. It can make a difference for those who are cutting some sort of material as it determines the path of the cutting device. If you want to change the direction, make sure to have the Shape tool selected in CorelDRAW and then click the Reverse Curve Direction on the Property Bar. I know, many of you are still asking why you should really care.

The reason it is so important is that it can determine whether combining two objects works the way you desire. For the simplest example possible, draw two concentric circles. Go ahead and convert them both to curves (Ctrl + Q). Now combine the two together (Ctrl + L) and you should end up with a donut. Mmmm, donuts!

I know, you still wonder why this is so important and we’re getting there. Go ahead and Undo the combine (Ctrl + Z) so you have the two circles again. Select the inside circle with the Shape tool and reverse the curve direction using the button on the Property Bar. Now try combining the circles again and you’ll most likely find that the hole was not cut out as before. I bet you can now understand the importance of the winding rule. Should you run into a situation where combining two objects isn’t getting the result you desire, change the curve direction on one of them and I bet it find it works perfectly.

About Foster D. Coburn III

Foster D. Coburn III is the author of thirteen books on CorelDRAW, the latest being CorelDRAW X6 Unleashed. He has been a contributor to numerous magazines. Foster has taken many projects, including this Web site and many more, from the early design stage through to a finished piece. He has been a featured speaker at many graphics and Web conferences.

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  1. I got very excited about this, but am not finding any difference. I see the direction arrow changing on the node, but I’m getting the donut both ways…lol on the Homer reference btw!!

  2. Where the difference is going to be really obvious is when you try it sometime and it doesn’t work. It may not happen often, but the tip (and feature) will be a lifesaver when things don’t combine correctly.

  3. Foster, I had a situation and this explanation resolved the issue. Can you explain a little more what winding is and why it’s even an issue. I guess what I’m asking is, why was it written into the software? Why does it matter?

    • Foster D. Coburn III

      This is not a “software” issue. The curve can only be drawn in two ways, clockwise or counterclockwise. On rare occasions there is an issue because whichever direction is the wrong way.

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