Creating custom line ends in Sibelius with SVG files and Illustrator


Recently our office was tasked with engraving Philip Glass’s Music in Twelve Parts for a performance by an outside ensemble. Philip’s manuscript is in a kind of repeat shorthand that we wanted to replicate as much as possible, but that necessitated coming up with a line style for repeats that ends with text, which Sibelius doesn’t easily do.

Fortunately, since as of Sibelius 7 it’s possible to import SVG files as symbols, I was able to figure out a workaround to create several line styles using text that matches our house style for this project. And since it’s based on SVGs, it’s scalable without making the glyphs fuzzy  — and that means I don’t have to do complicated math to size it correctly.

A section of manuscript from Philip Glass’s Music in Twelve Parts:

To create a workaround for this required three separate tasks:

  • create the SVGs in Illustrator
  • create symbols from the SVGs in Sibelius
  • create line styles using the symbols in Sibelius

Creating the SVGs in Illustrator

I knew I needed nine separate symbols, so I set up one document with nine artboards all sized 20 × 10 points.

In the first art board, create a text box the size of the board, and put in the multiplication sign and numeral:

I have a keyboard setup that allows me to access the “×” glyph, which is super handy, but you can access it from the “show emoji & symbols” table on a Mac.

Also, note that I’ve set the font to Plantin MT Standard, 12 pts, to match the house style in Sibelius.

Copy that text frame, and then use the handy command Paste on All Artboards:

Which magically does this:

Change them to match your needed line ends:

Note that I reduced the tracking on the double-digit numbers to keep things compact. That’s here on the Character menu:

So this:

becomes this:

Select all, and choose Create Outlines from the Type menu:

That turns the type into vectors.

Last thing to do is select the objects on each art board and go to Object > Artboards > Fit to Selected Art to fit the art board to the objects (which isn’t strictly necessary, but it’s tidy).

You’ll end up with this:

Last thing in illustrator is to export the SVGs. Go to File > Export > Export As… then select SVG and check Use Artboards so that you get nine individual files.

That should leave you with a folder of graphics to import as symbols.

Creating the symbols in Sibelius

This is pretty much the same as it’s always been.

Create a new symbol by going to Notations > Symbols clicking on the Edit Symbols dialog launcher arrow in the Ribbon:

Click New…

Name your symbol, and import the graphic. Also, set the % Scale to 750.

Continue until you have symbols for all the graphics.

Creating the line styles in Sibelius

I created this as a staff line that goes on the top instrument, then is copied to the remaining instruments and hidden. I could not get a system line style to have a reliable right end position. I created a new line style based off of a staff bracket, with the following changes:

Then, instead of creating the rest of the line styles, I set the design and position for this line style at Appearance > Design and Position > Default Positions so it would copy to the rest as well at one time:

Then I could create the rest of the single-digit line styles. I had to change the double-digit lines’ position in the line style, as well, when I got to them:

That’s it! I now have line styles to indicate these repeated groups, and the ends stay put in the parts.

The manuscript section at the top, engraved (and showing the hidden lines that will show in the parts):

Cory Davis is an editor and production manager for new works at Dunvagen Music and St. Rose Music in New York City.


  1. Bob Zawalich

    This really raises the bar for tutorial blog posts!! I don’t recall ever looking at a tutorial and things “this is really beautiful”, but I did for this one. The graphics are well chosen and nicely laid out. There are lots of steps shown, but they are all pertinent, and it feels like you could reproduce the steps without finding yourself in that weird state of “I was following the steps and I got here, but what do I do now?” Nice job, Cory.

    The concept of using Lines as a way to position symbols is a very useful one.

    I don’t have Illustrator, but one can use Inkscape, which is free, to create SVG graphics, which really seems to me to be the format of choice for adding graphics to Sibelius. I have used Inkscape to create symbols to use in Noteheads and lines, and just to create symbols and it works really well.

    If you can create the appropriate graphic files by any means, you can follow Cory’s steps from “Creating the symbols in Sibelius” to make up symbols and lines. You can use symbols to make noteheads as well.

    Just remember that if you want to use these symbols in other scores, you will need to export a house style or create a Manuscript Paper, or copy symbols from a score that contains them.

    Anyway, this was a very useful tutorial, and it was very well presented.

    1. Cory Davis

      Thank you for the kind words, Bob. Praise from the praiseworthy is praise indeed!

    2. Philip Rothman

      Thanks, Bob! Yes, Cory has certainly set a high standard here. Your point about using another graphics program is duly noted. I use Autodesk’s Graphic (formerly iDraw) for similar tasks.

  2. Matt Butterfield

    Hi Cory, thanks for the tutorial, very informative. I’m wondering if this score for ‘music in twelve parts’ is available for download/purchase anywhere? Thanks!

  3. Jürgen Selk

    In googling around for a solution to my problem, I came across this post; I was hopeful… but it still doesn’t work for me. I have experimented with importing SVG files created both by Illustrator and by Inkscape into Sibelius for the purpose of creating new Symbols. All of it works just fine, and the items display, and scale, crisply, as one would expect from a vector drawing. But when I export the file to PDF, which I need to do ultimately, all these items become rasterized. The image quality is terrible. I cannot find why this happens. It isn’t much use to import scaleable vector graphics, if, on output, those items become bitmapped.

    Are your items actually still vector items when exported to PDF?

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