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Creating compound shapes

From: Illustrator CS5 Essential Training

Video: Creating compound shapes

One of the secrets to building complex artwork inside of Illustrator is to think about the concept of building shapes instead of drawing shapes. In other words, if you wanted to create something like this flower right here, instead of thinking about using a Pen tool or even a Pencil tool to try and draw the shape as it appears right here, you might think about creating several oval shapes, rotating them in a certain direction, and then combining them together to arrive at this final shape.

Creating compound shapes

One of the secrets to building complex artwork inside of Illustrator is to think about the concept of building shapes instead of drawing shapes. In other words, if you wanted to create something like this flower right here, instead of thinking about using a Pen tool or even a Pencil tool to try and draw the shape as it appears right here, you might think about creating several oval shapes, rotating them in a certain direction, and then combining them together to arrive at this final shape.

Doing so not only allows you to create these objects more quickly. It also allows you to create objects that are very precise. Now you already know how to draw primitive objects. But how do we combine those objects together to create the final shapes that we want? We've already seen one thing. Something called using compound paths to combine multiple shapes to create a final shape that maybe has some holes cut out of it. But in this case here, we are going to learn how to take multiple shapes and either combine them together or subtract them from each other to arrive at the final shape that we need.

We can do that by using something in Illustrator called compound shapes. So before we were dealing with compound paths, let's take a look now at something called compound shapes, and we are going to use a separate panel here called the Pathfinder panel to help us build these shapes. I am going to choose Window > Pathfinder. And we will see that the Pathfinder panel has several buttons here across the top called shape modes. Now I am going to zoom in just a little bit over here on this piece of artwork so we can see how these shape modes work and how they help us build artwork.

The gray background here is locked, so I don't have to worry about selecting it. I am going to start by clicking and dragging to select all these elements. Now I want to combine all these ovals together into one overall flower. But I don't want to actually combine this circle that has this thicker stroke applied to it. I am going to use that to cut a hole out of my flower later. So I am going to hold down the Shift key and I am going to now click on that one shapes so that I deselect it. So now I have all these oval selected, except for that circle here in the middle.

I am going to come to the Pathfinder panel and where it says shape modes, I am going to click on this first object here called Unite. This now combines all those shapes together. It has basically united many different shapes into one new shape. Next, I want to cut a hole out of the center of this flower and I want to use this circle to do that. Now we know that we could use a compound path for that purpose, but it's easier to actually do this directly inside of the Pathfinder panel.

So with this object right now selected, I am going to hold down my Shift key and also now select the circle. Now, I am going to come to the shape modes here and I will choose the second option, which is called Minus Front. Minus Front means it is going to take the object in front, which is this circle, and it is going to subtract it from the object beneath it. When I do so now, I have a single object that has a hole cut out of the middle. Just to show you, I am going to change the fill of this object to yellow. You could see now that only this part is filled. This part is hollow.

In fact, if I now take this object I drag it over the photograph, we can see the photo through the center of this flower. Now I am going to go back to the File menu and I am going to choose Revert, because I want to go back to the original state of this document. I want to show you some hidden functionality that exists inside of the Pathfinder panel which may be useful to you. But before we do that, I am just going to quickly create a brand new document. Command+N or Ctrl+N. I am going to click OK to take the default settings and I want to quickly give you an overview of what each of these four shape modes do.

As I said before, the secret to creating perfect art inside of Illustrator in a very efficient and easy manner is to think about building artwork instead of drawing artwork. For example, if I wanted to create some shape for example, like a crescent, I could take a circle and I can create a perfect circle, use my Selection tool, and Option-drag to create a copy of that. So now I have two circles. But you can see that I've basically created this part of the crescent shape here.

I can some of the shape modes to help me end up with just the shape that I need. So I am going to select both of these right now. Maybe I will increase the stroke weight a little bit to make it easy to understand what's happening here. I'll go through each of these shape modes. If I click on the first one, the Unite option, that takes both circles and adds them to each other as if they were one shape. So my result is this. I'm going to press Undo. If I do the Minus Front option, I get the crescent that I'm looking for. I took basically the second circle and had that second circle be subtracted from the original one, leaving me with just the part that I want.

There are two other options, however, so I am going to press Undo and show you that this option here called Intersect will only leave you with the option where the two objects overlap each other. If I press Undo and I apply the last option, which is Exclude, it will basically remove the middle part, leaving me only with this part over here of the object and this part of the object as well. But you will notice that there is also an Expand button, which is currently grayed out right now. Hmmm, what's that for? Well, let's go back to our original document here, the building_shapes.ai file, and once again I am going to zoom in on just this area right here, and we'll see where these things come into play.

I am going to start doing what I did before by clicking and dragging to select all these elements, but I am going to Shift+click on the thick black circle here so that it is not selected. Now all these ovals are selected except for that circle and instead of just clicking on the Unite button, I'm going to hold down the Option key on a Mac or the Alt key on Windows. Now I am going to click on that button with that key held down. This creates something inside of Illustrator called a compound shape that is live, meaning that I still see all of my original oval shapes right here.

But if I deselect the artwork, they appear as if they've all been fused together. Again, if I press Command+Y or Ctrl+Y to go into Outline mode, I see that my original paths still exist. However, the appearance of those paths gives me this look as if they have all been fused into one. The benefit of this is that I can now take my Direct Selection tool and click on each of these shapes individually, and even move them around. I can adjust them if I wanted to control exactly how that shape looks, even after I fuse them together.

Of course, you can nest or have multiple compound functions all applied to a single piece of artwork. So right now, I've taken a whole bunch of all those and combined them together. I now want to select all these, meaning that overall shape that I've added together, plus now this new circle, and then again instead of clicking on this button I'm going to Option+ click or Alt+click on that button. Now basically I have a single shape that has some elements that are added and some elements that are subtracted.

If I click on it to select it, I then bring my fill to focus and I change my swatch color here to yellow, I can't apply a fill if it is a single object, yet it is made up inside of this as many different objects that are still editable. At any point in time if I decide that I don't want to edit this object anymore, and I just want to kind of flatten it so it is just one object, that's when I can now click on the Expand button to now combine it all to just one flat shape. So we see now when working with artwork inside of Illustrator, I can use these shape modes to combine multiple objects into the final objects that I need in a far more efficient manner, than if I had tried to draw these from scratch using the Pen tool.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Illustrator CS5 Essential Training
Illustrator CS5 Essential Training

126 video lessons · 81630 viewers

Mordy Golding
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 3m 35s
    1. Welcome
      1m 18s
    2. What is Illustrator CS5?
      1m 46s
    3. Using the exercise files
      31s
  2. 12m 37s
    1. What are vector graphics?
      6m 3s
    2. Path and appearance
      3m 42s
    3. Stacking
      2m 52s
  3. 32m 6s
    1. The Welcome screen
      2m 23s
    2. Creating files for print
      6m 7s
    3. Creating files for the screen
      2m 55s
    4. Using prebuilt templates
      2m 40s
    5. Adding XMP metadata
      4m 18s
    6. Exploring the panels
      6m 33s
    7. Using the Control panel
      3m 11s
    8. Using workspaces
      3m 59s
  4. 43m 44s
    1. Navigating within a document
      9m 15s
    2. Using rulers and guides
      7m 26s
    3. Using grids
      3m 6s
    4. Using the bounding box
      3m 37s
    5. Using Smart Guides
      5m 56s
    6. The Hide Edges command
      3m 22s
    7. Various preview modes
      3m 47s
    8. Creating custom views
      4m 3s
    9. Locking and hiding artwork
      3m 12s
  5. 28m 46s
    1. Using the basic selection tools
      8m 50s
    2. Using the Magic Wand tool
      5m 22s
    3. Using the Lasso tool
      2m 28s
    4. Selecting objects by attribute or type
      3m 37s
    5. Saving and reusing selections
      2m 15s
    6. Selecting artwork beneath other objects
      2m 13s
    7. Exploring selection preferences
      4m 1s
  6. 1h 16m
    1. The importance of modifier keys
      1m 52s
    2. Drawing closed path primitives
      11m 38s
    3. Drawing open path primitives
      5m 47s
    4. Understanding anchor points
      3m 43s
    5. Drawing straight paths with the Pen tool
      7m 37s
    6. Drawing curved paths with the Pen tool
      9m 47s
    7. Drawing freeform paths with the Pencil tool
      5m 33s
    8. Smoothing and erasing paths
      3m 8s
    9. Editing anchor points
      7m 21s
    10. Joining and averaging paths
      10m 9s
    11. Simplifying paths
      4m 55s
    12. Using Offset Path
      2m 17s
    13. Cleaning up errant paths
      2m 32s
  7. 48m 26s
    1. The Draw Inside and Draw Behind modes
      7m 34s
    2. Creating compound paths
      5m 56s
    3. Creating compound shapes
      8m 0s
    4. Using the Shape Builder tool
      10m 28s
    5. Using Pathfinder functions
      8m 6s
    6. Splitting an object into a grid
      1m 16s
    7. Using the Blob Brush and Eraser tools
      7m 6s
  8. 49m 5s
    1. Creating point text
      4m 2s
    2. Creating area text
      8m 13s
    3. Applying basic character settings
      7m 44s
    4. Applying basic paragraph settings
      4m 28s
    5. Creating text threads
      8m 25s
    6. Setting text along an open path
      6m 29s
    7. Setting text along a closed path
      6m 24s
    8. Converting text into paths
      3m 20s
  9. 18m 55s
    1. Create a logo mark
      11m 26s
    2. Add type to your logo
      7m 29s
  10. 42m 42s
    1. Using the Appearance panel
      8m 21s
    2. Targeting object attributes
      4m 42s
    3. Adding multiple attributes
      4m 25s
    4. Applying Live Effects
      5m 18s
    5. Expanding appearances
      4m 42s
    6. Appearance panel settings
      4m 33s
    7. Copying appearances
      4m 51s
    8. Saving appearances as graphic styles
      5m 50s
  11. 34m 0s
    1. Applying color to artwork
      5m 57s
    2. Creating process and global process swatches
      8m 54s
    3. Creating spot color swatches
      3m 19s
    4. Loading PANTONE and other custom color libraries
      4m 49s
    5. Organizing colors with Swatch Groups
      3m 31s
    6. Finding color suggestions with the Color Guide panel
      4m 24s
    7. Loading the Color Guide with user-defined colors
      3m 6s
  12. 50m 23s
    1. Creating gradients with the Gradient panel
      8m 12s
    2. Modifying gradients with the Gradient Annotator
      4m 37s
    3. Applying and manipulating pattern fills
      5m 33s
    4. Defining your own custom pattern fills
      9m 13s
    5. Applying basic stroke settings
      5m 22s
    6. Creating strokes with dashed lines
      3m 41s
    7. Adding arrowheads to strokes
      2m 45s
    8. Creating variable-width strokes
      4m 35s
    9. Working with width profiles
      2m 36s
    10. Turning strokes into filled paths
      3m 49s
  13. 32m 46s
    1. Creating and editing groups
      8m 18s
    2. Adding attributes to groups
      12m 17s
    3. The importance of using layers
      5m 9s
    4. Using and "reading" the Layers panel
      7m 2s
  14. 12m 13s
    1. Creating and using multiple artboards
      7m 52s
    2. Modifying artboards with the Artboards panel
      2m 2s
    3. Copy and paste options with Artboards
      2m 19s
  15. 31m 10s
    1. Moving and copying artwork
      3m 55s
    2. Scaling or resizing artwork
      6m 47s
    3. Rotating artwork
      2m 44s
    4. Reflecting and skewing artwork
      2m 34s
    5. Using the Free Transform tool
      2m 15s
    6. Repeating transformations
      3m 39s
    7. Performing individual transforms across multiple objects
      2m 10s
    8. Aligning objects and groups precisely
      4m 27s
    9. Distributing objects and spaces between objects
      2m 39s
  16. 35m 40s
    1. Placing pixel-based content into Illustrator
      5m 14s
    2. Managing images with the Links panel
      4m 49s
    3. Converting pixels to paths with Live Trace
      8m 44s
    4. Making Live Trace adjustments
      6m 9s
    5. Controlling colors in Live Trace
      6m 4s
    6. Using Photoshop and Live Trace together
      4m 40s
  17. 14m 42s
    1. Managing repeating artwork with symbols
      4m 38s
    2. Modifying and replacing symbol instances
      3m 8s
    3. Using the Symbol Sprayer tool
      6m 56s
  18. 16m 57s
    1. Cropping photographs
      1m 59s
    2. Clipping artwork with masks
      3m 22s
    3. Clipping the contents of a layer
      3m 31s
    4. Defining masks with soft edges
      8m 5s
  19. 26m 2s
    1. Defining a perspective grid
      7m 48s
    2. Drawing artwork in perspective
      8m 46s
    3. Moving flat art onto the perspective grid
      9m 28s
  20. 25m 8s
    1. Printing your Illustrator document
      3m 26s
    2. Saving your Illustrator document
      6m 39s
    3. Creating PDF files for clients and printers
      7m 30s
    4. Exporting Illustrator files for use in Microsoft Office
      1m 4s
    5. Exporting Illustrator files for use in Photoshop
      2m 31s
    6. Exporting artwork for use on the web
      3m 3s
    7. Exporting high-resolution raster files
      55s
  21. 2m 18s
    1. Additional Illustrator learning resources
      1m 36s
    2. Goodbye
      42s

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