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When working in Illustrator, we're often doing a lot of path editing, for example, combining paths, working with anchor points, and also combining anchor points together to create an overall single path. For example, I have some artwork on my screen here. Let me zoom in just a little bit closer here and when I go ahead and I select it - the middle area is actually locked right now, I'm just dealing with the outer area - say I wanted to fill this background shape with a color, for example, maybe yellow. If I go ahead now and I choose yellow for my Fill color, I'll find that I'm not getting the results that I'm really looking for. The reason why is because these shapes are not connected to each other.
All these shapes are actually separated. This can happen for a variety of reasons. First of all, you may have drawn them that way. For example, you may have had separate shapes that you now just positioned so they look like they're attached, but they're not really connected to each other. I am going to press Undo to move these together. Another way that this happens is many times you get artworks that's imported from other sources, for example, CAD applications. Many times, those paths are drawn as if they look like they're connected, but they're all separate paths. It's then up to you to do a tedious work to connect those paths.
What has always make that process difficult is that in Illustrator, there has been limitation that you are only able to connect two anchor points at a time. That would mean you need to use your Direct Selection tool, marquee select two anchor points right here and then join those two together, then do the same thing for these anchor points, and for these anchor points, so on and so forth, until you complete your shape. However, now in Illustrator CS5, we finally have the ability to combine multiple paths all at the same time. All you need to do now is simply use your Regular Selection tool, select all of your paths, even though they aren't connected to each other, and from the Object menu, choose Path, and then choose Join. The keyboard shortcut is Command+J.
With one simple command, all of your elements are now fused together into one new shape that you can now work with.
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