Easy-to-follow video tutorials help you learn software, creative, and business skills.Become a member
When we think about building objects inside of Illustrator instead of drawing them, we know that we can use the Pathfinder panel to help us accomplish that task. And so far we've used things like shape modes, Unite, Minus Front, Intersect and Exclude. However, if you take a look at the bottom half of the Pathfinder panel, you will notice that there are some icons here called Pathfinders. These are things like Divide, Trim, Merge, Crop, Outline, and Minus Back.
Rather than thinking about these as ways to accomplish a single shape, we use Pathfinders as calculations to kind of break objects apart so that we can get just the parts that we need. Each of these Pathfinder functions performs different types of calculations. So let's take a few moments to see what they actually are. By far, the most popular Pathfinder that's used is something called Divide. This simply takes a whole bunch of overlapping objects and divides them all by their overlapping regions.
So let's take this first example right here. I am going to click and drag to marquee select these three flowers. It's three objects that overlap each other, but if I use divide right now, you can see that my result if I use my Direct Selection tool is a whole bunch of objects that are chopped up, made up of all the overlapping regions or parts of those three flowers. I am going to press Undo to kind of go back to the original shape here. Just to show you another popular use of the Divide function, if I take any shape, in this case here an oval, and I simply draw a line right through the middle, I can select both of these elements and choose Divide and Illustrator basically now chops that into two separate pieces.
So it's an easy way to kind of slice up one bigger object or several objects into multiple smaller objects. I will go ahead now and just undo a few times to delete that. Let's now talk about the second Pathfinder called Trim. So in this case here I am going to select these three elements right here. Again, they are the same three overlapping flowers right here. I am going to choose Trim and the first thing you will notice is that the stroke attributes have gone away. So the first thing that Trim does is it gets rid of the stroke and it also trims the objects where they overlap.
So you can see if I use my Direct Selection tool, I am left with one shape that's here, but the rest of this flower, which used to be beneath these other flowers, has been removed. It's gone. The same thing with this part of flower as well. The only flower that remains intact is this one because it was on top. So basically Illustrated trimmed all the objects so that there are no overlapping areas. I just see some flat art that's here. This can be useful many times when creating, for example, color separations for screen-printing.
There are many uses where you might need to use Trim where you specifically want to get rid of the overlapping areas of objects. And that brings us to our next setting here after Trim is something called Merge. If I use my Selection tool now to select these shapes, you'll notice that the only difference that I have here between what I've seen before and now is that these two flowers here are actually of the same color. Before I had three flowers each with a different color. Now I have three flowers, but two of those flowers do share the same fill color.
Well, the Merge command here inside of the Pathfinder panel actually performs the exact same command that the Trim one does, with one exception. If it finds colors that have similar fills, it combines those into a single shape. So let's see what happens. I am now going to choose Merge, and my result now is two shapes. One shape here. And one shape here. Like the Trim, it got rid of the stroke attributes and it removed any extra areas that are beneath other objects, but what's different here is that since it founds two objects that have the same fill color, it also merged those together into one shape.
So my result here was three separate shapes. Here my result is two shapes. Let's take a look now at the next Pathfinder command. This one is called Crop. If I now again switch back to my Selection tool and I select all of these elements, here I basically have the same three flowers but I also have an oval that I've drawn on top of this. What the Crop command will do is it will take the topmost object and use that as some kind of base to determine where the objects will be visible beneath it.
Any part of objects or artwork that appears beneath that oval will actually get removed from the file entirely. So effectively it crops the artwork using that topmost shape. So let's see how that works. With everything selected, I'm now going to go to Pathfinder panel and click on Crop. Now once again it removed all of the strokes of my artwork. It also basically performed the Trim command. If I look now at my Direct Selection tool, I only see the parts of the artwork here that were inside the oval and any parts of the object that appeared beneath other parts were removed as well.
While the Crop command is certainly useful for certain types of art, many times you will probably want to create a mask inside of Illustrator, which allows you to have the full appearance of the artwork appear inside of it, meaning things like stroke attributes and even images, and we will talk about masks in detail in another chapter in this training title. Let's take a look now at the last two Pathfinder options. Once again, I am going to use my regular Selection tool here to select these three flowers that I have created, and now I'll come here to Pathfinder panel and click on the Outline option.
Notice now, remember in the past, we've had the stroke options removed. This does the exact opposite. It keeps the strokes, but it gets rid of all the fills. The Outline command is useful when you really want to deal with just the paths themselves and you are not interested in the fills. In fact, Illustrator did something very interesting here. It's difficult to see here because all the strokes have a value of zero, but if I were to now click on this and change my stroke weight to something like five points, you can see what Illustrator did here.
When I performed this Outline command, the fill colors now became the stroke colors. So remember, this flower was filled with this blue color, this flower was filled with this color, and this one with a darker color here. Now those fill colors all were transferred to the stroke settings and the fills have been removed. In addition, if I use my Direct Selection tool and I click on entire objects here, I can see that the objects have been kind of chopped apart, similar to divide, but again in this case focusing on the stroke attributes and not necessarily on the fill attributes.
So you can almost think of Outline as the exact opposite of the Divide command. Divide focuses on the fills of the objects, whereas Outline focuses on the strokes of the objects. Finally, we have the Minus Back command. The Minus Back command is actually the exact opposite of the Minus Front command that appears right here. See normally when I have several objects selected, and I choose the Minus Front option, Illustrator finds the front-most objects and subtracts them from the back-most objects.
If I click on the button you'll see exactly what I mean. I am going to press Undo though. If I choose the Minus Back Option, Illustrator looks at the artwork in the back and uses that to remove the objects from the front. So in this case here, these two back- most objects remove parts of the object that was in front. So like I said before, if I press Undo here, it's the exact same reverse of the Minus Front command. So there's an overview now of the Pathfinder functions that you will find inside of the Pathfinder panel.
Again, then very helpful for when you are working inside of Illustrator, but as you can see, they all perform very specialized tasks. So don't feel like you need to know and memorize all these. Just know that if you ever need them, you can come directly to the Pathfinder panel and find that.
Get unlimited access to all courses for just $25/month.Become a member
119 Video lessons · 50802 Viewers
117 Video lessons · 38494 Viewers
113 Video lessons · 81509 Viewers
65 Video lessons · 11438 Viewers
Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.
Search within course videos and transcripts, and jump right to the results.
Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.
Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.
Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.
Your file was successfully uploaded.