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Using Pathfinder functions

From: Illustrator CS5 Essential Training

Video: Using Pathfinder functions

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.

Using Pathfinder functions

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.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Illustrator CS5 Essential Training
Illustrator CS5 Essential Training

126 video lessons · 82872 viewers

Mordy Golding

Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 3m 35s
    1. Welcome
      1m 18s
    2. What is Illustrator CS5?
      1m 46s
    3. Using the exercise files
  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
  21. 2m 18s
    1. Additional Illustrator learning resources
      1m 36s
    2. Goodbye

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