Illustrator Insider Training: Drawing without the Pen Tool
Illustration by John Hersey

Using the Pathfinder functions


Illustrator Insider Training: Drawing without the Pen Tool

with Mordy Golding

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Video: Using the Pathfinder functions

In the previous movie, we discussed the options that appear towards the top part of the Pathfinder panel. Under this section here called Shape Modes, we discussed things like this Add or Unite, this Subtract or Minus Front and then we have Intersect and Exclude. In this movie, we are going to focus on the items that appear inside the Pathfinder grouping, which are these right here, this one is called Divide and we have one here called Trim, Merge, Crop and we have Outline and Minus Back.
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  1. 7m 4s
    1. Welcome
      1m 21s
    2. The evolution of vector drawing
      3m 46s
    3. Getting the most out of this training
      1m 30s
    4. Using the exercise files
  2. 39m 2s
    1. Plotting points vs. drawing paths
      5m 36s
    2. Drawing artwork vs. building artwork
      7m 59s
    3. The keyboard shortcuts you HAVE to know
      8m 52s
    4. Groups and layers really do matter
      3m 11s
    5. Taming Smart Guides and the Bounding Box
      10m 53s
    6. Do you need a drawing tablet?
      2m 31s
  3. 47m 51s
    1. To sketch or not to sketch?
      2m 32s
    2. Setting up a template layer for your sketch
      3m 37s
    3. Optimizing default settings for drawing
      5m 27s
    4. Using the primitive shapes tools
      5m 7s
    5. Mastering the modifier keys
      2m 8s
    6. Mastering the transform tools
      6m 37s
    7. Creating curves with the Reshape tool
      6m 44s
    8. Using the Smooth tool
      3m 35s
    9. Using Simplify to create smooth paths
      3m 2s
    10. Recording an action for the Simplify command
      5m 2s
    11. Mirroring art for speed and accuracy
      4m 0s
  4. 50m 18s
    1. Deconstructing the Pathfinder panel
      1m 56s
    2. Using the Shape Modes functions
      12m 4s
    3. Using the Pathfinder functions
      13m 4s
    4. Understanding how compound shapes work
      11m 45s
    5. Understanding why compound shapes exist
      7m 32s
    6. Exploring additional Pathfinder options
      3m 57s
  5. 52m 51s
    1. Why Live Paint was created
      10m 45s
    2. Creating a Live Paint group
      4m 21s
    3. Using the Live Paint Bucket tool
      7m 8s
    4. Using Live Paint with open paths
      5m 6s
    5. Detecting gaps in Live Paint groups
      3m 42s
    6. Adding paths to a Live Paint group
      5m 34s
    7. Using the Live Paint Selection tool
      6m 28s
    8. Releasing and expanding Live Paint groups
      2m 59s
    9. Understanding how Live Paint works
      6m 48s
  6. 27m 37s
    1. Why the Shape Builder tool was created
      4m 18s
    2. Focusing on the big three: Add, Subtract, and Divide
      2m 27s
    3. Using the Shape Builder tool to add and subtract artwork
      9m 50s
    4. Using the Shape Builder to divide artwork
      3m 48s
    5. Building and coloring artwork at the same time
      3m 50s
    6. Using Gap Detection with the Shape Builder tool
      3m 24s
  7. 23m 2s
    1. Understanding how variable widths work
      8m 25s
    2. Modifying width points along a path
      7m 9s
    3. Saving time with width profiles
      5m 14s
    4. Turning variable width strokes into filled paths
      2m 14s
  8. 28m 21s
    1. Understanding how the Pen and Pencil tools differ
      4m 41s
    2. Adjusting the behavior of the Pencil tool
      7m 5s
    3. Using the Path Eraser tool
      1m 17s
    4. Drawing with the Calligraphic Brush tool
      5m 43s
    5. Drawing with the Blob Brush tool
      5m 53s
    6. Using the Eraser tool
      3m 42s
  9. 3m 44s
    1. Looking at the VectorScribe plug-in
      2m 16s
    2. Next steps
      1m 28s

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Watch the Online Video Course Illustrator Insider Training: Drawing without the Pen Tool
4h 39m Intermediate Oct 06, 2011

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In this installment of the Illustrator Insider Training series, Mordy Golding shows how to draw vector artwork quickly, precisely, and efficiently—without having to think about technical concepts like anchor points or control handles. The course highlights intuitive drawing techniques using the Pathfinder functions, Live Paint groups, Shape Builder tool, and variable-width strokes. It also describes the sketching workflow and features in Illustrator that use pressure-sensitive drawing tablets, allowing designers to focus more on their creativity.

Topics include:
  • Drawing artwork versus building artwork
  • Sketching ideas on paper
  • Creating curves with the Reshape tool
  • Recording actions for speed and accuracy
  • Working with the Pathfinder functions
  • Understanding how Live Paint works
  • Using the Shape Builder tool
  • Building and coloring artwork at the same time
  • Turning variable-width strokes into filled paths
  • Adjusting the behavior of the Pencil tool
  • Drawing with the Calligraphic brush
Mordy Golding

Using the Pathfinder functions

In the previous movie, we discussed the options that appear towards the top part of the Pathfinder panel. Under this section here called Shape Modes, we discussed things like this Add or Unite, this Subtract or Minus Front and then we have Intersect and Exclude. In this movie, we are going to focus on the items that appear inside the Pathfinder grouping, which are these right here, this one is called Divide and we have one here called Trim, Merge, Crop and we have Outline and Minus Back.

So let's see what these do here. Now, in order to better describe this, I have created a just a little bit of a different type of piece of artwork here, which are two overlapping yellow circles and then one red rectangle that kind of appears across all these and you have everything just a single black stroke that has a way to four points. So now let's see what happens when we start applying these Pathfinder functions to this shape right here or actually the combination of these shapes right here and then once we understand what each of these do, we'll see how we can apply these to again working with the stripes here across the belly of Mister Zee.

Now once again, I am going to start by first selecting the artwork, in order for us to apply any Pathfinder, we first had to select the artwork that we want to have these functions applied to, I am actually going to zoom in just a little bit here, kind of focus on just this area right now, so we can better see what's going to happen. I am going to start by clicking on this one here called Divide. As we are going to find out Divide is something that we are going to use quite often, it's probably one of the most useful of the Pathfinders and if I click on it what it simply does is it takes all the overlapping areas of all my shapes and turns them into their own individual shapes.

So notice over here, I have three objects inside of the selection, I have one circle, another circle and this rectangle here. But if I go ahead now and select these three shapes and I click on Divide, I'm going to get many more shapes. Each of the overlapping areas have now become their own shape and they all have taken on the strokes as well. So you can see that if I now double- click on this to isolate this entire group, I have one object here, one object here, one object here, so on and so forth, for all the areas that overlap each other.

So if I want to for example, take this shape right here and kind of move them out, you can see that Illustrator went ahead now and turned each of these overlapping areas into their own shapes, I am going to press Undo a few times, just to go back here, now I am no longer in my Isolation mode, I am back to my 3 shapes that I have right now selected, so I can now apply a different Pathfinder. But we can see that what Divide does, is it takes my artwork and actually splits them or breaks them apart, into each of their individual sections. Now let's take a look at the next Pathfinder here, which is called Trim.

Now if I now have these three selected and I choose the Trim option let's see what happened. First of all notice that the strokes themselves have now disappeared, when you apply this particular Pathfinder, it takes all stroke attributes and gets rid of them. It then takes a look at your artwork itself and it breaks them apart into pieces, but it does not treat the overlapping areas as their own pieces, it just takes the final visual aspect of my artwork and it gives me pieces for those. So you can see over here, I don't have pieces for the overlapping areas of the circle because the circles themselves overlapped and one was in front of the other.

So what I have now is if I double-click on this to isolate it, I have one shape here, one shape, here, here and here and then I have this shape right now. But I don't have all the regions that were formed just because of the overlapping paths themselves. So really what this does is it kind of takes a look at the overall appearance of the artwork and it breaks into sections based on how they look, not necessarily on how the paths themselves intersect each other. I am going to press once again Command +Z or Ctrl+Z a couple of times to hit Undo, to go back to my original state.

So we've just seen right now the trim function here in the Pathfinder. But I'm now going to apply is the Merge Pathfinder and when you see that I click on it, it actually looks very similar to what the Trim gave me. I can see now that I have the yellow areas on top and bottom and I have the red area across the middle. The only difference between Trim and Merge is as follows. When I now double-click to isolate this, and I move this done, you can now see that these two circles have become merged together into one shape. And these two tops of the circles are merged into one shape.

Again, in this case here my object was broken into pieces based on how they appeared visually, but Illustrator went a step further and it also took a look at which objects were filled with the same colors. Now the two circles were both filled with yellow. So Illustrator merged those into one united shape. So it kind of did like a Pathfinder Trim and the Unite all in one step. It took a look at what objects were filled with the same color at it combined them one single shape. Once again I am going to press Command+ Z or Ctrl+Z few times to go back to my original piece of artwork, and now let's take a look at this other option here called Crop.

Now Crop can be very useful, it allows you to take a single object at the top of your stacking order and use that as almost like a mask for other objects that appear beneath it, but instead of just masking the artwork it actually clips and cuts the artwork, so that all you're left with is the piece of art that's visible within the balance of that mask. If that sounds little bit complicated, let me kind of give you a better idea of about what's going to happen right now. I have two circles, they overlap each other and then on top of that I had this red rectangle. Now, when I apply this Crop command because my red rectangle is at the top of my stacking order, Illustrator is going to remove any parts of the circles that appear outside the balance of the topmost object, which is the red rectangle here.

All I am going to be left with is the parts of the circles that now appear within the boundary of this topmost object. So let's see how that works. When I go here right now to my Pathfinder panel, click on Crop and you can see that all I am left with right now are the two overlapping circles, if I double-click right now you can see the two sections. The part of the top here was removed and the parts in the bottom were removed and all I am left with is any artwork that was left it in the balance of that rectangular shape. I am going to press Ctrl+Z to go back here for a moment, it's important to realize that the Crop command actually gets rid of your strokes, you can see that my black stroke disappeared.

That's because whenever I have a stroke, the actual appearance of stroke may not be able to match the balance my shape. Right now I use the rectangle, but you can see over here that if I have a stroke, a stroke may not match the exact angle that I have over here of my particular area, on top of that the part of the circle that goes across the top here would be to get a stroke too. So Illustrator will to go to my shapes, it will actually look at the paths themselves and we will use the appearance meaning the fill the make it yellow as far as being on the inside, but stroke attributes or brush attributes, those will all get lost when performing the Crop command, if you want to get around that and you really want to crop something perfectly, either use a real mask or before you apply this Crop command, go ahead and take your artwork and either expand it, if it has brushes applied to it or go to the Object menu choose Path and then choose Outline Stroke that will turn the actual stroke, here attributes will fill path and then you will get the results that you are looking for, you will not lose that stroke attribute.

So we have two more Pathfinders to look at. This one here is called the Outline command. I honestly don't know when you'd ever use this. In fact many of these pathfinders are really used in very specific situations, but this one if I click on it at first glance it looks like nothing actually happened, but if I deselect my artwork we can see what Illustrator did here. It basically now took all the objects themselves and got rid of the fills, but applied a stroke to that. And it went ahead and also applied the color, which was my fill color and use that fill color as the stroke color for that object and if I basically double-click here to isolate this, if I click on each object you can see that it basically turned the paths into their own kind of individual sections.

So it's almost like a Pathfinder divide, but for strokes instead of the fills themselves. So it gives me more of kind of a break down here, the objects and it turns by fill colors and stroke colors, kind of a weird kind of affect here, but if you ever need it you will have this outline command available to you. I am going to press Command+Z to back to my original shape and the last option here is called Minus Back. Now if we go back over here to the Shape Modes we have an item here called Minus Front or subtract and this would allow us to take our topmost object and it's attracted from the objects that appear beneath it.

But sometimes we want to do reverse we actually want to use the back most object and we want to remove that basically from the front. So if I choose this option here called Minus Back then you could see it takes all the circles from the back of the objects in the bottom of my stacking order and removes them from the object that appears at the top of my stacking order. So that's an overview of exactly what these pathfinders can do for you. Let's see how we might to apply them in the artwork that we're working on here, which is drawing Mister Zee, I am going to delete this artwork over here. Let's kind of scroll down here to the bottom.

Let me actually zoom in just a bit here and let's take a look at the pieces of the artwork that we have, we've already use the Exclude shape mode to actually get a closer representation of what we want with the stripes here, across the belly of Mister Zee. Now I also have this line that goes across the belly itself here which determines the outline. And what I want to do is I want to now take all of these shapes and combine them together, to get at the final shapes that I want to work with. Before I do this, I am going to actually perform another step here because I want to be able to anticipate what's going to happen, when I work with Pathfinder.

If I were to now select these three shapes, and also the belly line over here, because I am going to need to do that to actually get at the actual shapes themselves over here. I am going to have a problem when I apply my Pathfinder because whenever you apply Pathfinder, it actually combines all of your selected shapes and in some areas I am going to end up removing or destroying parts of those shapes. So if I really at the end of the day still want to always have a single line here across the belly which I really want to have for just the overall body shape, by selecting it right now and then using it in a Pathfinder function, I'm going to lose that shape and I will no longer had access to it, or no longer continue to be that shape and I want it to be.

So many times that I am working with Pathfinder and this actually, as we learn more and more about building artwork inside of Illustrator, it's probably one of the negative aspects of using a Pathfinder command, is that I always need to make sure that I'm copying and pasting artwork, so that I don't lose it later on. So what I am going to do is I am simply going to click on this path right here select it, I am going to hit Command+C or Ctrl+C to copy it and then I am going to press Command+Shift+V or Ctrl+Shift+V to paste in place. That's by the way a new command found inside of Illustrator CS5, another thing you can do is you can press Command+F or Ctrl+F for paste in front and that will also paste it in exact same location.

Now when that object is still selected, I am going to hit Command+2 or Ctrl+2 to lock that object. So now if I click on this just to show you when I move it away, you see I still have another piece of artwork here this line, which is going to remain untouched because I have locked it. So this way I preserve it in case I want to be able to use that shape later on and press Undo to move his object here. And I am now going to take my regular Selection tool here and click and drag to Marquee select the three shapes here that I created using the Exclude command and this one of the shape here across the bottom of the belly.

Now I am going to use the Divide Pathfinder and that's going to basically turn all of these shapes now into individual objects or kind of chop them up into pieces based on the geometry, right. So now when I click on this, I'm now gong to have all of my different areas, I am going to double-click to isolate. And now if I click down here I can hit Delete, I can remove that shape, kind of drag across here and delete these shapes, delete these shapes as well in the shape right here. And you can now see that all I am left with are the three shapes themselves.

Now I am going to double-click or it Escape to exit Isolation mode. I still have my original path over here because I've locked that one, right. in fact I can now choose Command+ Option+2 or Ctrl+Alt+2 on Windows. So now I have the three stripes that I am working with, which if I wanted to, I can actually fill with a black color because that's the color of the stripes and I still have this line over here which remains intact. So that's another way, how I might use Pathfinders inside of Illustrator, especially in this case using the Divide command.

That allows them to take multiple overlapping areas, chop them into pieces. So now by using a combination of for example Exclude as we have done before and now Divide, I get at the final stripes that I want to create and notice by the way how clean and crisp and perfectly stripes are, they are just the way that I need them for the illustration that I am trying to create. This in essence is what building artwork is all about, by using Pathfinder to actually combine or use multiple objects, to get it the final shapes that I want to create.

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