Join Deke McClelland for an in-depth discussion in this video Combining and splitting paths, part of Introducing Illustrator.
A lot of folks when they first start using Illustrator anticipate that they'll be spending most of their time with a pen tool. And if you've never heard of that tool, it'll ask you to draw any path outline you can imagine one anchor point at a time. It's a great tool and we'll be seeing it in a future movie. But it's quite labor intensive, which is why much of Illustrator is devoted to the task of helping you find a simpler approach. In this movie, for example, we're going to draw this interstate sign from scratch, using nothing more than rectangles and ellipses that we'll combine together using the shape builder tool.
So if you're working along with me, the first thing I'd like you to do is go up to the Window menu and choose the layers command in order to bring up the layers panel and you'll see that we have two layers, one's called template and the other's called drawing. Notice this circular target to the right of the word template. Go ahead an click on it, in order to target the entire layer. And then, go up to the Control Panel, to the opacity value, an change it to 25%. And that way, we're changing this layer into a kind of tracing template.
And, just to make sure it works exactly the way we want it to, go ahead and double click on the layer in order to bring up the layer options dialogue box. And turn on the template check box right there. And then go ahead and click OK. And that'll lock the layer down so we don't harm it. Now, go ahead and click on the drawing layer to make it active. And then, you can click the the double arrow icon here in order to hide the layers panel. Now we want to trace the right edge of the sign using a circle.
So, go over to the Shape Tool fly out menu, and click and hold and select the ellipse tool from the list, and then start dragging over here someplace, like so, and so we're going to create a big circle. I want you to press and hold the Shift key as you drag in order to constrain that shape to a circle, and you have to keep the Shift key down the whole time. And, by the way, you can also do this number here, and what I'm doing is I'm pressing the space bar, as I'm dragging, and as long as the space bar is down, I can move the circle to a different position.
And then as soon as I think I have the shape registered properly, I can release the space bar in order to continue to resize the shape like so. Looking at the heads up display there right next to my cursor you should have a shape that's about 450 points wide and tall. At which point just go ahead an release the cursor, to make that big circle. Now, in my case it came out blue. In your case it might be some other color. What we want though is a transparent shape with the stroke. So, go ahead an change the fill up here in the Control Panel, to none, the very first swatch.
And then enter a line weight value of four points for now, so that we have a nice thick stroke that we can see very easily. Alright, now we need to cut out this scallop right here at the top of the shape. And we're going to do that by drawing another ellipse. So go ahead an drag, once again, this time from the top down. And you may find incidentally that smart guides are going to get in your way. As they are in my case because it's snapping to the wrong part of the illustration right now. In which case, just go ahead and press Ctrl+Z or Cmd+Z on the Mac after drawing that shape.
And then, go up to the View menu and choose Smart Guides. In order to turn them off. And I'm also going to zoom in so I can better see what I'm doing here. And I'll draw again, and I'll see if I can do a little better job of tracing this guy. And, that looks like it's going to work out pretty nicely. Notice I used the space bar in order to move the shape around on the fly as I'm drawing it. And then once you get it in place, go ahead and release like so. Alright, now we want to draw a couple of rectangles. So, go ahead and select the rectangle tool from the Shape Tool fly out menu.
And you want to draw a rectangle that looks something like that. So in other words, I'm dragging down from above the circle, down below, and ultimately snapping into alignment with that horizontal guideline that I've created in advance for you. And then we want another rectangle that comes in from beyond the left-hand edge of the circle, down and ultimately snaps into alignment with the vertical guideline. And you should end up with this fairly confusing now collection of shapes.
The next thing to do, just to make sure that we've gotten everything aligned as well as possible, is to press the Ctrl and space bar keys. That's Cmd and space bar on a Mac, and just marquee this little area like so, so that we're way zoomed in. Now it's hard to tell exactly where all the path outlines are. And you can better tell what's going on by going up to the View menu and choosing Outline. And that will show you just the outlines of the paths. Now, we're not seeing the rectangles at all, which is great. That means that they're hidden by the guidelines, which is fine.
But this ellipse, this edge right here, should be going right through the intersection of the two guides. And to make that the case, go ahead an grab your black arrow tool, from the top of the toolbox. Select that ellipse. You're not, really going to be able to tell it's selected because we're so zoomed in. But just go ahead and drag it over until it appears, to travel right through that guide intersection like so. And then you can go back to the View menu and choose Preview so that we can see the stroked outlines once again.
And I'll press Ctrl+0, or Cmd+0 on a Mac, in order to zoom back out. Alright, now Shift-click on the big circles. So both of the ellipses are selected, at this point, and neither of the rectangles. Then, you want to get the shape builder tool which is located down here toward the middle of the toolbox. And now, notice that my cursor has a little plus sign next to it. I'm going to move it into this ellipse, and drag it down like so, across the other portion of the ellipse, so the entire thing is highlighted.
And that went ahead and fused that ellipse together, and cut it out of the larger circle. Now I'll switch back to the black arrow selection tool. Click off the shapes to deselect them. Select this guy right there, and press the backspace key, or the delete key on the Mac, to get rid of it. All right, now we need to select all the remaining shapes. And the easiest way to do that is to draw a marquee like so. So I'm just partially selecting that area where all the paths intersect each other. Make sure that you don't select the text by the way.
And then, go ahead and grab that shape builder tool once again. And this time, rather than just dragging, notice if you press the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac, that little plus sign turns to a minus sign. And if you Alt+drag or Option+drag like so, you're going to cut those shapes away. So I'm just going to go ahead and do so, in order to get rid of them. And then you want to switch back to the black arrow tool. And shift-click on this shape to deselect it. So I'm going to back out just a little bit more here.
So that we can see if I drag these paths up, like so, that we're getting rid of all this garbage right here, including this tiny path that used to be right there at the corner. And then you want to press the backspace key, or the delete key on a Mac, in order to get rid of all that junk. All right, now we are left with just this path outline here, which is what we need in order to create all the remaining elements in the sign, which is exactly what we'll do in the very next movie.
- Setting up your first Illustrator document and artboards
- Drawing and painting basic shapes with the brush tools
- Creating and formatting text
- Coloring artwork with fills, strokes, and gradients
- Working with paths to create free-form shapes
- Creatively applying dynamic effects that are automatic and editable
- Tracing scanned artwork to create digitally editable graphics