Join Deke McClelland for an in-depth discussion in this video Expanding a compound shape, part of Illustrator CS4 One-on-One: Advanced.
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In this exercise, I'm going to show you how to expand a Compound Shape into its various independent path outlines. I've gone ahead and saved my progress as Luke Submarine.ai. Why Luke Submarine? Because quite obviously, based on a silhouette here, Ringo Starr has become Luke Skywalker and we've Jabba the Walrus in the background. Thank you very much. So what we're going to do is I'm going to go ahead and click on the larger Compound Shape in order to select the entire thing here with the Black Arrow tool. I want to go ahead and move Ringo independently of everybody else. So I'm going to meatball Ringo right here inside of the Layers palette and then I'm going to drag Ringo to a different location and what I'm trying to do here is stress the fact that we've this dynamic interaction between Ringo and the Submarine and same for that matter where the Fin and the Submarine are concerned. And of course you could get both Ringo and the Fin operating on the Submarine at the same time in certain regions of the illustration, if you want.
I'm just going to move them off to the side, a little bit like so. Then I'm going to click on some portion of the larger Submarine in order to select the entire Compound Shape here with the Black Arrow tool or I could meatball the Compound Shape, if I wanted to do here inside the Layer palette. Then you go to the Pathfinder palette and you click on this button right there, Expand, which is going to expand the Compound Shape into its independent path outlines. Now I want you to notice what's going to happen here inside the Layer palette. Notice that we have this item that's called Compound Shape. It doesn't have any brackets around it and you can twirl it open.
Now if I click on Expand, that item is going to change to Compound Path with little braces around it, whatever those things are called, the lesser than and greater than signs. And we're not able to twirl this item open anymore and we do have what is known as a Compound Path inside of Illustrator. Now, Compound paths are more old school. They do permit a certain amount of dynamic modification as we'll see in future exercises. But ultimately, especially when we're expanding from a Compound Shape, ultimately you're getting static results.
So we're actually getting anchor points at the intersection of the location of our previous subpaths. We no longer have our previous subpaths. So Ringo's head has disappeared and his feet have disappeared as well and we have what are essentially independent paths. Now to get to those independent paths, you can no longer select them by meatballing them here inside the Layers palette, because you don't have access to them anymore. You have to either get your White Arrow tool and then click off of the larger Submarine and then say Alt-click or Option-click on this rudder right here and then you could move it to a different location, like so and by virtue of the fact that I Alt -clicked or Option-clicked on it, I selected the entire subpath. I'll go ahead and undo the movement of that rudder.
Another way to work is to get your Black Arrow tool and double-click on some portion of this Submarine path in order it isolate it from the rest of illustration and now you can get to the independent pieces here by dragging with the Black Arrow tool. Or there is one more thing you can do. I'll go ahead and press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on a Mac a couple of times. Press the Escape key in order to exit the Isolation mode right there. You can also break the Compound Path into its various subpaths so that you can have independent access to each one of these new paths here.
By clicking on the item in order to select the whole thing and then right click somewhere inside the illustration window and choose this command right there, Release Compound Path and I'm just going to tell you, it's got a keyboard shortcut, in case you're interested. It's Ctrl+Shift+Alt+8. Isn't that memorable? As Command+Shift+Option+8 on the Mac and if you think about it, then 8 is the ultimate Compound Path, because it's a couple of lumps. It's like a snowman with two holes cut out, one at the top and one at the bottom. So that's why 8, in case you're curious.
Anyway, choose the command and now notice that our Compound path has gone and we now have four new paths all of which are named Path. And each of those represents some intersection of paths from the original compound shape. So for example, this last Path right here is the wedge between Ringo's legs. Anyway, now if I click off of a path in order to deselect the whole thing and click even using the Black Arrow tool outside the isolation tool. Click on any one of these subpath outlines with the Black Arrow tool. I select just that one path and I can move it to a different location, like so.
So we have completely independent control of each one of these fragmented path outlines here inside of Illustrator. Now you may wonder at this point, okay, we've got Compounds Shapes, we've got Compound Paths, we've Independent Paths. Oh, my goodness! How do I put all of this to practical use? I'm going to show you exactly how Pathfinder operations can become, not only practical, but incredibly powerful as well beginning in the next exercise.
Recommended prerequisite: Illustrator CS4 One-on-One: Fundamentals.
Download Deke's customized keyboard layouts and color settings for Illustrator from the Exercise Files tab.
- Working with compound shapes in the Pathfinder palette
- Ghosting shapes with Fill Opacity
- Understanding gradients and the gradient tools
- Cloning and coloring a blended path
- Saving tile patterns and applying them to a shape
- Importing and linking images from other applications