Join Justin Seeley for an in-depth discussion in this video Working with the Shape Builder tool, part of Illustrator CC 2013 Essential Training.
Up until now, we have been relying on the Pathfinder feature to get our complex artwork created here inside of Illustrator. Now I am going to show you a way that's a little bit more visual, and a little bit more easy to use. It's called the Shape Builder tool, and it's a great way to create complex artwork without all the guesswork that's involved with the Pathfinder. You see, the thing that's a little bit confusing about the Pathfinder is that all those buttons aren't necessarily descriptive, and people get confused as to what they do. So people spend time clicking, seeing what it does, undoing, clicking, seeing what it does, undoing; it's very tedious.
But using the Shape Builder tool is a great way to visually create shapes, which probably appeals more to the designer anyway. I am going to zoom in on these circles in the bottom corner of the page, and when I zoom in on those, I am going to start using the Shape Builder to interact with them a little bit. In order to use the Shape Builder tool, you have to have the path selected that you want to affect, so I will select the two circles, and then I'm going to go over and grab the Shape Builder tool. You can grab that either in the Tools panel, or by hitting Shift+M on your keyboard. Once I have those selected, I can then mouse over them, and you'll see that it highlights different areas as I mouse over.
By default, the Shape Builder tool is in what we call Merge mode, meaning that it's going to merge the objects together that you drag over. So in this case, if I click and drag across these circles, and let go, it merges them into one single shape, like so. If I undo that, I can also utilize the Shape Builder tool to subtract objects, or trim objects out. In order to do this, you have to hold down the Option key on Mac, and the Alt key on PC. Then you click and drag across the items you want to subtract, and in this case, when I let go, it leaves me with this little half circle down here. Pretty cool! All right! Now let's move up to something a little bit more complex.
This piece of artwork here; I could use the Trim command, or any number of the Pathfinder commands to make it look like I want it to, but in this case, I want to visually be able to pick the pieces that I keep inside of this artwork. So in order to do that, I am going to utilize the Shape Builder tool. First of all, I have to make sure that these objects are selected. So I will select them with the Selection tool, and then I'll grab the Shape Builder tool again. In order to start removing objects from this, I have to come in, and hold down my Option or Alt key. Once I do that, I can click, and objects start to go away.
Then I can come in and hold down my Option key, and I can start removing other pieces as well, just like this. And I am just clicking on the objects I don't want to see anymore. If I find other objects that I don't want, like these, but they might be a little harder to click on, I can just hold down my Option or Alt key, and click and drag across them.
Even the tiniest of portions can be removed by utilizing the Shape Builder tool. However, you may find some times when there are some stray paths, like this one right here, that are causing you some trouble. If that's the case, I can zoom in on this, and I can find the troubled area, which is right here. I can just grab the Direct Selection tool, find that anchor point, make sure the anchor point is selected, and then I can delete it. Then I can zoom back out, and continue working with my Shape Builder. I will grab the Shape Builder again. Now that I have got everything removed, I can start unifying these into single shapes.
The first thing I have to do, of course, is make sure they are selected. So I'll temporarily switch to the Selection tool by holding down the Control key, and then I'll make a marquee selection around the objects that I'm working on. Once I get them selected, I'll make sure that I go back to the Shape Builder tool, I will just click and drag across here to unify those, click and drag here, here, here, and here. Now they are all single shapes that I can then move and manipulate individually, or as a group.
If I zoom out, you will see I have removed all of the different parts of the star that I didn't want, but these act like any other shape inside of Illustrator. Let's take a look at one more practical use for this. I am going to zoom in over here on these letters. These are actually grouped together, so the first thing I am going to do is ungroup them. I am going to right-click and just choose Ungroup. You could also use Shift+ Control+G on your keyboard. Then I am going to select the R. The R is the object that I want to edit, in this case.
When I move it over, you are going to notice that the R is still a regular R. But what I want to do is remove this portion of the R down here that was overlapped by the A, so then I can use that stylized R in different designs. So let me undo this, and move it back to where it's supposed to be. I am going to select it, and I am also going to select the A. I am going to grab the Shape Builder tool, and I am simply going to drag across the A. When I drag across the A, even though the A is one single shape, it's being overlapped by that R, so that triangle piece right there actually acts as a totally separate piece.
When I drag across the A, it indicates, well, you're basically wanting to subtract that little triangle piece, but I am also unifying the A at the same time. That means it's going to subtract it from the R, and leave the A alone. So let's let go of the mouse, and see what happens. When I do that, automatically the A changes to be a single shape, and the R becomes a single shape as well, minus that little tail. If I grab my Selection tool, I can go into Isolation mode, and move the R, and you can see that I have sliced off that end just where I needed it to be.
Now each and every time I use that R, it's going to fit perfectly right up against the A, just like it should. Let's Undo that. I will jump out of Isolation mode by going back to Layer 1, and select the A. Let's change that back to a similar color from where it was, and then I will completely exit Isolation mode by clicking the arrow here. Then I will hit Command+0 or Control+0 to zoom back out. So as you can see, I have dramatically altered all of the artwork on my page. I have changed the way the R is structured, I've removed the starburst, and left this cool leaf design here, and I have also cut out the remaining circle piece from the bottom.
All in all, the Shape Builder tool allows you to create some really complex artwork without a whole lot of fuss. Take some time to play with that, and see exactly how you can fit it into your workflow, and you'll be amazed at the cool stuff that you're able to create while you're using it.
First, author Justin Seeley explains the basic elements that make up vector graphics—paths, strokes, and fills—and shows how to use each of the program's powerful drawing tools. Then he shows how to create documents and liven up a project with color, plus build complex shapes from simple paths and trace bitmap images and line art. The course also explores the benefits of using layers and symbols, and shows how to edit text, draw in perspective, and much more. The final chapter explains how to output your work in several formats and use Illustrator files in Photoshop and InDesign.
- Understanding vector graphics
- Creating documents for different contexts
- Organizing artwork with rulers, guides, and grids
- Making detailed selections
- Resizing, rotating, and transforming objects
- Creating swatches and color libraries
- Working with fills and strokes
- Using the Shape Builder and Image Trace features
- Drawing and editing paths
- Understanding the difference between point and area type
- Adjusting the appearance of artwork with live effects
- Printing, saving, and exporting artwork
Skill Level Beginner
Q: This course was updated on 6/18/2014. What changed?
A: We revised chapters covering paths, working with type, and the Pen tool. These updates reflect changes to the Pen and Pencil tool behavior in the June 2014 update to Illustrator CC. These tools now offer greater fidelity and previews. We also added one new video, "Packaging your artwork for commercial print," which covers the enhanced packaging workflow.
Q: This course was updated on 10/13/2014. What changed?
A: We added tutorials to cover the most exciting changes to Illustrator CC 2014: the Join and Curvature tools and the all-new Design Libraries. These new movies are marked with the "(CC 2014.1)" tag.
Illustrator CC 2013 New Featureswith Justin Seeley1h 21m Intermediate
Illustrator for Web Design (2012)with Justin Seeley5h 27m Appropriate for all
Illustrator: Rethinking the Essentialswith Mordy Golding5h 7m Intermediate
What is Illustrator?1m 14s
1. Getting Started
2. Working with Documents
3. Selecting and Transforming Objects
4. Working with Color
5. Working with Fills and Strokes
6. Working with Paths
7. Creating Shapes
8. Don't Be Afraid of the Pen Tool
9. Using Type in Illustrator
10. Adjusting Appearance
11. Working with Layers
12. Working with Images
13. Creating and Using Symbols
14. Drawing in Perspective
15. Printing, Saving, and Exporting
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