The Ultimate Guide to the Adobe Illustrator Pathfinder Tool

The Ultimate Guide to the Adobe Illustrator Pathfinder Tool



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If you’re learning how to maneuver around Adobe Illustrator, this guide will help you tremendously. The pathfinder tool is easily one of the most used in any graphic designers arsenal. And it is super easy to understand and use! Follow along with this blog to learn all about each of the ten different Pathfinder and Shape modes available.


Adobe Illustrator Shape Modes:

01: Unite

The unite option is one that you will definitely use at some point in your illustrator journey, and is arguably the most used. As you could guess by the name, this function unites your selected elements into one solid shape.


02. Minus Front

Minus front is another self explanatory function. Easily enough this pathfinder shape option does just that… minuses the front shape from the back! By clicking the minus front option you are telling the program to take the shape that is in the foreground and subtract it from the shape in the background.


03. Intersect

The intersect pathfinder option is the third from the first row of tools. By selecting two and clicking this tool you will be left with the overlapping area of the two original elements.


04. Exclude

The fourth and final function from the top row of the shape options. This works as an inverse to the intersect function above. So instead of being left with the overlap, in this case we’re removing it.

Type of Adobe Illustrator Pathfinders


05. Divide

Divide is the first of the remaining six functions that are listed as true pathfinder options. This function ultimately divides the shapes you have selected among their intersecting lines. Now unlike intersect and exclude, the divide function will leave all the pieces after cutting the shapes!


06. Trim

The trim function does exactly that, it trims the background shape with the foreground shape. Leaving behind no overlapping pieces. This is ideal for cleaning up your lines and overlaps when preparing for screen printing or vinyl cutting.


07. Merge

Merge works a lot like trim, and to the naked eye they seem almost exactly identical. However there are some slight differences. For example, with merge, if your foreground element also has a stroke around it, when selecting it and the background element merging will remove the stroke entirely and cut the paths where they intersect.


08. Crop

Crop works a lot like a clipping mask. By taking the shape of your foreground and masking the background shape only in that area.


09. Outline

Outline may be one of the least used functions out of this list, but it deserves love too! This function divides your shapes across their intersecting lines and turns the solids into stoked paths, or outlines (hence the name.)


10. Minus Back

And finally, minus back. If you were paying attention before you probably remember number two, minus front. Well this works the same way, but in reverse! This time we’re subtracting shapes using the object selected in the background. Simple enough.


That’s all there is to it! The Pathfinder tool in Adobe Illustrator is insanely simple to use, and always a useful tool to get the hang of. Once you master these functions and commit their purposes to memory you’ll never look back. Not only can knowing these options help save yourself a lot of time, but also makes for a much cleaner and refined final file.

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