The Shape Tools are a small group of tools that can be used to quickly make generic rectangles, ellipses, stars, and polygons using the Rectangle Tool, Ellipse Tool, Star Tool, and Polygon Tool respectively. To get started, move your view of the artboard to the bottom left box titled "Shapes with Pathfinder," then create a new layer with the same name, "Shapes with Pathfinder."
Select the Rectangle Tool (M) from the left toolbar. If you do not see its rectangle icon, you may find that it is hidden underneath an ellipse, polygon, star, or line icon of the other tools. If this is the case, right click on the shape and select the Rectangle Tool from the list.
In the Swatches panel on the right, choose your own fill and stroke colors. You can do this by first selecting the Fill swatch in the top left of the panel, then clicking on a color swatch below it. The same can be done with the Stroke swatch, which is found adjacent to the Fill swatch.
Once you are satisfied with your colors, create a rectangle at the top of the "Shapes with Pathfinder" area by clicking and dragging the cursor, then releasing the click when you are happy with the shape. Create another rectangle next to the first one, but this time hold Shift while you click and drag to create a perfect square. Holding Shift constrains the proportions of shapes and makes them even on all sides.
Notice how the highlighted square has small dots on the insides of its corners. These are called "corner widgets." Click on one of the square's corner widgets and drag it slightly towards the center of the shape.
It is also possible to edit the proportions of shapes by clicking and dragging on any of the square points on the shape's bounding box. When hovering just beside those same square points, you can rotate the shape, indicated by the bent appearance of the cursor.
Select the Ellipse Tool (L) from the left toolbar. If you would like to change the colors of the ellipses, be sure to deselect the rectangles first by pressing Ctrl + Shift + A (Command +Shift + A on Mac) before you choose new colors. If you do not deselect the rectangles before changing your colors, you may accidentally change the colors of the rectangles instead.
To make an ellipse, click and drag on the artboard underneath the rectangles with the Ellipse Tool. Ellipses made with this tool will have a small circle connected to the selection box on its right. Click and drag this circle around the ellipse, and see that doing so will cut out the specified angle from the point at which you leave the circle sitting. Release your click anywhere around the ellipse.
Create a new ellipse next to the first one, this time while holding Shift. Notice how this creates a perfect circle, similar to how holding Shift will create a perfect square with the Rectangle Tool.
Select the Polygon Tool from the left toolbar. You may need to right click on the Ellipse Tool to find it. If you would like, you can choose new colors before creating any shapes. This tool is unique from the previous shape tools because you can change the number of points on the polygon as you create it. To do this, click and drag the Polygon Tool underneath the ellipses, but before releasing your click, press up or down on the directional keys from your keyboard. Pressing up will add one more point to the polygon, for example, it will change a heptagon into an octagon, and pressing down will do the opposite. Release your click when you are satisfied with the number of points on your polygon.
Create a polygon with three points (a triangle) next to the first polygon, this time while holding Shift.
Select the Star Tool from the left toolbar. You may need to right click on the Polygon Tool to find it. You can change your Fill and Stroke colors if you would like to. Underneath the polygons, click and drag the cursor to create a star. Similar to the Polygon Tool, you can hold Shift to constrain proportions and press the up or down keys from your keyboard to add or subtract points on the star as you create it.
It is also possible to stretch or compress the arms of the stars as you create them. Click and drag the Star Tool on the artboard next to the first star, then hold Ctrl (Command on Mac) while you drag towards or away from the center of the star. You can hold or release Ctrl (Command on Mac) at anytime while placing the star for various results. Release your click when you are happy with the shape of the star.
Line Segment Tool
Select the Line Segment Tool (\) from the left toolbar. You cannot choose a fill color for line segments because they do not make paths in a way that allows Fill to be visible. You can only choose a stroke color for line segments made with this tool. Click and drag on the artboard underneath the stars, then release your click to place the line segment. Place a second line segment next to the first, but this time hold Shift while you hold your click. Holding Shift while you hold your click constrains the line to angles in increments of 45°, which you will notice if you move your cursor around the artboard. Release your click with the line segment at an angle of your choice.
There are two main methods used to combine shapes. First you will need to organize the shapes so that they are overlapping to some extent. With the Selection Tool (V) from the left toolbar, click and drag across the tops of the rectangles. Notice that the selected shapes are now marked with the highlighted bounding box. With the same tool, click on the rectangles and drag them so that they are partly underneath the ellipses.
Select the polygons by clicking and dragging the Selection Tool across them. Drag the polygons so that they are partly on top of the ellipses. Using the same method, move the stars so that they are partly on top of the polygons, then move the line segments on top of the stars. Make sure that each shape is overlapping with another to some extent.
Arrangement of objects
To combine existing shapes, it is helpful to understand how objects are arranged on the artboard. Notice how the rectangles you created first appear to be underneath the ellipses, but the ellipses appear to be underneath the polygons. This is because the program, by default, arranges objects from back to front in their layers as they are created.
For example, if you create a rectangle, circle, and star in that order, the rectangle will be at the back, the star will be at the front, and the circle will be in between the two. The illustration below shows an arrangement of objects as they appear in the program compared to the same objects in a three-dimensional space.
You can adjust the arrangement of your objects. Using the Selection Tool (V), click and hold above the rectangles, then drag your cursor across the tops of the rectangles to select them. Once selected, right click and go to Arrange. Click on Bring to Front so the rectangles will be brought to the front of the arrangement and appear on top of the ellipses and the other shapes.
The other possible arrangement options are Bring Forward, Send Backward, and Send Back. Bring Forward will bring the shapes one step closer to the front, Send Backward will send them one step closer to the back, and Send Back will send them all the way to the back of the arrangement.
Pathfinder is commonly used to combine and subtract shapes from each other. It also has the potential to do more specific tasks, such as dividing shapes, excluding shapes, intersecting shapes, and more with the use of predefined buttons.
If you hover over the buttons in the Pathfinder panel to the right, you can see each of their titles. These buttons include Unite, Minus Front, Intersect, Exclude, Divide, Trim, Merge, Crop, Outline, and Minus Back. Each of the buttons' functions rely on the arrangement of two or more objects because their results depend on which shapes are at the front or back and the amount of overlap between objects.
Using the Selection Tool (V), select all of the overlapping shapes by clicking and dragging across them. In the Pathfinder panel, click on Unite from the left of the top row. Notice that all of your objects were turned into a single shape and given the fill and stroke colors of the original rectangles that were at the front. Notice also that there are no longer any protruding line segments.
Undo (Ctrl + Z or Command + Z on Mac) your last actions until your shapes are back to their individual paths and colors.
With the objects still selected, click on Exclude on the right of the top row in the Pathfinder panel. Notice that your objects are now the same color as the rectangles were beforehand, though every area where the shapes overlapped has been cut.
The tabbed box below presents how each Pathfinder button function would affect an arrangement of three overlapping circles and what the resulting shapes look like when they are taken apart. For a complete chart and bulleted list of button explanations, refer to this Pathfinder Supplement on the next page.
Pathfinder Button Explanation
Unite will unite objects into a singular object. The result will have the same fill and stroke colors as the object that was initially at the front.
Minus Front will subtract objects toward the front from the object at the back. The result will be a singular object which will have the same fill and stroke colors as the object that was initially at the back.
Intersect will create a new shape from the overlap of objects and delete the remaining portions. It will only work if every selected object overlaps with each other object in the same area. The result will be a singular object, which will have the same fill and stroke colors as the object that was initially at the front.
Exclude will exclude overlapping areas from the objects. The result will be multiple objects, all of which will have the same fill and stroke colors as the object that was initially at the front.
Divide will divide the objects into smaller objects based on their overlapping paths. The result will be multiple objects with their original fill and stroke colors.
Trim will trim off the hidden overlap between the objects. The result will be multiple objects, all of which will have their original fill color and no stroke.
Merge will merge objects of the same fill color, then trim off the hidden overlap between objects. The result may be multiple objects or a single object depending on the fill color of the initial objects. The resulting object or objects will have their original fill colors and no stroke.
Crop will crop the objects toward the back according to the path of the object at the front. Any area that does not overlap with the object at the front will be cropped off. The result may be multiple objects or a single object, depending on how much overlap is between them initially. The resulting objects will have their original fill colors with no stroke colors. Additionally, any area within the front object that is not overlapping with another object will result in a shape with no fill or stroke colors.
Note that in the chart above, one resulting object in the deconstructed version is shown with a stroke because the path would otherwise be invisible.
Outline will create individual path segments from the objects. The result will have thin strokes with original colors and no fill.
Note that in the chart above, the paths in the deconstructed version are given bolder strokes because they would otherwise be hard to see.
Minus Back will subtract objects toward the back from the object at the front. The result will be a singular object which will have the same fill and stroke colors as the object that was initially at the front.
Using Pathfinder will automatically group the resulting objects together. When objects are grouped together, you can move, resize, and color all of the objects within the group at the same time as if they were a single object. Grouping objects may be useful for organization purposes and efficient workflows.
Click and drag one of the shapes away from the others. Notice that all of the other shapes will move around with it because they were automatically grouped together. Right click on any of the shapes, then click Ungroup. Deselect everything with Ctrl + Shift + A (Command + Shift + A on Mac). Now that they are no longer grouped together, it is possible to select and move the shapes individually. Objects can always be regrouped by selecting them, right-clicking, then pressing Group.
So you can understand how the Pathfinder panel can be used practically, make some space for a short exercise. Select your shapes with the Selection Tool (V) and drag them further up the artboard. If the shapes just take up too much space, you can simply select them and delete them by pressing Backspace on your keyboard.
Once you have room, create five ellipses of various sizes with the Ellipse Tool (L) overlapping with each other. Select all five, then Unite them with the Pathfinder panel.
Next, create a rectangle with the Rectangle Tool (M) that covers the bottom half of the united ellipses. Select both shapes, then press Minus Front from the Pathfinder panel. You can see that the resulting shape resembles a cloud.
The Shapebuilder Tool is similar to the Pathfinder in the sense that it can combine and subtract shapes. The Shapebuilder Tool is also able to create more complex shapes because combines shapes using manual inputs instead of using a predefined set of buttons like the Pathfinder.
Position your view of the artboard over the box titled "Shapes with Shapebuilder" in the bottom right of the artboard, then create a new layer by the same name, "Shapes with Shapebuilder."
Next, you will need to add some new shapes. In the Swatches panel, make sure you have a color selected for the stroke, but no color ("None" color swatch) for the fill. With the Ellipse Tool (L) from the left toolbar, make five circles of roughly the same size. Using the Selection Tool (V), place four of them in a two by two fashion, with two circles side by side and two more directly below them. Each of the four circles should be touching the edge of two other circles. Place the remaining circle directly in the middle of the other four.
Using the Rectangle Tool (M), make a thin, long rectangle, starting at the center of the circles and stretching down and away from the circles. Lastly, create three small ellipses with the Ellipse Tool (L), then position them with the Selection Tool (V) so they are located below the larger circles and barely overlapping with the sides of the rectangle. The shapes should now look similar to a flower with four petals, a stem, and three leaves.
Select all of the shapes with the Selection Tool (V), then take the Shapebuilder Tool (Shift + M) from the left toolbar. If you hover the cursor over the shapes, you will notice that the tool recognizes the paths, and highlights potential shapes. When using the tool, these highlighted areas are merged into new shapes.
In the center of the flower, click and drag the cursor across the shapes until the entire middle circle is highlighted, then release the click. Doing this will combine all of the highlighted shapes into a single, new shape. If there are still points on the inside of the middle circle, you may need to zoom in to combine their shape with the circle. Remember that if you mess up, you can just Undo your last actions.
You may have noticed that the cursor has a small plus sign (+) next to it when you use the Shapebuilder Tool. The plus sign indicates that the tool is set to combine shapes together. When it is set to subtract shapes, you will see that the cursor has a small minus sign (-) next to it. To subtract shapes with the Shapebuilder Tool, you can hold Alt (Option on Mac) on your keyboard while clicking on single shapes or clicking and dragging across multiple shapes. Test this feature by holding Alt (Option on Mac) and clicking on one of the flower's leaves. The part of the ellipse that was overlapping with the rectangle should remain.
For any parts of the flower's stem that overlaps with the flower petals, use the Shapebuilder Tool to merge the stem with the petals. Lastly, combine the two leaves and the remainder of the third leaf with the stem. You may find it easier to zoom in to combine certain shapes together. The final product should be a flower with four petals, a stem, and two leaves, though yours may look slightly different.
Save your work before continuing by pressing Ctrl + S (Command + S on Mac).
Concluding Creating and Combining Shapes
In this section you learned:
- How to create shapes with the Shape Tools.
- How to select and move objects with the Selection Tool.
- About the importance of the arrangement of objects and how to manipulate the arrangement.
- What each Pathfinder button does.
- How to group and ungroup objects.
- How to combine shapes with the Shapebuilder Tool.
If you would like to see more tips for creating and combing shapes, watch the video tutorials listed below to learn more. These resources will also be listed at the end of the tutorial so there is no need to watch them immediately. You can move on to the next page, Pathfinder Supplement, when you are ready.