Pathfinder panel : Combine, Subtract, Trim etc in Illustrator Tutorial

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By Andrew Buckle, Updated : 2022



Where ?

window menu in Adobe Illustrator (if pathfinder panel is not visible).pathfinder. go to the pathfinder two or more paths on art one of the pathfinder buttons such as 'unite'

Shortcut to pathfinder

shift key + cmd / ctrl + F9 (or alternatively make your own shortcut to pathfinder tool if this does nothing or is not memorable)

How to use ?

Select two or more paths. The pathfinder works with one in some cases such as the outline but the panel works best if you are using it with multiple paths such as two or more. With those paths selected go to the panel


The first one is the Unite and you will then just combine the two paths. The second entry is minus front and click that to remove the last path added (or the one in front) and the original path will be chopped by the overlapping top path and the top path will also go.


The next one is the intersect and where the paths overlap, the poath will remain but the rest of the paths will be deleted


The bext button is exclude and that is the inverse of the intersect and the path's overlap will be removed and the rest of the paths will remain


The divide (next row) splits the paths up where the overlap is. If there is no overlap then there will be no divide. All the paths will remain but they will be broken apart depending on the overlap. You will need to use the object menu and ungroup.


The next paths are similar to the minus front and unite but depend on color of the paths and if they will merge or subtract from the first path. Crop is similar. It is easier to show the use of the crop / trim etc via the video at the top of the page as this does depend on location, fill color etc


The outline just creates an outline (no fill and no stroke though it remembers the fill color in the stroke color even though by default it is set to 0pt. The stroke is similar to the divide but instead of fills etc you end up with open paths / strokes only taking the top path's color if there is any overlap.


Minus back is similar to the minus front (it just subtracts the back instead of the front)


There is also a pathfinder functionality for live effects in the effects menu and you can find out more info about that via the graphiucxtras channels on our youtube channel.


If you go to the right side menu of the Illustrator pathfinder panel there is some functionality such as precisiion and that is worth checking out but personally I keep them to the defaults.