I find the pathfinder tool one of the easiest ways of increasing my speed in Illustrator. It is much easier to create complex paths and shapes without having to fiddle around using the pen tool. This shows you what some of the buttons do, but the best way to learn them is to have a go yourself!
Firstly, I have just created two shapes to help show what the pathfinder does when using the tool. When using these tools, both layers must be selected.
The First button, 'Unite' merges the two shapes together to make them one path. The new shape will take on the colour of the top item.
The second button, Minus front, takes the top shape away from the bottom
The third button 'Intersect' leaves just the part that overlaps.
The fourth button 'Exclude' takes away the overlapping material.
The 'Divide' button cuts where there is a path without taking any material away.
'Trim' takes away the overlapping material on the underneath layer.
These are really useful tools in making complex shapes, icons or logos. They are something which you should get familiar with as they will increase your speed and skill in Illustrator. The other buttons which I didn't cover are a little more complex, and I find I can do most things I need to using just these ones.
Posted: Fri 10th Aug 2012Tags: 2D, example, explained, help, Illustrator, Pathfinder, Tutorial
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