How to use the Pathfinder tool in Adobe Illustrator | Create a simple icon

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Craig Zacker
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The Pathfinder in Adobe Illustrator is what tool we get will help create new figures starting from an original. You may have used it to combine objects and create new shapes. But we usually click on each of the panel icons, repeating and undoing to get the image we want. However, we will show you how to use it Pathfinder tool in Adobe Illustrator.

It would be a good idea to know exactly this tool e see how useful it can be to create some images or shapes. With Adobe Illustrator, you can also create a flat icon from scratch and we've done a review here that explains it.

The Pathfinder toolbox

Lo explorer tool which is used to join shapes or objects, thus creating new shapes, which originate from a main one. So from the original way you can get variety of items, depending on what you want to make; joining, excluding or even cutting off the main figure. With Adobe Illustrator you can also add strokes that resemble hair and hair, in a section of our blog we explain it to you in a few steps.

This panel is spread over 2 lines, where the top four symbols are the shape modes and the bottom ones are "Pathfinder". You can see that in the top row there are: Merge / Add, Minus Front / Subtract, Insert and exclude. So at the bottom of the panel are: split, cut, merge, cut, outline and minus background.

Function of the four shape modes in the Pathfinder tool

These shape modes are useful in more than two ways  in the Pathfinder tool, but it is essential to memorize the stacking order when running this mode.

  • Add / Unify: this function merges all preselected shapes into one; and if these have different colors, the combined forms absorb the properties of the highest or the highest.
  • Subtract / Minus forehead: This tool uses a type of "cookie cutter" on the top objects and then extracts the shapes from the background object.
  • Shape intersection: it suppresses all that is not superimposed and combines the rest in a unique way.
  • Exclude: this instead of eliminating all that is superimposed, here what is superimposed is canceled and therefore the shapes become compound strokes.

Explorer functions

Now, in the bottom row of the left panel, you will find the icon and the name of the explorer. These are:


This tool is perhaps the most used, as it is used to cut the design into the desired pieces to separate them where the shapes are covered, but in this the color of the original objects is not changed.

After splitting, use the Group Selection or Direct Selection tool to move the remaining pieces independently. You can also ungroup objects and move them using the Selection tool.

Cut, join, cut

Size: delete parts of shapes that are hidden or above. This tool does not combine objects with the same colors, but removes the strokes of the objects.

Combine: In this tool compared to the previous one, apart from the cut, it has something more that is to combine hidden objects of the same color. The stacking order of the shapes is also not taken into account. Size:  like a reverse cookie cutter, this tool works, using the top shape to cut the others.

Outline and minus background

Contour: this tool can be compared to division, only division is independent line segments. In the case of Less background, removes any excess on the object behind, above or in front.

There are other options in the Pathfinder tool panel; These options allow you to adjust different combinations, these are the precision and the divide and contour command:


Keep an eye on Illustrator's accuracy as strokes are drawn. A small amount sticks more to the original items, for a larger one but not so much. Remove redundant points: it is used to cancel points that are on top of each other.

Divide and Stroke commands Remove inkless graphics

Here you will correct unwanted filled shapes and no strokes. And now that you know a little more about the Pathfinder tool  in Adobe Illustrator | By creating a simple icon, your projects will surely be impactful and with surprising results ; and the most valuable, you will save time.

A useful tracing tool is the one that converts text into a path; that for them we have created a special section and explain it clearly. If you liked the information you can share it and, of course, leave us your comment.

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