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Illustrator in 60 Seconds: How to Use Compound Shapes

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What You'll Be Creating

Welcome to our Illustrator in 60 Seconds series, in which you can learn an Illustrator skill, feature, or technique in just a minute!

How to Use Compound Shapes

Always wondered what a compound shape is, but never had the courage to try it out? Well, if that's the case, check out our quick video and follow the provided steps and you'll be mastering them in no time!

Compound Shapes

If you’ve ever played with Pathfinder’s Unite Shape Mode, you probably know you can easily unite two or multiple objects into a single larger shape.

example of larger shape created using the unite shape mode

A compound shape allows you to achieve the same result, but in a more versatile manner, since it lets you select any composing object using either the Direct Selection Tool (A) or the Layers panel, and then edit its position, size, and shape at any point in time.

example of shape selection inside of a compound shape

You can easily create a compound shape by selecting the desired objects and then heading over to Pathfinder’s advanced menu and hitting Make Compound Shape, or by using Unite Shape Mode while holding down the Alt key.

how to create a compound shape

As you can see, the resulting path will take on the color of the topmost object, but since it behaves as a live effect, you can easily change its color or even apply different visual effects such as textures or gradients, and they will seamlessly transition from one composing shape to another.

example of using a gradient with a compound shape

If needed, you can easily return a compound shape to its original components by selecting it and then heading to Pathfinder’s advanced menu and hitting Release Compound Shape.

how to release a compound shape

Learn More With Our Awesome Tutorials!

Looking to expand your bag of Adobe Illustrator skills? Start right now by checking out these in-depth tutorials that will help you bring your art to the next level!

Need Awesome Resources? We've Got You Covered!

Whether you're looking for brushes, textures, or any other creative resource, we've put together an amazing library that's forever increasing, which you can check out by heading over to Envato Elements.

That being said, I'll see you in the next one!

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