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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Shape Builder Tool

How to Use the Shape Builder Tool in Illustrator

Read Time: 5 mins

In the following tutorial, you will learn how to use the Shape Builder Tool in Illustrator. You'll learn how to easily merge, extract, or erase shapes, and you'll pick up some useful tips and tricks that should increase your work speed with the shape builder.

Once you learn how to use the Shape Builder Tool, you can head over to Envato Elements where you'll find some great assets that will inspire you to create amazing designs using the Shape Builder Tool in Illustrator. Check out this comic book creator, and why not put Illustrator's Shape Builder to work to create your own speech bubble designs?

combic book creator

Curious to learn about the Shape Builder Illustrator tool by watching a video? Follow us along over at the Envato Tus+ YouTube channel:

What You'll Learn in This Shape Builder Illustrator Tutorial

  • What is the Shape Builder Tool in Illustrator?
  • Where is the Shape Builder Tool in Illustrator?
  • How to use the Shape Builder Tool in Illustrator

What Is the Shape Builder Tool in Illustrator?

The Shape Builder Tool can be used to easily unite shapes or subtract one shape from another. It is a good alternative to the Pathfinder panel commands, and it might prove to be a much faster way to merge or subtract shapes once you get used to the standard keyboard shortcuts.

Where Is the Shape Builder Tool in Illustrator?

The Shape Builder Tool can be easily selected from the Toolbar or by pressing the Shift-M keyboard shortcut.

Shape Builder Tool illustrator

How to Use the Shape Builder Tool in Illustrator

First of all, you will need some overlapping shapes. Select the shapes that you want to adjust, and only then you can switch to the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M).

How to Merge Using the Shape Builder Tool in Illustrator

By default, the tool will be in Merge mode. In this mode, you can easily combine the selected paths or just parts of them. All you have to do is click and drag a line across the sections that you want to combine. Once you release the mouse button, the sections touched by your drawn line will merge to form a single shape.

merge Shape Builder Tool line

Alternatively, you can hold down the Shift key before you click and drag to create a rectangular marquee. Once you release the mouse button, the sections touched by your rectangular marquee will merge to form a single shape. Keep in mind that this only applies to your selected shapes.

merge Shape Builder Tool rectangular

How to Extract Using the Shape Builder Tool in Illustrator

The second Shape Builder Tool mode is Extract. This mode allows you to click on any section of the overlapping shapes to extract it from the larger shape.

In this example, you could click the bottom wheel sections to extract them from the larger selection.

Once extracted, you can hold down the Control key and click outside your selection to deselect it, and then hold down the Control key as you click the extracted shape to easily select it. Hold down the Shift key along with the Control key to add more shapes to your selection, and then you can move them, while holding down the Control key. This technique can be a pretty good alternative if you wish to avoid switching between the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M) and the Selection Tool (V).

extract Shape Builder Tool

How to Erase Using the Shape Builder Tool in Illustrator

Finally, you have the Erase mode. This mode allows us to completely remove different sections of our selected shapes by holding down the Alt key. You can use three techniques to erase using the Shape Builder Tool in Illustrator. First, you can simply click on a selected section to delete it.

erase Shape Builder Tool

Secondly, you can click and drag to create a line across the sections that you wish to delete.

erase Shape Builder Tool line

Finally, you can also hold down the Shift key along with the Alt key to create a rectangular marquee. Again, the sections touched by your rectangular marquee will be erased.

erase Shape Builder Tool rectangular

Congratulations! You're Done!

Now you know how to use the Shape Builder Tool, and you can put it to work and make some amazing designs.

You can find some great sources of inspiration at Envato Elements, with interesting solutions to create outstanding designs using Illustrator's Shape Builder.

illustrator Shape Builder Tool

5 Popular Illustrator Assets From Envato Elements

Envato Elements is an excellent resource for Illustrator resources. Here's a short list of some of the most popular assets that you can find.

All That Glitters: Vector Brushes (Ai)

Once you've created shapes using the Shape Builder, you could use this amazing set of brushes to create unique designs in a matter of minutes.

glitter vector brushes

Mosaic Maker: Brushes & Patterns (Ai)

Try these mesmerizing brushes and patterns to create eye-catching designs with ease.

mosaic vector brushes patterns

The Master Engraver Brushes (AI)

Give your design that engraved feel using this set of carefully prepared brushes. The pack contains 59 authentic-looking engraving brushes.

vector engrave

Magic Lands: Vintage Map Creator (AI, PDF, PNG)

This massive pack comes with 65 elements to choose from, including 15 brushes and 15 patterns. With all of these amazing assets, you can build your own magical map design.

vintage map creator

Shader Brushes for Illustrator (AI, EPS, PNG)

Further stylize your design using this set of 28 brushes, divided into 4 groups with their own distinctive features and purposes. As a bonus, you will get 12 textures, and by using them along with the brushes, you will be able to create some ingenious designs.

shader brushes

Want to Learn More?

We have loads of tutorials on Envato Tuts+, from beginner to intermediate level. Take a look!

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