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Illustrator Tutorial - The Pathfinder Palette

Make sure the Pathfinder palette is visible (WINDOW...Pathfinder).  You’ll notice 11 buttons right away. Here, will be explaining the 5 buttons on the top row (The Shape Modes), and the differences between them. The bottom 6 buttons are a little more advanced, but I’ll give you some pointers about those at the end of this tutorial.

To follow along: Open a new Illustrator document and create any 2 shapes you like. I used a rounded rectangle and a star. I will use the same 2 shapes in each example.

With both shapes selected, click the “Add to Shape Area” button in the pathfinder:
The pathfinder changes the fill color of both shapes to the color of the top shape. Essentially, all pathfinder did was it made a compound path out of your 2 shapes, and made them have the same fill color.
Subtracting Shapes. This is a neat one because you can basically use any shape as an eraser or “cookie cutter” so to speak.Hit Ctrl. + Z until you revert to having your shapes as they were before the previous step.  Now - with both shapes selected - press the 'Minus Front' button.
What this does is Illustrator subtracts the top shape from the bottom shape. The shape doing the subtracting must be on top. To re-order your shapes, select one and go to OBJECT...Arrange...Bring to Front/Send to Back etc.

Intersecting ShapesThe next pathfinder feature is the ability to intersect shapes. What this means is overlapping 2 shapes, and getting rid of anything that isn't overlapped. So to start, overlap your 2 shapes similar to on the right.

And you now have a single, clean path made out of the overlapping section of the original.

Excluding Overlapped Shapes. This Pathfinder feature is the exact opposite of the previous step. Instead of getting rid of everything that isn’t overlapped, it gets rid of everything that is.
It isn’t the case here, but if your shapes are complex and you see extra paths in the excluded areas, click the Expand button to get rid of the paths left behind.
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