Within Adobe Illustrator pathfinder is one of the most important tools. Allows you to merge shapes, cut shapes out of pre-existing shapes and manipulation.
Pathfinder is the quickest and most efficient way of manipulating paths and shapes. It can be a complex process , but once you have mastered the tools an use of pathfinder, it can speed up your workflow.
Pathfinder has several options, the top four icons are shape modes.
Unite will combine all selected objects and merge them together. If you have two varying colours between the objects the top colour will act more dominant. Minus front also known as subtract will use the top shape as shape cutter, an subtract from the shape.Intersect will delete everything that doesn’t overlap objects, combining the shapes into a singular shape. Exclude is he opposite of intersect, so everything that is overlapping is gotten rid off, creating a compound path.
Being able to cut shapes out of other shapes can speed up workflow, but remember that you have to bring forward or send backward to cut out the intended shape.
The lower part of the pathfinder control panel , has six options. The symbols are quite self explanatory, showing you how the shape would be affected by that button.
Divide again being one of the most commonly used, it will cut the shapes into however many pieces wherever that shape overlaps. Trim removes parts of the shape that overlap or hidden., will not merge objects with the same colour, it will also remove the stroke. Merge is very similar to trim. Crop this will use the top image and crop away everything else, much like an cutter but inverted. Outline will appear to not do a lot to the objects and shapes but in fact it divides it into individual segments, using lines. Minus back opposite to subtract, so anything overlapping that isn’t at the forefront of the image will be taken away.
Best way to understand the pathfinder options, is to just explore. Draw out a selection of shapes an try each mode.