How to Erase in Adobe Illustrator

I love Adobe Illustrator and I’ve been using it for 10 years but speaking of the eraser tool, I have to say that it’s not an easy tool for beginners. 

It can get quite confusing especially when you can’t erase even when you already brushed on the image many times. And then you realize that’s not the right tool to erase an image. 

Depending on what exactly you want to erase, part of an image, illustration, shape, or paths, there are different tools for erasing in Adobe Illustrator. 

The two popular tools for erasing are Eraser Tool and Scissors Tool, but they don’t always work on everything, sometimes you might have to make a clipping mask to erase. 

In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to erase in Illustrator using different tools and when to use which. 

Let’s dive in! 

3 Ways to Erase in Adobe Illustrator

Note: the screenshots are taken from Adobe Illustrator CC 2021 Mac version. Windows or other versions can look different. 

1. Eraser Tool

You can use the Eraser Tool to erase brush strokes, pencil paths, or vector shapes. Simply select the Eraser Tool (Shift + E)  from the toolbar, and brush on the areas that you want to erase. 

When you erase on path or shape, you’re dividing them into different parts. You’ll be able to move or edit the anchor points. As you can see, when I select the pencil path I used the eraser tool to break, it shows its anchor points and I’m able to edit it. 

2. Scissors Tool

The Scissors Tool is great for cutting and dividing paths, but you can also use it to remove part of the path. For example, I want to erase part of the circle. 

Step 1: Select the Scissors Tool (C) from the toolbar, usually it’s in the same menu as the Eraser Tool. 

Step 2: Click on the circle path to create the starting point and click again to create the ending point. The distance/area in between should be the part you want to erase.

Step 3: Use the Selection Tool (V) to select the path between the two anchor points. 

Hit the Delete key and you’ll erase part of the circle path. 

3. Clipping Mask 

If you need to erase part of an image, this is the right way to go because you can’t use the eraser tool on imported images. 

Before getting started, open the Transparency panel from the overhead menu Windows > Transparency

Step 1: Select the Paintbrush Tool (B) and brush on the part of the image you want to erase. For example, the pink area is where I brushed. You can increase the brush size if you want to erase a large area. 

Step 2: Select both the brush stroke and the image, then click Make Mask on the Transparency panel.  

Note: If you have multiple brush strokes, you should group them before making the clipping mask.

You’ll see that the image disappeared, showing only the brush area. 

Step 3: Click Invert Mask and uncheck Clip.  You’ll see the image and the part you brushed on is erased. 

That’s about it! 

You should be able to erase anything you need using the three methods above. Remember the Eraser tool and Scissors Tool can only erase vectors. If you want to erase part of an image, you should use brushes to make a clipping mask. 

Can’t Erase? What went wrong? If you can’t seem to figure out why, this article about 5 reasons why you can’t erase in Illustrator is for you.

About June Escalada
Graduated from Creative Advertising major, worked more than eight years as a graphic designer focusing in branding and Illustration. Yes, Adobe Illustrator is my best friend and I’m passionate about art and design.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *