How to Combine Objects in Adobe Illustrator

Having trouble combining the objects you want to create in Illustrator? I’m here to help! 

I’m a graphic designer with more than eight years of experience working with Adobe software, and Adobe Illustrator (known as AI) is the one I use the most for daily work. 

I have been in your position when I first started using Illustrator, so yeah I can totally understand that the struggle is real. There are so many tools to learn. But I promise, once you are used to it, you’ll be so proud of yourself. 

In this article, I’m going to show you three different ways to combine objects in Adobe Illustrator. 

Magic is happening. Ready? Take note. 

3 Ways to Combine Objects in Illustrator

Note: the screenshots below are taken from the macOS version of Adobe Illustrator, the Windows version will look different.

You’d be surprised how easy it is to combine objects. There are plenty of ways to do it but I’m going to introduce you to three common ways and actually the most useful ways to combine shapes in Illustrator.

To begin with, I’d love to show you a simple example of how to combine two shapes using Shape Builder, Pathfinder, and Group tools.  

First of all, I have created a rectangular shape using the Rectangle Tool (Command M on Mac, Control M on Windows) and a circle using the Ellipse Tool (Command L on Mac, Control L on Windows). Now, you will see what you can do to combine them using three different tools.

Method 1: Combine Objects via Shape Builder

It’s quick and easy! Basically, you just click and drag to connect the shapes you create. And actually, many designers use this tool to create logos and icons. 

Step 1: Select and Align your objects. Align objects to make sure it’s on the same line. 

Step 2: View in Outline mode. View > Outline. It helps you avoid missing points and make sure the graphic surface is smooth. Outline shortcut: Command Y

It’s going to look like this: (don’t freak out, the colors will come back. When you want to go back to your normal mode, just hit Command + Y again) 

Step 3: Adjust objects’ position. Don’t leave any empty space between lines and points. 

Step 4: Select Objects you want to combine. 

Step 5: click Shape Builder Tool (or shortcut shift M). Click and drag through the shapes you want to merge. 

When you release, the combined shape will form. DONE! 

Now you can go back to Preview mode (command Y) to apply any colors you like. 

Remember, you must select both shapes in order to build the final shape.  

Method 2: Combine Objects via Pathfinder 

In case you didn’t know what it looks like.

Under the Pathfinder panel, you can find ten different options to modify your objects. Let me show you a couple of examples.

You can divide objects into different pieces using the Divide tool. 

Step 1: as always, select your objects. 

Step 2: Click the Divide tool icon, (When you hover your mouse over the small icons, it’ll show which tool you are using.)

Step 3: Ungroup to edit or move around the shapes you just divided. 

The Crop tool is probably the one I used the most. You can get the shape you want in a minute! 

Following the steps above. You will get this using the Crop tool. 

For a complete tutorial about the Pathfinder tool, please read: XXXXXXXXX

Method 3: Combine Objects via Group  

It keeps your artwork organized! I literally use the Group tool (Shortcut: Command G on Mac, and Control G on Windows.) in all my artwork. It’s one of the first tools I learned in my graphic design class. For creating a simple shape, the Group tool can be so convenient. You’ll see! 

Step 1: Select objects that you want to combine. 

Step 2: Align the objects (if needed).  

Step 3: Group the objects. Go to Object > Group (or use the shortcut) 

Note: If you want to change colors in a grouped object, simply double click on the part you wish to change, it will pop out a new layer that allows you to change colors. 

If you wish to ungroup, right-click on the mouse and select Ungroup (shortcut: command+shift+G) 

There you go! As simple as that. 

Final Words

You probably think the example above is very basic. Well, actually, when it comes to “real-life work”, as complicated as it may seem, the methods are the same but adding a few more steps depending on what you are creating. 

You often have to combine the use of different tools to finish the final artwork. But step by step, you will get the hang of it. Now you’ve learned how to combine shapes.  

Combing shapes in Illustrator can be quite confusing at the beginning. Now you’ve learned how to crop, group, divide and combine shapes, soon you’ll be able to create beautiful graphics and designs. 

Good luck! 

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 *