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 and I’ve been using Adobe Illustrator for more than 10 years. I was in your position when I first started using Illustrator, so yeah I can totally understand that the struggle is real – not knowing which tool to use, etc.

There are different ways to combine shapes or objects in Adobe Illustrator, and if you choose the right tool, you can do that in a couple of clicks.

In this article, I will show you three easy 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 (Keyboard shortcut M) and a circle using the Ellipse Tool (Keyboard shortcut L). Now, you will see what you can do to combine them using three different tools.

Method 1: Combine Objects Using the Shape Builder Tool

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: Preview 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 the objects’ position. Don’t leave any empty space between lines and points. 

Step 4: Select the 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 fill the shape with a color

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

Method 2: Combine Objects Using the Pathfinder Tools 

You won’t see the Pathfinder tools on the toolbar, instead, they are shown in the Properties panel when objects are selected. In case you didn’t know what it looks like.

If you don’t see this panel, you can open it from the overhead menu Window > Pathfinder. 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 the shapes 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. 

If you want to learn more about the Pathfinder options or how to use the tool, read this complete tutorial on Adobe Illustrator Pathfinder Tool.

Method 3: Combine Objects by Grouping Objects

It keeps your artwork organized! I literally use the Group tool (Shortcut: Command + G on Mac, and Ctrl + 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, and 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 or use the keyboard shortcut: Command + Shift + G.  

There you go! As simple as that. Now, this is how you combine two shapes. If you want to combine text and a shape, that’s a different story.

How to Combine Text and Shape in Adobe Illustrator

The easiest way to combine shape and text is by grouping them together. In this case, you can move, resize, and rotate the text and shape together. But that’s pretty much it, nothing fancy.

If you want to merge text into a shape, you can use the Envelope Distort feature. Here are the steps:

Step 1: Add text to your Illustrator document.

Step 2: Create a shape that you want the text to merge into. For example, I created a circle. Make sure the shape is on top of the text. If you’re doing them on the same layer, you can right-click on the shape and choose Arrange > Bring to Front just to make sure.

As you can see, I placed the circle on top of the text.

Step 3: Select both the text and shape, go to the overhead menu Object > Envelope Distort > Make with Top Object.

Now you’ve combined the text and shape.

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 depends 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! 

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  • Audrey L Delguercio

    Your passion for art shows in your ability to explain how to use AI. You definitely have a great understanding of the software. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. Please consider making videos on how to use Illustrator on You Tube. I am sure you would have a tremendous amount of followers since you are a natural educator.

    • June Escalada

      Thanks Audrey. I’ll keep that in mind.