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Adobe Illustrator CC - Essentials Training

How to cut holes in shapes using Compound Shapes in Illustrator CC

Daniel Walter Scott

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Hi there, in this video we're going to cut holes in things. They're called Compound Paths. I'm going to zoom in, you can see I can see through this owl, through the page underneath. I'm also going to do this. Everyone loves a bit of abstract Compound Path making. We're going to that in this tutorial.

So first up, open up the file 'Compound Path' on your 'Exercise Files'. What I want to do is, I'm going to bring in an Image. I'm going to bring in an image called 'Old paper'. Drag it out so it kind of covers the background. It's a little big, it's okay. So I want this, now I'm going to 'Arrange it', 'Send to Back'. What I'd like to do is, at the moment there's-- let's say these two eyes, these outer eyes here, with the green, I want them to be holes. If they're white, which is what we've done in the past, obviously we can't see through the background. So what we want to do is we want to put holes in it.

So I'm going to select the two eyes, just drag them off because I want these two selected, so I'm holding 'Shift', click both of them. I'll also do it in one big go, so I want to cut that out as well, the nose and all from this sky in the background. It comes down to Layer Order. Whatever's at the back, gets everything cut out of them, so make sure that the owl's body is at the back, which it is for us. Go up to 'Object', come down to 'Compound Path', and go to 'Make'. It slices it all up, and we can see through it. Let's get the eyes, I'll move them back in. And we're going to select everything. Deselect the background, I'm going to fill it with 'white', just to match what we had there at the beginning. So that's how to make a Compound Path.

I want to add a Drop Shadow to it, just because. I'm not so sure about that while we're here. Let's go to 'Effect', and let's go to 'Stylize'. You'll notice, when you add things like Drop Shadows, watch this. I'm going to turn 'on' Preview, to show you the defaults. Can you see, it's kind of bit weird, and you're like, "Hmm." It's all kind of layered, and stuff. So what you need to do, first is have it all selected, then group it. So 'Object', 'Group', and then, if I go 'Effects' and go to 'Stylize', I can go to 'Drop Shadow'. And because they're all one group they all kind of act how you imagine they would act. I'm just going to drop this down to something not totally messy. It's still pretty big, Dan. Let's go to the one down here. That's what I want. Let's click 'OK'.

So here's my first Compound Path. Next thing I'd like to do is, I'm going to open up a new document. We're going to do that, one we saw at the beginning, with all the squiggles. Same sort of principle. I'm going to open up a document. I'm going to make sure it's RGB. So, twirl down 'Advanced'. Why? Because it's just a better color. Look at the earlier video for RGB, about why. What I'm going to do is, I'm going to grab my 'Pencil Tool'. It's underneath the Shaper Tool, grab the Pencil Tool. If we double click it, make sure the 'Smoothing' is right up, and the ‘Keep Selected' is unticked. It's just going to help us, the lines look smoother. I'm going to draw a few different squiggles.

What we'll do is, I'm going to draw one initial one, around the outside. Just kind of doing blobby moving around. Watch when I let go. Come back to the beginning, because, you see right back to the beginning and it kind of makes it one shape, which is cool. I'm making another one. How many of these do I want? I think I want five. Doesn't really matter. This one's going to have like an extra blob in there. Maybe one more. It's going to go underneath there. I got him down here. Exciting myself.

So I've got all my shapes here now. What I'm going to do to make this easier for everybody to understand-- it's easier probably just to go, you're the beginning shape you're the next shape. Just keeping a nice bit of space between them all to make it easy while we're working. So I've got all these shapes. I would like some rectangles, so I'm going to draw a rectangle that covers the page. Doesn't really matter how big these are really. I'm going to grab it and I'm going to stick this-- what have I got? I've got no Fill, I'm going to pick a color. I'm going to give-- I'm going to grab it and select it underneath. These need to be at the back, right? So we need to go 'Arrange', 'Send to Back'. I'm going to have one, two. I'm holding 'Alt' while I'm dragging, that's how I'm getting the copy. We did it earlier on but you can just hold down the 'Option' on a Mac, or the 'Alt' key on a PC. Here you go, these are all my shapes.

Now I'm going to pick some colors because I want to. Let's go to 'Window', we'll use 'Color Themes'. We used this earlier on in a tutorial, I'm using 'Explore'. And I'm going to pick some colors from here. So I will pick this color here. Let's start with this one, this is going to be my Base color. Actually we need one other color, that's what we need. We need five segments. This bold one's going to be this color. Green. Click on this one, it's going to be this yellow color. Peach. I'm going to 'Color names'. So now we need to make them Compound Paths, just like we did before. So we're going to start with this bottom one here. Select both things, go to 'Object', 'Compound Path', 'Make'. 'Select', 'Object', 'Compound Path', 'Make'. You see the shortcut there. It's 'Command 8' on a Mac, or 'Control 8' on a PC. I use it all the time. I've got them all.

Next thing I want to do is select them all, and give them 'no' Stroke. Goodbye, Stroke. I'm going to stick them up, you are at the bottom. Your next is going to be some Layer Order issues, hmm, not. We happened to do them in the right order. So that guy's behind that guy. So I just need to make sure, with them selected, 'Arrange', Bring to Front'. Now I'm going to my Layer Orders. 'Arrange', 'Bring to Front'. Just so you know, it's not really a-- it's kind of an intro class for shortcuts, but 'Command Shift', and the outer square rectangle,'['. It's near your P key. It's 'Command Shift' and outer, or the second square bracket, ']'. It's 'Control Shift' if you're on a PC.

So I've got all my colors. They're all lined up, and what you saw at the beginning though, there was this nice little effect applied to them. So kind of like-- or, it is the Drop Shadow. Makes this look a little nicer. So, I am going to select it all. I'm going to close down Color Themes, and I'm going to go 'Effect'. Then we go to 'Drop Shadow'. Under 'Stylize', 'Drop Shadow'. We're going to play around with this. Make sure Preview is 'on'. I guess this will come down to the size of your page, kind of squiggles you did. So, by default, it's a bit smaller, '1', '1', '1'. I'm going to go to-- I'm going to pretend like I'm just freaking this, like I practiced this before the video to try and make it look awesome. '7'. '7'. And this one here looks good at '20'. The Offset is just like left and right, so it's kind of sun shining up there. The Blur is, you watch, it will change from this kind of really hard edge to a really kind of soft edge. Doesn't look great? It's okay. Let's click 'OK' on this.

Now one thing before we move on is that you might find your machine is running super slow. The reason for that is because-- it's called the Raster Setting. So, if you're finding, like it's just impossible to work, you can go up to here, go to 'Effects', 'Document Raster Settings', and change it from 300 ppi to this, 72 ppi. The only problem with that, it's going to change the resolution. So when you flip it up with this-- so when you go to 'Print', it's not going to look as good, but while you're working, it actually just speeds things up. So now I'm working, I go and resize that, it's super quick whereas back at '300', even just clicking the 'OK' button takes forever. There you go. So now when I drag it out, it goes, 'Recalculating', and then-- like, I got a pretty fast Mac, and it's still pretty slow.

So what you need to do is, you can change it to '72' and just before you go to 'Print', or when you're finished doing, go back to '300', it will look nicer. So I've got this, I've done better ones, but let's say that I like this-- It looks good as a kind of abstract slice rather than the whole thing. So what I might do is, I'm going to grab the 'Rectangle Tool' and grab, like a chunk of, maybe this. Maybe just that bit. So I've drawn a rectangle along this top, I've selected everything. Then I'm going to go to-- I can't do it over here, with the Quick Actions, because I've got too many things selected, but it still works. It's under 'Object', 'Clipping Mask', 'Make', or 'Command 7'. Now it looks kind of cooler. I'm going to slice down to a little piece.

So one last thing we'll do with Compound Paths before we leave. Let's open a file in our 'Exercise Files'. It's called 'Smartphone.ai'. Here it is here. Now this has been downloaded from Adobe Market. It's free to use. I'll show you Adobe Market in a video coming up. Basically It's cool, it's got a hole cut in it but, say I want to kind of pull it apart and I go to 'Object', and go to 'Ungroup' and that works. Button, it's kind of not part of it now, then I go to 'Object' I can't ungroup it anymore, but it's still stuck together. It's because it's a Compound Path. There's a hole cut in the middle of it. Actually there's lots of holes. All these guys here, you can see through. There's a page there, they're all Compound Paths. You need to pull it to pieces.

Now that we know what a Compound Path is, no problem. 'Object', 'Compound Path, and instead of Make, we're going to 'Release' it. I'm going to click off in the background. Now it's all it's kind of constituent parts. You can go and adjust to change colors. You might want to go back, adjust the edges of this, then make a Compound Path again. It's up to you, but now you know. There will be lots of instances of this where you're given an image, you've downloaded it from the net, or a stock library site, and it's just really hard to work with. The magic potion is to go to 'Object', and go to 'Release Compound Path'.

All right my friends, you are now a master of Compound Paths. Go forth, cut holes in things. And I will see you in the very next video.