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Mar 25

Using the Pathfinder and Align tool in Illustrator

2008 at 02.46 pm posted by Veerle Pieters

Whenever I get a question from a user asking me “how did you draw this?”, I often have to answer that I’ve used the Pen tool. The Pen tool is probably the hardest tool to learn in Illustrator. It just takes time to master it fluently, but once you do, you have this freedom to create. Sometimes we can get a long way using only shape tools like the ellipse, polygon, rectangle or rounded rectangle. With a bit of creative thinking and some simple aligning in combination with Pathfinder’s powerful tools you might just achieve the perfect drawing in no time. Here is another Illustrator tutorial where I show you to draw a simple icon without the use of the Pen tool…

Draw the basic shapes

Draw the screwdriver

Before you start you might activate Smart Guides (View > Smart Guides). Select the Rounded Rectangle Tool from the Toolbox and draw a shape as shown in the image above. You can modify the corners of the rectangle using the up or down arrow keys while dragging the shape. Make sure the radius of the rounded corners of the rectangle is big enough. Next, select the Rectangle Tool and draw a small vertical rectangle shape below as shown in the right-hand side image. Now select the Polygon Tool and draw a small hexagon below the small rectangle (see image above).

Step

Select the Selection Tool (black arrow) and select the 3 shapes. Click the Horizontal Align Center from the toolbar at the top. Select the Direct Selection Tool (white arrow) and drag a selection over the bottom 2 points of the hexagon.

Resize and align the shapes

Step

Click in one of the points, hold down the Shift key and drag the 2 points downwards as shown in the left-hand side image above. Now select the Selection Tool (black arrow) again and select the small rectangle above the hexagon. Hover your cursor somewhere on the middle of the bottom border until you get the resize cursor icon. Drag the border of the rectangle downwards so it overlaps the hexagon shape.

Finalize the grip, merge and align shapes

Step

Select both the rectangle and the hexagon using the Selection Tool (black arrow). Go to the Pathfinder palette. If you can't find the palette on your screen, go to Window > Pathfinder. Click the Add to shape area option, then click the Expand button. Now select the Rounded Rectangle Tool from the Toolbox again and draw a vertical shape to finalize the grip of the screwdriver. Don't forget to use the up or down arrows to modify the radius. Also, you can use the spacebar to move its position while you draw the shape. Select the Selection Tool (black arrow) to select the shape you've just drawn. Now we're going to duplicate this shape. Hold down the Shift and Option/Alt key while dragging the shape to the right. Select the grip lines and group them: go to Object > Group or hit command/control + g. Now select all 3 rounded rectangles and select the Horizontal Align Center from the toolbar at the top.

Subtract shapes

Step

With the 3 rounded rectangles still selected, go to the Pathfinder palette again and choose Subtract from shape area and click the Expand button in the palette. Hold down the Shift key and select the other shape of the screwdriver. Group both shapes into 1 object: Object > Group or command/control + g.That's it for now for the screwdriver. Now we're going to draw the wrench. Select the Ellipse Tool and draw a circle (hold down the shift key). Select the Rounded Rectangle Tool and draw a rounded rectangle shape on top of the circle as shown in the right-hand side image. Use the up and down arrow keys to modify the corner radius meanwhile you drag the shape. Use spacebar to move the rectangle while dragging.

Step

Select both the rounded rectangle shape and the circle using the Selection Tool (black arrow) and click the Horizontal Align Center from the toolbar at the top. Go to the Pathfinder palette again and choose Subtract from shape area. Click the Expand button in the palette to expand the object. Select the Rounded Rectangle Tool from the Toolbox again and draw a vertical shape for the grip of the wrench. Then select the Ellipse Tool again and draw a small circle (holding down the shift key) at the bottom and on top of the wrench's grip. Now select all shapes of the wrench using the Selection Tool (black arrow) and click the Horizontal Align Center from the toolbar at the top.

Step

Select the small circle and the rounded rectangle, go to the Pathfinder palette again and choose Subtract from shape area and click the Expand button in the palette. Now select all shapes of the wrench and click the Add to shape area option, then click the Expand button.

Rotate and finalize

Step

Select the screwdriver using the Selection Tool (black arrow). Hover with the mouse on one of the corners of the selection until you see your cursor changing into a rotation cursor icon. Hold down the mouse to rotate the object and hold down the Shift key while rotating. Release the mouse and the shift key at 90°, so the screwdriver is horizontally. Click the Horizontal Align Center and then the Vertical Align Center from the toolbar at the top (see right-hand side image above).

Step

Select the Rectangle Tool and draw a rectangle shape on top in the center of both tools as shown in the left-hand side image. Select both the rectangle and the screwdriver (use shift key in between selections, to select both objects). Go to the Pathfinder palette again, choose Subtract from shape area and click the Expand button.

Step

Select all objects using the Selection Tool (black arrow). Hover with the mouse on one of the corners of the selection until you see your cursor changing into a rotation symbol. Hold down the mouse to rotate the object and hold down the Shift key while rotating. Release the mouse and the shift key at 45° as shown in the image above. That's it! Congratulations, you have created your 'tools' icon :)

Want to learn more?

VECTORTUTS+ Vector Tutorials and More A good and not expensive source to learn more about Illustrator, Photoshop, or web design is by joining the Tuts+ sites. You get access to the source files for just $9 a month. So your ONE membership gives you access to members-only content for ALL the Plus sites. I've written a tutorial for the Vector Tuts section.


50served

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permalink this comment dotK Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03.37 pm

I always have to think about the “Belgacom” commercial when I read Veerle’s posts - “It is easy when someone explains something realy good.”

Great job on the tutorial. Someday I’ll be a great Illustrator artist (ETA - long)


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permalink this comment Antoine Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 04.16 pm

Very nice article, thanks a lot !!


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permalink this comment tamielizabeth Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 05.16 pm

That was really fun!  I have often struggled with subtracting shapes and always ended up having to sacrifice the vision of what I intended to do because of it.  Thank you for teaching me how!


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permalink this comment Tuto Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 07.37 pm

Good tutorial. Thanks for it !!


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permalink this comment Andrea Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 09.46 pm

Fantastic tutorial, this really helped me a lot, thanks! If you have any more tutorials that would be easier for beginners in illustrator that would be really helpful!

Thanks!


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permalink this comment Alex Buga Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 10.06 pm

It’s been a while since you we read a very good tutorial.


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permalink this comment ATown Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 10.16 pm

Awesome. I’ve been wanting to make my own icons.


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permalink this comment Simeon Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 11.21 pm

Forget about the Expand button! Just hold down alt/option when you click the pathfinder tool. Saves you an extra click every time.

Good article, when too many sites focus on tips and tricks your blog gives a great resource on the basics of Illustrator. Top stuff.


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permalink this comment els Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 11.26 pm

This is why I visit your website every day! Your tutorials are the best! Thank you very, very much!


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permalink this comment Dorin Vancea Wed Mar 26, 2008 at 12.32 am

Excelent tutorial :) Thanks !


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permalink this comment David Blanchet Wed Mar 26, 2008 at 12.57 am

This would be a cool series, even to invite a couple people to create a few of these icons then give away the set in the end. Just a thought. I’d be up for making a magnifying glass or a house icon or something like that to contribute.


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permalink this comment Webstandard-Team Wed Mar 26, 2008 at 08.09 am

Nice little Illustrator-Tutorial, thx


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permalink this comment Xethorn Wed Mar 26, 2008 at 09.50 am

Great article ! I really enjoy to read this kind of work, it’s like Abduzeedo : very accessible for everyone ! 

Thanks for sharing !


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permalink this comment David Madden Wed Mar 26, 2008 at 11.21 am

Another great Illustrator post.

Thank you.


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permalink this comment Kenny Wed Mar 26, 2008 at 03.28 pm

Simeon said:

Forget about the Expand button! Just hold down alt/option when you click the pathfinder tool. Saves you an extra click every time.

Very cool, didn’t know that.


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permalink this comment Ed Hall Wed Mar 26, 2008 at 04.30 pm

Don’t know how but I just stumbled on this site, loads of great tips especially making tables in CSS.  Just started using illustrator so this has een a great help, many thanks!


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permalink this comment Juliano Moreira Dasilva Thu Mar 27, 2008 at 02.37 am

Veerle, very nice tutorial! I was wondering if you use illustrator to design your css table layout. It may be a off-topic question but I though I’d throw it out there. THanks in advance!!


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permalink this comment dubayou Thu Mar 27, 2008 at 02.50 am

wow, i loved this. helped alot. and I also i noticed that that vector has been used before for SeoBook tools page.


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permalink this comment Matt Halliday Thu Mar 27, 2008 at 05.07 am

Glad to see an Illustrator tutorial explaining these lesser-known, highly useful tools. I use them both daily, as well as the distribute command - really speeds up the process when designing!


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permalink this comment Michael Short Thu Mar 27, 2008 at 05.48 am

Thanks Veerle. after reading your site I can’t stand reading other tutorials because none of them explain things as well as you do!


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permalink this comment ORG Thu Mar 27, 2008 at 09.18 am

Very instructive tutorial! Also the shortcuts are very useful. I often read your blog to know something new. Thanks!


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permalink this comment James King Thu Mar 27, 2008 at 11.23 am

I love the pathfinder tool, it makes my life so much easier. Thanks for showing how creative you can be with this tool.


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permalink this comment Mattias Nygård Thu Mar 27, 2008 at 02.44 pm

Great tutorial! I really use the pathfinder and align tool alot. When combined with the pen tool you can make what ever shapes you need. A truly powerful technique.


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permalink this comment Joe Thu Mar 27, 2008 at 03.21 pm

Thanks for the great tool and tips on how to use it, i have been wanting ot make my own icons for quite sometime!!


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permalink this comment lynne Thu Mar 27, 2008 at 03.26 pm

I actually had a professor how uses a similar stylist in class that would help us design templates and GUI’s for projects. He would blow throw the design phase so quick I had a hard time keeping up with what he was doing. Although we didn’t need to use the stylists it does make for a great tool to get some new designs going on the fly so to speak. Thank you for this step by step description. I am actually going to start playing with this concept for some logo designs.


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permalink this comment Nando González Thu Mar 27, 2008 at 06.04 pm

I find your tips very useful. Thanks!


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permalink this comment Nana Yaw Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 12.33 am

thanks alot i have learn from you lately
it was a very helpful tutorial and all previous ones have help me,am new to illustrator so am gonna learn lot from
you.THANKS


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permalink this comment Jackie Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 02.43 am

Thanks again Veerle for another great tutorial.  It was fun to go through this.  I had no idea how easy it was to create something with just the shape tools, and using your imagination to know how to make it look good, too.  I like how you rotated the tool icon at 45 degrees in the last step - it really finishes it off in a neat way.


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permalink this comment Damjan Mozetič Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 08.42 am

Always learning new stuff. Thanks!


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permalink this comment adityaw Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 02.25 pm

I’ve got to say, your tutorials are awesome. Thanks for sharing!


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permalink this comment Dolzhenkov Ilya Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 02.44 pm

Thanks! I need it :)


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permalink this comment Zeb Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 03.23 pm

Yeah ! Illus. tuts are poorly rare (the best tuts hun ?), many thanks Veerle :-)


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permalink this comment Martijn Brackman Fri Mar 28, 2008 at 06.46 pm

Now that I have just started my own blog, I realise how difficult it is to write something down in a fresh and understandable way, like your articles are.
Especially because English isn’t my mother language. I am not always that satisfied about my writings but I won’t give up yet.

Your blog was the first one I read and after that I read many others. I find a lot of inspiration here, in particular the way you handle things.

Anyway, great tutorial! Well written!


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permalink this comment Heather Sat Mar 29, 2008 at 03.00 am

You always give a great tutorial. I love how you focus on everyday techniques so we can all learn something that will make our day just a little bit easier. Thanks, Veerle!
Heather


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permalink this comment MikeyP Sat Mar 29, 2008 at 07.14 am

VERY helpful…thanks!  It is nice to find tutorials for those of us still learning AI!


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permalink this comment liuyong Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 11.15 am

cool! very usefull tips !


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permalink this comment mak Mon Mar 31, 2008 at 08.20 pm

You tutorials are awesome, easy for beginners like me. Thanks.


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permalink this comment Delta Tue Apr 1, 2008 at 10.02 pm

You should write a book of tutorials.  Well done and easy to understand.


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permalink this comment Dmitri Thu Apr 3, 2008 at 07.06 am

A very nice tutorial. I do it a bit differently though,but this is great for everyone


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permalink this comment web pixy Fri Apr 4, 2008 at 11.13 am

Thank you for this awesome tutorial! It seems so easy as you explain it but actually it is very hard and takes some time to learn.


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permalink this comment Marcus McCurdy Mon Apr 7, 2008 at 06.25 pm

As always a well written and informative tutorial. The web is rife with poorly written Illustrator tutorials and your blog is a breath of fresh air in the Illustrator world. Thanks again for providing your valuable tutorials.


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permalink this comment vp Tue Apr 8, 2008 at 08.22 pm

Thanks.

question is, is there a way to make a shortcut key for vertical-align center and horizontal-align center?


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permalink this comment Adam Wed Apr 9, 2008 at 06.59 am

This just gave me an idea for a project I am working on (a lot different though). I have been to a few other sites and I can easily say you do some of the nicest tutorials I have seen so far.


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permalink this comment Veerle Wed Apr 9, 2008 at 09.53 am

Thank you all for commenting and for the compliments. I’m glad you enjoy this :)

vp said:

Is there a way to make a shortcut key for vertical-align center and horizontal-align center?

As far as I know I don’t think there is. I’ve taken a quick look at the “Keyboard Shortcuts” list under the Edit menu and couldn’t find it there either. Otherwise that would have been an option. I’m afraid that’s all I have as answer here on your question.


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permalink this comment vp Fri Apr 11, 2008 at 09.58 am

Veerle, thank you for answering my question. I have one more question about aligning. Amongst the tools is there a way to butt one object to another without doing it visually?


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permalink this comment Gabbo Tue Apr 15, 2008 at 01.02 pm

Very helpful indeed. I just goes to show that once you have the know how, all you need is the imagination. Cheers!


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permalink this comment RL Mon Apr 21, 2008 at 05.18 pm

Your tutorials are very helpful.
I often read your blog to know something new.

Thanks and greetings from Germany.


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permalink this comment Goos Wed Apr 23, 2008 at 01.27 pm

Thanks Veerle for another tutorial. I have been working with illustrator all day and did three of your tutorials. All were good to follow and I had nice results very quickly. Thanks again and keep up the nice work.

Btw. Are you from the French or Dutch speaking part of Belgium?


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permalink this comment Veerle Wed Apr 23, 2008 at 03.56 pm

Goos said:

Btw. Are you from the French or Dutch speaking part of Belgium?

Thank you. Happy to hear you’ve enjoyed my tutorials ;) I’m from the Dutch speaking part of Belgium.


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permalink this comment Goos Wed Apr 23, 2008 at 04.01 pm

Cool, so we could talk dutch as well, haha. But we probably will not, so everyone can still follow the discussion. I live more in the north of the Netherlands (Gronigen) but Belgium is still pretty close. Our friendly neighbors!

Thanks again and enjoy your day Veerle!



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