Advanced Illustrator: Creating Compound Paths & Backgrounds

highfivecat Congratulations to Media BD – the class has a record 11 A+s and no one in the class got below a C.
Keep up the fantastic work!

Many of the proposed designs require knowledge of how to create a compound path and/or how to add a background in Illustrator, so I have created a tutorial for both skills. Today you will complete the tutorial and post a PDF of your completed tutorial your blog. You may then resume working on your poster.

What is a Compound Path?

If your design has a strong balance of positive and negative space, there is a chance you will need to put a “hole” in the design so you can see the background. You can do this in Illustrator by creating a compound path.

Why should you create a compound path instead of just drawing a shape that is the same color as your background? Well, sometimes you need the negative space to be transparent (window decals, images in the background, etc).

How to Create a Compound Path in Illustrator

  1. Right click to save this image to your desktop. DO NOT OPEN THIS IMAGE IN ILLUSTRATOR.
  2. Open Adobe Illustrator and create a new file. File -> New. Set up the dimensions as follows:
  3. Place the image in Illustrator. File -> Place.
  4. Double-click the layer to and rename it “reference photo.”
    Click the box next to the eye to lock the layer (a lock icon should appear).
  5. Click the new layer button. new_layer Double-click on the new layer and name it “positive space.”
  6. Select the pen tool. pen_tool
  7. In the colors palette at the bottom left of the screen, remove the outline by clicking the outline icon to bring it forward, then clicking the square with the red line through it.
  8. Double-click on the fill icon (the solid square) to change the fill color to something you like.
  9. Use the pen tool to outline the shape. Open the transparency window. (Window -> Transparency)
  10. Select the black arrow from the tool bar on the left side of the screen. black_arrow
    Then click anywhere on the screen away from the shape you have just traced to deselect it.
  11. Pick a different fill color.
  12. Make a new layer. Name it “negative space”.
  13. Select the pen tool and trace over the negative space shapes.
  14. Select the black arrow from the tool bar on the left side of the screen.
    Click on one shape at a time and make sure the opacity of each shape it set to 100%.
  15. Select all of the shapes by holding down on the shift key as you click each one.
    At the top of the screen, Object -> Compound Path -> Make.
  16. Your “negative space” shapes should now be completely transparent.
  17. Your “positive space” layer is now empty.
    Click on it and then click on the trash can icon to delete it.
  18. Double-click on the “negative space” layer and rename it “rabbit”.

How to add a background:

  1. Make a new layer above your reference photo layer and below your positive space layer.
    Name it “background.”
  2. Click the rectangle tool in the tool bar on the left side of the screen.
  3. Change the fill color to be your desired background color.
  4. Click and drag to draw a box that covers the entire background area.
  5. Save your file as a PDF (File -> Save as -> Select “Adobe PDF” as the file format)
  6. Create a new blog post and upload the PDF.

Today we will:

  • Watch a demonstration on how to create compound paths and backgrounds in Adobe Illustrator
  • Complete the compound path/background tutorial in Adobe Illustrator
  • Post a PDF of our completed tutorial to the our blog
  • Continue working on our poster designs
  • Post a PDF of our poster design progress to our blogs



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