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Use (compound) paths like cookie cutters?

Dec 5, 2012 2:42 PM

The best way I can describe what I want to do is, how do I use shapes like cookie cutters? I already know how to use clipping masks in order to achieve the visual equivalent of this, but I want to take the resulting viewable area and turn it into its own object/path. The problem is, when I, let's say, create a circle clipping mask over an image, the visual effect is a circular cutout of the image, but in Illustrator terms, what I'm actually left with is a group made up of the clipping mask and the image behind the mask. All I want is the cutout, and I want to me able to turn that into a (compound) path.


I've read a hundred different blogs/posts/tutorials, but they only teach you how to create a clipping mask, which is only half of what I want to do.

  • Currently Being Moderated
    Dec 5, 2012 3:25 PM   in reply to borosco



    The possible ways of achieving something like what you describe depends on the nature of the image/path to be cut.


    In some cases where the artwork to be cut consists of vector objects/paths, you may actually cut them in different straightforward ways, such as selecting the cutting path (circle or other shape) and Object>Divide Objects Below, or use an appropsriate Pathfinder option.


    In other cases, you may do the destructive deed after applying a Clipping mask (which works on and at least in some senses will/may destroy the underlying artwork), namely to:


    1) In the Transparency palette/panel dropdown list select anything but Normal (Multiply is fine),

    2) Object>Flatten Transparency, just keep the defaults including 100% Vector,

    3) Shudder.


    This should rid you of everything outside the Bounding Box of the Clipping Path (and it will/may change the remaining artwork, such as turning strokes into new filled paths with no strokes).


    In any case, before doing something irreverseible, remember to keep/save the original artwork.

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    Dec 5, 2012 4:10 PM   in reply to borosco

    I think I understand you (not quite sure though) but here are the two methods I commonly use:

    Picture 2.png

    On the left is a compound clipping mask. A rectangle that covers the image and a circle.

    The rectangle and the circle are made into a compound path and then used as a mask.


    On the right is the usual kind of mask. A simple circle over the image.


    As long as you are using a placed image there is no way of physically removing the parts of it that are hidden by the mask.

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    Dec 5, 2012 4:50 PM   in reply to borosco

    I've read a hundred different blogs/posts/tutorials, but they only teach you how to create a clipping mask, which is only half of what I want to do.

    That's because you're reading about Illustrator, which has never provided a decent path cutting capability.


    First, let's get the one legitimate caveat out of the way: If the object you're talking about cutting is a raster image, all you can rightly expect to do is a rectangular crop, because a raster image is by definition a rectangular array of pixels. Of course, Illustrator cannot even do that; most every other similar drawing program can.


    With that out of the way, let's assume the content you want to "cookie cut" is vector  paths.


    Had you been reading about, for example, Corel Draw, you'd find that you can in fact do exactly what you describe: draw a path with which to cut pre-existing artwork to the shape of the path in one move.


    Had you been reading about most any other drawing program, you'd at least be able to make a rectangular crop of the artwork, or make four straight cuts across it to lop off its edges. Other drawing programs have been able to do at least that for decades. Not Illustrator; at least not without absurd caveats.


    For all its history, Illustrator has had some evidently inexplicable difficulty with its own open unfilled paths. This affects using the Knife Tool in its straight line mode in that open unfilled paths are simply ignored by the Knife. It also confounds Illustrator's common boolean operations (so-called Pathfinders). Most of Illustrator's Pathfinder commands come with ridiculous caveats which frequently wreck pre-existing artwork. If open, unfilled paths are not deleted, they are outlined or loose their strokes. Certain Pathfinder operations will even result in hairline strokes (strokes of weight zero), which is not even supposed to be allowed in Illustrator (but is quite valueable in other programs). Fills are often removed by Pathfiner operations, too.


    The Eraser Tool should have aleviated some of this nonsense, but it cannot cut a zero-width swath, and even if you work around that, it has a nasty habit of distorting the portions of paths which remain.


    Only the recently added Shape Builder tool (which can be made to behave much like Draw's Virtual Segment tool) comes close to proper path cutting. But not in one move. You have to drag around the shape that you are using for the desired final shape--which can be tedious, but it's the most servicable of Illustrator's tool-glutted, but still substandard functionality in this regard.



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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Dec 6, 2012 2:17 AM   in reply to borosco

    You are welcome, borosco.

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