Infographics: How to Join Objects in Illustrator

By Justin Beegel, MBA, The Infographic World Team

Some infographic designs are a little more complex, with really only a couple of options for completing them in Illustrator. For example, take a shape that needs to be edited to include a “see-through” hole, like a donut.

Illustrator’s Compound Path selection is your best bet (choose Object→Compound Path). Compound Path turns several grouped polygons into what the program recognizes as one polygon. It can also take one object and subtract it from another.

If you make two circles, one inside the other, you can punch a hole out of one in the shape of the other. (See the figure.) For the best results, be sure to make the circle on top smaller than the one behind. Choose Object→Compound Path→Make.

This will produce a donut shape. Then, Illustrator sees this as one object — not as a grouped object — which makes it simple to move around your design.

Creating an object with the compound path.

Creating an object with the compound path.

With Pathfinder, you can also produce compound paths. First, select the donut and choose Object→Compound Path→Release. This will ungroup the donut polygons and become two separate shapes again. Duplicate these three more times by copy/pasting the pair (choose Edit→Copy, Edit→Paste). You can use these as examples for the Pathfinder tool.

Move them into a configuration that will best show the Pathfinder results. That is, place them in a line — not atop each other.

With the Pathfinder selected, select the first group of circles. With both small and large circles selected, go to the Pathfinder and select the first pathfinder option — Unite — which will combine the two shapes into one shape.

With the second group of circles selected, click the Subtract function in the Pathfinder. This, much like the Compound Path tool, will subtract the top from the bottom shape.

The third option — Intersect —leaves only the areas that overlap in the selections. The fourth option — Exclude —does the opposite of the Intersect option (leaves out overlapping sections of the shapes). See the figure.

Detailed work with the compound path.

Detailed work with the compound path.

Use the Pathfinder and the Compound Path tools to help create drawings where you need a hole in a wall, bites out of a sandwich, or a key hole in a door lock. They are immensely useful and will be a great addition to your drawing tools.