Learn about the different methods for cutting, dividing, and trimming objects in Illustrator

Commands for cutting and dividing objects

Divide Objects Below

Example: Use the Divide Objects Below command

The Divide Objects Below command acts as a cookie cutter or stencil, using a selected object to cut through other objects, discarding the original selection.

  1. Select the object to use as a cutter, and position it so that it overlaps the objects to cut.
  2. Choose Object > Path > Divide Objects Below.

Split Into Grid

Example: Split Into Grid

The Split Into Grid command lets you divide one or more objects into multiple rectangular objects arranged in rows and columns. You can precisely change the height, width, and gutter size between rows and columns, and quickly create guides for laying out artwork.

  1. Select the object.

    Note: If you select more than one object, the resulting grid of objects uses the appearance attributes of the topmost object.

  2. Choose Object > Path > Split Into Grid.

  3. Enter the number of rows and columns you want.
  4. (Optional) Do any of the following:
    • To set the size of each row and column, enter values for Height and Width.

    • To set the amount of space that separates rows from one another and columns from one another, enter values for Gutter.

    • To change the dimensions of the entire grid of objects, enter values for Total.

    • To add guides along the row and column edges, select Add Guides.

    Options available to divide the object into a grid

  5. Click OK.

Cut Path At Selected Anchor Points

Example: Cut Path At Selected Anchor Points

The Cut Path At Selected Anchor Point () icon cuts a path at the anchor point, and the one anchor point becomes two anchor points with one located directly on top of the other.

  1. (Optional) Select the path to see its current anchor points.

  2. Select the anchor point where you want to split the path using the Direct Selection () tool.

  3. Click the Cut Path At Selected Anchor Points () icon in the Control panel.

    When you split the path at an anchor point, a new anchor point appears on top of the original anchor point, and one anchor point is selected.

  4. Use the Direct Selection () tool to adjust the new anchor point or path segment.

Tools for cutting and dividing objects

Scissors

Example: Scissors tool

The Scissors tool splits a path, graphics frame, or empty text frame at an anchor point or along a segment.

  1. Click and hold the Eraser () tool to see and choose the Scissors () tool.

  2. Click the path where you want to split it. When you split the path, two endpoints are created. One endpoint is selected by default.

    Note:

    If you don't click a point or a path using the Scissors tool, Illustrator prompts you to use the tool on a segment or an anchor point of a path. Click OK to continue.

  3. Select the anchor point or the path cut in the previous step using the Direct Selection () tool to modify the object.

Knife tool

Example: Knife tool

The Knife tool cuts objects along a freehand path you draw with the tool, dividing objects into their component-filled faces. (A face is an area undivided by a line segment.)

  1. Click and hold the Eraser () tool to see and choose the Knife ()tool.

  2. Do one of the following:

    • To cut in a curved path, drag the pointer over the object.

    • To cut in a straight path, hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (macOS) as you click the artboard with the Knife tool, and then drag.

    The cuts created using the Knife tool appear as strokes on the object.

  3. Choose Select > Deselect.

    Note:

    Illustrator selects the object by default while cutting.

  4. Click and drag each part using the Direct Selection () tool.

Trim objects using clipping masks

Example: Trim objects using clipping masks

Clipping masks let you use an object to hide portions of other objects. For details, see Clipping masks.

  1. Create the object you want to use as the mask. This object is called the clipping path. Only vector objects can be clipping paths.

  2. Move the clipping path above the objects you want to mask in the stacking order.

  3. Select the clipping path and the objects you want to mask.

  4. Choose Object > Clipping Mask > Make.

    Note:

    To create a clipping path from the area where two or more objects overlap, group the objects first.

Trim objects using Pathfinder effects

Pathfinder effects provide various ways to divide and trim overlapping objects.

Trim objects using the Shape Modes available in the Pathfinder panel

A. Add to shape area using the Unite mode B. Subtract from shape area using the Minus Front mode C. Intersect shape area using the Intersect mode D. Exclude overlapping shape areas using the Exclude mode 
  1. Select the objects you want to trim using the Selection () tool.

  2. Choose Window > Pathfinder.

  3. Choose a Shape Mode and Pathfinder effects using the Pathfinder panel. For more information, see Pathfinder effects.

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