Build new shapes with Shaper and Shape Builder tools

About the Shaper Tool

The Shaper tool helps you create complex and beautiful designs by drawing, stacking, and placing shapes together, and then simply combining, merging, deleting, or moving them. Use simple, visually-intuitive gestures to perform operations that previously may have taken multiple actions to achieve.

Use the Shaper tool to turn natural gestures into vector shapes. Use a mouse or the ease of a touch device to create polygons, rectangles, or circles. The shapes drawn are live shapes. This feature is enabled in the traditional workspaces, the specialized Touch workspace, and on your mobile with Adobe Fresco.

Using the Shaper tool (drawing shapes)

  1. In Illustrator, from the Toolbox, click the Shaper tool (Shift+N).

  2. In the document, draw a shape. For example, draw a rough representation of a rectangle, circle, ellipse, or triangle or other polygon.

  3. The shape you draw is converted into a crisp geometric shape. The shape created is Live, and is fully editable like any Live shape.

    Convert free-hand gestures into crisp vector shapes
    Convert free-hand gestures into crisp vector shapes

Using the Shaper tool (creating shapes)

  1. Do one of the following:

    • Select a few overlapping shapes in your document
    • Use a tool to draw shapes that are overlapping
    • Use the Shaper tool (Shift + N) to quickly draw rectangles, circles, or polygons
  2. If not already selected, select the Shaper tool (Shift + N).

  3. Using your mouse (on a non-touch device) or your finger scribble on an area that you would either like to merge, delete, or punch out.

    The following rules determine how portions of the shapes are punched out or merged, and what the color of a merged shape is:

    • If the scribble is within one shape, the area is punched out.
    • If the scribble is across intersecting areas of two or more shapes, the intersecting areas are punched out
    • If scribble originates from the shape in the front:
      • From a non-overlapping area to an overlapping area, the shape in the front is punched out
      • From an overlapping area to a non-overlapping area, the shapes are merged, with the color of the merged area being that of the scribble origin point.
    • If the scribble originates from the shape in the back:
      • From a non-overlapping area to an overlapping area, the shapes are merged, with the color of the merged area being that of the scribble origin point.
      Examples of the scribble action with the Shaper tool
      (Left) Scribble action, and (Right) Resulting Shaper Groups

    Selecting shapes in a Shaper Group

    All shapes in a Shaper Group stay editable, even after portions of shapes may have been punched out or merged. The following actions allow you to select individual shapes or the group:

    Face Selection mode

    1. Select the Shaper Tool.

    2. Tap or click on a Shaper Group. The Shaper Group is selected, and a bounding box appears with the Arrow widget .

    3. Tap the shape again (or an individual shape, if individual shapes exist). You are now in Face Selection mode.

    4. If the Shaper Group contains merged shapes, the face of the shape appears matted. You can change the Fill color of shapes.

      Face Selection mode
      Face Selection mode

    Construction Mode

    1. With a Shaper Group selected, do one of the following:

      • Tap or click the Arrow widget so that it appears pointing upwards .
      • Double-click a shape.
      • Single-click a shape's stroke.
    2. With a single underlying object selected, you can modify any property or appearance of the object.

      Construction mode in Illustrator
      Construction mode

    Removing a shape from a Shaper Group

    1. Perform the steps required to get into Construction mode.
    2. Drag and drop a shape out of the bounding box.

    About the Shape Builder Tool

    The Shape Builder tool is an interactive tool for creating complex shapes by merging and erasing simpler shapes. It works on simple and compound paths.

    It intuitively highlights edges and regions of the selected art, which can be merged to form new shapes. An edge is defined as the section of a path, which does not intersect any other path of the selected objects. A region is a closed area bounded by edges.

    By default, the tool is in merge mode where it allows you to combine paths or regions. You can also switch to the erase mode to delete any unwanted edges or regions by pressing Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac).

    Setting the Shape Builder tool options

    You can set up and customize various options such as gap detection, coloring source, and highlighting to get the required merging capability and better visual feedback.

    Double-click the Shape Builder Tool icon in the Tools panel to set these options in the Shape Builder Tool Options dialog box.

    Shape Builder Tool Options dialog box
    Shape Builder Tool Options dialog box

    Gap Detection

    Set the gap length using the Gap Length drop-down list. The values available are Small (3 points), Medium (6 points), and Large (12 points).

    Select the Custom check box if you want to provide an exact gap length.

    When you select the gap length, Illustrator finds the gaps only close to the specified gap length value. Make sure that the gap length value is close (approximately) to the actual gap length of the art. You can check if the gaps are being detected by providing different gap length values until the gaps in the art are detected.

    For example, if you set the gap length to 12 points, whereas the shape that you need to merge contains gaps at 3 points, Illustrator may not detect the gaps.

    Gap Detection
    The highlighted area shows that the gap is detected and is considered as a region

    Consider Open Filled Paths as Closed

    If this option is selected, an invisible edge is created for an open path to make a region. When you click inside the region, a shape is created.

    In Merge Mode, Clicking the Stroke Splits the Path

    Select the check box, In Merge Mode, Clicking Stroke Splits the Path. This option allows you to split the parent path into two. The first path is created from the edge on which you click and second path is the remaining portion of the parent path excluding the first path. If this option is selected, the pointer changes to , while splitting the path.

    Pick Color From

    You can choose to color objects using the color swatches or the colors used in existing artwork. Use the Pick Color From drop-down list to select the Color Swatches or Artwork option.

    If you select the Color Swatches option, you get the Cursor Swatch Preview option. You can select the Cursor Swatch Preview check box to preview and select colors. A Live Paint style cursor swatch is provided when you select this option. It allows iteration (using the arrow keys) and selecting colors from the swatches panel.

    note: You can iterate using the arrow keys even if the Cursor Swatch Preview is disabled.

    To change the color of the stroke, move the pointer over object edges to highlight and change the color of the stroke. This option works only if the option, In Merge Mode, Clicking Stroke Splits the Path is selected.

    You can select the fill color of a region by pointing anywhere on the document.

    note: The Cursor Swatch Preview is not displayed while merging, to ensure that the shapes are clearly visible.

    If you select the Artwork option, Illustrator uses the same rules that are used for other art styles on merged objects. For more information, see step 6 in Creating shapes using Shape Builder Tool.


    The Fill check box is selected by default. If this option is selected, the path or region that you can merge, is highlighted in gray, when you mouse over the selected path. If this option is not selected, the selected region or path appears as normal.

    Highlight Stroke When Editable

    If this option is selected, Illustrator highlights the strokes that you can edit. The editable stroke appears in the color that you choose from the Color drop-down list.

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