Discovered by Joel Barbour – many thanks!!
Remember the days of carefully building vector drawings using the Pathfinder tool panel? They are (mostly) over. If you haven’t stumbled upon the Shape Builder Tool yet, this is a pretty incredible tool that makes building shapes really intuitive and FAST.
I’m going to start with the simple shapes that are going to make up my vector drawing. Overlap, draw lines through shapes, etc. The tool handles all of these really well! It’s easier to see how the tool works if you have everything set to zero fill so you can see the outlines clearly.
Now, instead of opening up the Pathfinder tool panel to start combining your object, make sure you have all of your shapes selected and choose the Shape Builder Tool (or shortcut Shift+M) from the sidebar menu.
Place your cursor inside the object and note how it highlights the shape you are inside of. Note the small plus (+) sign next to the cursor – in its default state will add to your shape when you drag the cursor through multiple shapes. Holding down the Option key will subtract from your shape. Start dragging your cursor across shapes to combine them, then holding down the option key and click or drag through shapes to subtract them.
The shape builder is so easy to get the hang of – play around and have fun! Here’s a shot of the finished product with a fill applied. Easy!