Combining paths

As you've probably noticed through the course of this chapter, some paths are very simple (like the paths in the preceding figure), and some paths are more complex (like the shapes shown earlier in Figure 11-11). Complex paths are often compound paths: that is, paths that contain two or more paths (called subpaths) that interact with each other. Think about a pair of circles, different sizes, centered on top of each other. What if the smaller circle cut a hole in the middle of the larger circle, creating a wheel (or, depending on how early you're reading this, a bagel)? Take a look at Figure 11-22.

There are several ways in which two (or more) paths can interact. Complete this sentence: "The second path can (fill in the blank) the original path."

i Add to: The areas within the two subpaths are combined, as if they were within a single path.

i Subtract from: The second path is used like a cookie cutter to delete an area from within the first path. (When you need to make a bagel, this is the option!)

i Intersect with: Only the areas where the two subpaths overlap is retained.

i Exclude from: All the area within both subpaths is retained except where the two paths overlap.

Figure 11-22: Two (or more) paths can interact with each other, creating a compound path, consisting of two or more subpaths.

When any shape tool or the Pen tool is active, the Options bar presents you with four buttons to determine the behavior of multiple paths. (The first path that you create will always be just a normal path. The buttons don't come into play until you add additional subpaths.) Figure 11-23 shows you the buttons, tells you which is which, and provides a simple graphic representation to demonstrate the interaction. The upper-left path is the original, with the lower-right path showing how each option controls the interaction between subpaths.

Figure 11-23: The buttons control how a second path (and any subsequent paths) interact with your original path.
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