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I'm new to Illustrator and it is driving me nuts.

What I want to do is simply subtract a rectangle from a circle


On top of it, I draw a white rectangle, and use the Subtract from front from the Pathfinder.

What I get is:


while I expect


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Illustrator does drive people nuts for the first few months. Then it slowly all falls into place, and suddenly you don't know how you lived without it. Here, the reason it's doing what it does is it doesn't know you only care about the stroke of the circle. It thinks of it as a solid circle that happens to have fill set to no fill and a thick outline. You might give it a fill later. So it takes a chunk out as if it was a solid circle. If you want a shape that is treated as just the outline, you need to create a shape that is just the outline (e.g. by using 'outline stroke' as people below say) – user568458 Jun 13 '12 at 22:00
@user568458 Ah, thanks for the explanation. Suddenly it all makes sense now. – ustun Jun 14 '12 at 7:54
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Simply use the Direct Selection Tool (the white arrow) to click the two inner anchors and hit delete.

Anchors to delete

It merely takes an extra step. Not everything is possible with a single click.

You will notice however, with your current method the ends of the open section will be angled on the circle's arc. They will not be square as in your desired example.

If you want the end caps to be squared, you need to expand the circle so it's a shape rather than a stroked path. Simply select the circle and choose Object > Expand. Then proceed to draw a rectangle and use pathfinder to minus front and you will get the desired results.

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Thanks a lot Scott! – ustun Jun 13 '12 at 23:18

Outline the circle first - it appears that your stroke is fairly thick, and it's just taking that small chunk out.

Create your circle, select it, then select Edit -> Path -> Outline Stroke (you'll want to make sure your stroke is thick enough). Then perform your subtraction operation.

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Thank you, this method worked too! – ustun Jun 13 '12 at 23:22

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