I'm trying to make a logo that has a transparent fill and a white outline in Illustrator CS3.

The .AI file contains three layers: the black text is on the first, the white shadow is on the second, and the black background is on the third. The text is outlined, not live. I tried making the fill colors transparent the usual way but that ruined the shadow effect. I also experimented with every option in the Pathfinder with no success.

I have a feeling this is really simple but I still can't figure it out. You can see the logo below.


  • I would suggest pathfinder, but you say that didn't work. Is there a white stroke on the black text, or is everything only fills? Commented Jun 1, 2018 at 23:40
  • The top layer is black with a white stroke and the second layer is white with a white stroke. Come to think of it I did accomplish this last night by using the Subtract function on the Pathfinder but for some reason I can't do it again today. There must be a step I'm forgetting.
    – Matt
    Commented Jun 1, 2018 at 23:46
  • 1
    Are you trying to cut through both the white highlight layer, and the black background? Then you'll have to make a copy of the black letter layer, and paste in front, and do pathfinder minus front on both layers, because the path you are using as the cutter will be consumed by the pathfinder operation.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Jun 1, 2018 at 23:50
  • I don't understand your comment, Billy Kerr. I just want the black parts of the letters to be transparent so I can change the background color to anything and just see the white outlines.
    – Matt
    Commented Jun 2, 2018 at 1:29

2 Answers 2


I figured it out! I selected the whole image, used "subtract" on the pathfinder, removed the background and changed the text to white. When I made a new background with a different color it worked as intended.Successful logo


There are two different methods that can be used here. Use whichever you're more comfortable with.

Method 1: Pathfinder

The reason the pathfinder likely wasn't working for you is because pathfinder doesn't take strokes into account. Here's what I would do in your specific scenario:

  1. Remove the strokes from the black objects.
  2. Select the top black object, and choose Object -> Path -> Offset Path.
  3. Enter the negative version of half your old stroke width*. For example, enter -0.5pt if your stroke was 1pt. This will create a new path that is slightly smaller.
  4. Delete the old path. Now you should see part of the white object showing through.
  5. Now select the new top black object and the white object, and use Pathfinder -> Minus front. You should end up with one white object with the black background showing through.

You'll most likely have to repeat this process for each of the 3 letters individually, as pathfinder wouldn't correctly handle all three at once.

*Note: This is assuming you have it as the default of aligning stroke to center.

Method 2: Live Paint Group

This method may be more intuitive for some people, and may be easier for your specific case.

  1. Select all the non-background objects.
  2. Choose Object -> Live Paint -> Make.
  3. Choose Object -> Live Paint -> Expand.
  4. Use the Direction Selection tool to select and delete the parts you want to be transparent.
  • Is there some way I can merge everything together so I can simply select any of the black parts and hit delete?
    – Matt
    Commented Jun 2, 2018 at 0:16
  • You may be able to use a live paint group to achieve a similar result. I’ve never used it before and I just left the office so I can’t test it myself right now, but if it works for you I’ll update my answer when I get back to a computer: helpx.adobe.com/illustrator/using/live-paint-groups.html Commented Jun 2, 2018 at 0:38
  • I added a second method that may be more similar to what you're looking for! Commented Jun 2, 2018 at 1:48

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