In some tutorials, the instructor uses the terms 'shape' and 'object' both for the same thing. In Illustrator, are the terms ''shape'' and ''object'' synonyms?

  1. When I draw an ellipse or rectangle, what category does it inherit? Shape or object?

  2. When I draw 2 ellipses/rectangles and join them, what does it become? Shape or object?

  3. When I draw ''a bird'' using pen tool/brush, what it is? Object or shape?

  • 1
    Everything (almost) is an object, pages, guides, splines, text frames, etc. "Shapes" are a subset of objects.
    – 13ruce
    Feb 25, 2020 at 13:04

3 Answers 3


Technically speaking, Illustrator calls these objects, which can be single objects or groups of objects (which are also considered objects).

That is why you have an 'Object' menu in the main navigation, and not a 'Shape' menu. That is also why all the documentation includes the term 'object' in page slugs, not 'shape'.

  • 1
    wow... what an observation! Thankyou... Feb 25, 2020 at 9:19
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    Yes the web is full of tutorials and instructors, but you also need to observe the hard facts :)
    – Lucian
    Feb 25, 2020 at 9:22

Everything is an object. Regardless of what it is visually - a line, a circle, a rectangle, type.... all objects.

Shapes are Shapes - circles, rectangles, polygons, etc.

Think of it similar to type.. you can have a word, a sentence, a paragraph.. but it's all type. This is similar - you can have a circle, a square, a path.... but they are all objects.

  • understood, very nicely explained.. Thank you. Feb 25, 2020 at 9:18

Although the answers say all things are objects and shapes are certain objects, one does have to be a bit careful. See natural language is not that specific. Programming modeling is, but don't mix it with natural languages or your own mental modeling. For spoken language, a shape and an object are probably exchangeably the same thing for most people describing an Illustrator scene. Similar things happen a lot - to take an arbitrary example, some people call control points vertices, some call them nodes. It is OK, in a natural language that your teacher speaks.

I would also point out that being too rigid in your thinking can be dangerous for your problem solving tasks. The classical example is trying to make a path that bifurcates into two directions ending up in a T shaped crossing. Illustrator can not do it, but it also provides very little benefit for Illustrator to do it either. It is perfectly fine that your mental model differs form Illustrator's internal model, as long as you know it. So it is perfectly understandable that you would describe it as a T crossing, and think and behave as it would be if that brings you some benefit.

So just because Illustrator does something does not mean you have to limit yourself to Illustrator's world view. Just know it exists and be able to move between different abstractions. Same thing happens in spoken language.

  • Thank you for sharing your insights... :) Feb 26, 2020 at 7:46

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