This question appears to be asking what I am asking, but the accepted (and only) answer does not seem to address the OP's (or my) question.

Is there a way to use one object or group of objects to select all objects that they overlap?

I believe I was able to find a complicated but workable method for a project ~3 years ago, but now can't figure it out.

Situation: - Field of repeated objects A (an expanded pattern) - Object B on top, larger than the component parts of A

Goal: - Fill object B with complete instances of object A. Essentially a pattern fill but without any parts of the pattern cut in half - Perhaps by select all objects A that overlap in any way with B, inverting selection and deleting

  • The comments address it though. There is no internal feature in Illustrator to do what you are asking.
    – Scott
    Commented Mar 30, 2020 at 18:34

2 Answers 2


A limited workaround.

It works only if your fill shapes are all paths (not groups, text nor raster images). They can be compound paths like in the example, but they must all have the same fill color, they must not overlap and no unexpanded effects are allowed.

In the next image we have the expanded fill pattern (=red outlined A letters). All clipping masks are released, ungrouped and deleted. They can be selected easily with Select > Same > Fill color because clipping masks have no fill.

enter image description here

The wanted area to be filled with unbroken As is the blue circle. It could be any closed path.

The blue circle will vanish. If it's needed make a spare copy and hide it (=copy, paste in place, hide in the Layers panel)

Draw a rectangle, send it to back and use the blue circle to make a hole to the rectangle. Use Pathfinder Panel's Minus Front or make a compound path. That's shown in the next image in left and middle:

enter image description here

In the right all is selected and Pathfinder panel's Union is applied.

Delete the unwanted parts:

  • select all
  • apply Object > Ungroup
  • select the rectangle; the unbroken A:s become deselected automatically
  • press DEL or move the unwanted parts aside

enter image description here

The unwanted parts are shown in the middle. In the right the original blue shape is restored for a comparison.

The A:s would present the original shape better if the hole was made bigger. One could use for ex. Object > Path > Offset Path.

  • This is fantastic and makes so much sense. Thank you thank you
    – Unrelated
    Commented May 1, 2020 at 13:44

There is no such function in illustrator. Nor can it easily be scripted in most cases. I mean sure if you just want to to find items that are completely inside and your object is always the same. (for things like round object though there is a circle packing script around) Then you could use pathfinder to remove the ones and then identify any partial hits by point count + perimeter length +area (etc). Even so it would be slow and kludgy.

c++ plugin writing time,.

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