Illustrator offers many different ways to do the same thing, right? I guess at some point it just comes down to personal preference. When it comes to Pathfinder vs Shape Builder tool, why (other than personal preference) would someone use the Pathfinder tool? Are there things that the shape builder tool simply can't do?

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    You have to also think about the chrinology of things. Shapebuilder has existed only a few years compared to decades for shapebuilder. But yeah they are for different usecases.
    – joojaa
    Dec 15, 2020 at 19:10
  • I must admit ettei astu aivoon.
    – user82991
    Dec 15, 2020 at 19:52
  • When you're cutting pieces from the object pathfinder is a lot like a cookie cutter and shape builder is a lot like a knife. When you're adding to the object, pathfinder is a lot like paint roller and shape builder is a lot like a brush.
    – Joonas
    Dec 16, 2020 at 6:23
  • To demonstrate the cookie cutter vs knife analogy: shape builder vs pathfinder
    – Joonas
    Dec 16, 2020 at 9:08
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    @Scott, yes, of course.
    – Joonas
    Dec 16, 2020 at 19:02

2 Answers 2



  • Crop
  • Outline
  • Divide
  • One-click operations as opposed to many clicks for the same results with Shape Builder

@Joonas created an excellent animation showing just how time consuming some operations can be using the Shape Builder Tool compared to merely hitting a Pathfinder button....

enter image description here

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    I personally love the single-click 'Divide', that just explodes everything along all countours into a group of objects. Also not unimportant, the Pahtfinder is a lot easier to teach. Once students master the Pathfinder, they can explore the Shape Builder at ease. I've tried the reverse, didn't work.
    – Vincent
    Dec 16, 2020 at 10:20

Besides the things Scott mentions, there is also the possibility to make the Pathfinder's operations non-destructive by alt-clicking the respective icons. This will create an editable compound path of the combined shapes, allowing you to release that compound and re-obtain the original shapes. Or, better, to edit the original shapes and have the compound update with the logical operation you chose.

  • Excellent point.
    – Scott
    Dec 15, 2020 at 20:18

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