I'm fairly new to adobe illustrator so this is probably a stupid question but i'm struggling with this. I'm trying to trace and color an image using the pen tool like below

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I wanted to color between the white lines but how do I go about this?Simply pressing K will paint the entire thing which is not what i want.

3 Answers 3


When you have both paths selected press ctrl + 8 (or cmd on mac). This makes a compound path in other words a object with a hole in it.

Also a bit on your wording. While its sane to call a pixel based application (like Photoshop) painting the internals. It may not be at all conductive to think vector applications as paint. You should either think of your images as pen strokes or if you fill areas as being cut outs. As scissor cutting describes vector graphics way better than painting does. They even have similar failure conditions. As a model for thinking this is way better as it gives you some useful predictive power.


Since joojaa advised to use Shape Builder in my 1st answer, I tried it and it worked as expected. The thing is, what I liked in Live Paint feature is the gap detection part. I didn't know it is present in Shape Builder too. I just checked and enabled it.

So just make sure you Check the gap detection option in case some of your paths are not closed and it works pretty well. (Adjust the gap detection length according to your requirement. In my case, gap length was not necessary as all paths were closed, so it just created unnecessary 2 shapes for eyes, which I removed later) Once you're done, remove unnecessary strokes. You don't even need to expand the object. Fill the colors individually.

Note: There are many ways you can use shape builder. You can merge, add, subtract shapes. You may want to explore more about how to use it.

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  • You can have a fill when you have shapebuilder on then it works like live paint but without the new object type.
    – joojaa
    Apr 3, 2021 at 13:11
  • @joojaa "new object type" - are you referring to the unwanted duplicated object that is created once we expand live paint? I often select it and delete it because it's always duplicate.
    – Vikas
    Apr 3, 2021 at 13:13
  • Also I wanted to "focus" on thing that it creates new independent shapes when you click on them. So filled the colors later .
    – Vikas
    Apr 3, 2021 at 13:14

In case you don't know or haven't used, another helpful feature is Live Paint in Illustrator. In case you have a lot of shapes to fill color, you can just use this feature. Making compound path wouldn't be necessary, then. Pretty useful for me when I have to make illustrations.

Here's how to use it:

  1. Select all shapes which you want to fill color in.
  2. Object > Live Paint > Make
  3. Select the Paint Bucket Tool - K
  4. When you will hover your artwork, you'll know how it works. Just select any color and click over any shape. It will fill color.
  5. Similarly you can fill colors in other shapes.
  6. Once you're done, you should expand your whole Live Painted artwork - Object > Expand

(There's Live Paint Selection also if you want to explore more. It's more useful in artwork with more details and colors.)

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I usually uncheck the Stroke so it doesn't get expanded in case I need adjustments later. In most cases I don't even need the strokes later. So I just set the stroke widths to 0.

  • I would advice people to stay away from live paint and opt to use shapebuilder instead. Live paint brings in a level of convolution to your file that is not A) comductive for learning to construct models. B) it hides a lot of control from beginning users. C) it introduces yet again a new object type that is not really needed.
    – joojaa
    Apr 3, 2021 at 11:26
  • @joojaa maybe I'm just used to Live Paint. I'll try shape builder next time and see.
    – Vikas
    Apr 3, 2021 at 11:29

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