From time to time I would like to add a line between letters in Adobe Illustrator. This is for production purposes.
The fastest way, in this example, would be to use the ellipse tool, and have the letters just cut through the line. But I can't figure out how...

The letters are outlined, and is in a group.

Trying to use "Divide objects bellow", with the group of letters in front of the circle, returns an error about more than one object is selected.
Same error if I turn the whole text into a compound path..

The different options in "pathfinder" tool doesn't seem to produce what I want either.
The image to the left is the result I need.
By using the pen tool I added manually the extra anchor points on both side of the letters, and one in the middle which I just deleted to split up the line where I needed it to.
But that's time consuming, even for this small text...

Any suggestion?

Outline mode

2 Answers 2


A brute force approach

Let's assume you have a group of paths which are outlined letters with no fill color and another path (green) which goes through the letters:

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Duplicate (=copy, paste in place) the group, hide the original group in the Layers panel, select the duplicate and apply Pathfinder panel Unite. It fades the interior shapes of the letters. Making the union is optional, but it makes the image simpler:

enter image description here

Select the united path group and the original path through the letters, apply Pathfinder panel Outline. It removes all colors and splits every curve at every crossing:

enter image description here

The original group of the outlined letters stay in safe because they were hidden.

Ungroup the result of the Pathfinder Outline. Give to all splinters some stroke to keep them visible. Select and delete the unwanted pieces. In this case you want keep these:

enter image description here

Make a group or a compound path for easy access of all remaining line splinters or combine

When the original letter group is enabled you have this result:

enter image description here

  • Select all the letters
  • Object > Compound Path > Make

Then try Divide again.

But.... Divide is going to split your letters at the circle. I don't think you actually want to use Divide here.

A possibly better option is to use Merge on the Pathfinder Panel.

Make the type and the circles have different fill colors and no strokes....

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Select it all and hit Merge on the Pathfinder Panel.

Then select the type and change it's fill to none and stroke to black ...

enter image description here

Hide the type.. (Object > Hide) And clean up the remaining parts fo the circle.

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Then unhide the type (Object > Show All) and you should be complete...

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The easiest method may be to use the Shapebuilder Tool and drag it across the letters (over the line)....

enter image description here

(No fills, only strokes in the above, and the circle is behind the type.)


Shape Builder is going to create cutout portions of the letterforms for the circle...

enter image description here

However, you can prevent that by manually breaking the circle somewhere (anywhere) first, so it's an open path.

enter image description here

So, you may need to manually break the circle for the first letter, then you can use Shape Builder for the rest.

  • Hi. Yes, I did try that. But I got the same error message. Using the "divide" tool i pathfinder, I got som unexpected results. The line through the letters divided the letters (was expected), but the line found its way around the letters instead of just cutting it off...
    – ThomasK
    Jun 20, 2022 at 16:35
  • See updated answer @ThomasK :) Couple alternatives... The merge option helps if you need the circle to ultimately have a fill. Otherwise, I'd use Shape Builder.
    – Scott
    Jun 20, 2022 at 16:48
  • Yes. The shape builder method looks promising. But there might be a step I'm missing before using it.
    – ThomasK
    Jun 20, 2022 at 17:02
  • See new update @ThomasK :)
    – Scott
    Jun 20, 2022 at 17:13

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