I have a grouped object in illustrator and I want to cut out a circle-shaped hole out of the grouped object. So I draw the circle over the grouped object and:

  • If I try to select the grouped object and the circle and go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make, I get only the small circle as a result (I want the reverse, the big object minus the area of the small circle).

  • If I go to Window > Pathfinder, none of the options has the desired effect - Pathfinder deletes the components of the grouped object that intersect the small circle, instead of treating the grouped object as a single object

I've made a simple example - the black thing is the grouped object, the red thing is the shape I want to cut out of the grouped object.


2 Answers 2


If you do not need the strokes and shapes in black to remain "live"....

Select the black, Object > Expand
Then Pathfinder > Unite
Select the new black shape and the red circle, Pathfinder > Minus Front

If you must keep the black shapes as strokes and live.....

Draw another circle which encompasses all the black.
Place this large circle behind the small red circle.
Select the large circle and the small red circle, Object > Compound Path > Make
Now select everything and choose Object > Clipping Mask > Make

duh animashun

  • Thanks, that worked. I had to select only 'Stroke' in the Expand dialog box, or it mangled the black shape when I did Pathfinder>Unite.
    – TimSim
    Commented Jan 18, 2014 at 12:14

I think you have to do it in phases in order to get it right. What I did was duplicate the cut out shape for each component. Not ideal, but it works.

Here's what I did from within the group:

1) Select the crossing rectangles.

enter image description here

2) Compounded the rectangle shapes to one shape. Object > Compound Path > Make

enter image description here

3) Duplicate the shape for the cutout and position it over the new compounded shape

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4) Select both the cutout and the compound shape and Use the Subtract from shape area button in the Pathfinder window Window > Pathfinder.

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5) Hide those for now, and select the other cutout and the base shape

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6) Use the Subtract from shape area button in the Pathfinder window.

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7) Unhide your crossing rectangles and voila!

enter image description here

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