This is an odd request and something I've never had to worry about in Illustrator until now. I'm building out a logo that will be printed on a shirt. Instead of having a solid black border around the vector hand, the client wants the black border to be "transparent" so when it is placed on top of a pattern, you see the pattern background. I have an example below of what I'm trying to accomplish.

Logo outlined in black in current form

Image over a pattern with transparent fill

The second photo I mocked up in Photoshop to show what I'm trying to do. It's very easy to select the border path in Photoshop and simply wipe it out. Does Illustrator have a "transparent" fill option in the Path area? Selecting a color and dropping the transparent percentage didn't do the trick.

3 Answers 3


There is a little known feature, in Illustrator, that allows you to do this non-destructively. That is without expanding and using pathfinder. This can bring some future flexibility to your designs. As a bonus its also less work and works inside effects.

  1. First turn on transparency grid or put something behind your graphic. This ensures that you can observe the effect.

  2. Select the entire graphic (not the background) and group it. This group will determine what gets transparent.

    • In the transparency window click on knockout group (If you can not see options in the panel menu enable extra options).
  3. Assign the strokes/shapes you want to make transparent with 0% opacity in the transparency panel (if you just want strokes transparent use appearences panel see here). Because of the knockout group option this will now carve through your grouped shape.


Image 1: Example result.


What you essentially need to do is separate the stroke from the fill. Then subtract the stroke from the fill.

You can do this by using the Object > Expand item in the menu then the Pathfinder Panel or Shape Builder Tool will allow you to cut the stroke from the fill.


  • Select the hand
  • Object > Expand (tick all options and hit OK)
  • Click the Merge button on the Pathfinder Panel
  • Using the Direct Selection Tool (the white arrow), click the black shape (formerly a stroke)
  • Hit Delete

You should be left with only the white objects and gaps between them where the black used to be.


  • 2
    That worked great, thank you very much for the help! Would I be able to apply that same process to the "2014" at the bottom of the hand as well? Doesn't seem to be working the same way since it is font vs. a shape/object.
    – adamuiowa
    Commented Feb 28, 2014 at 22:10
  • 1
    For text you first need to choose Type > Create Outlines Then Object > Expand Appearance.. then follow the steps above.
    – Scott
    Commented Feb 28, 2014 at 23:03
  • Scott, I'm unable to select Object > Expand Appearance (only Expand is an option). I tried the Pathfinder > Exclude option which works, but it deselects the left part of the hand for some odd reason. Any tips?
    – adamuiowa
    Commented Mar 3, 2014 at 19:33
  • Sorry, without a sample file I can't provide direct reference to specific steps.
    – Scott
    Commented Mar 3, 2014 at 19:34
  • My goal is trying to make the font transparent over the background image. Image link: camavision.com/wp/images/font-outline-example.jpg I'm able to add outlines, but I don't have the option to use "Expand Appearance" (only "Expand"). Using the steps for the hand up top didn't work either. File sample: camavision.com/wp/images/font-transparent.eps
    – adamuiowa
    Commented Mar 3, 2014 at 19:42

If this is being printed on a tshirt you probably don't need to make the objects transparent in the files, but you need to ask the screenprinter to use a less opaque white ink when the print it.

The answers above about how to get all the shapes right are still valid, of course.

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