designing some van livery and have been provided with a template file (screenshot) however, the car's outline has been created with numerous paths / lines and I'm struggling to create one outline to create a clipping mask from.

Unless I'm doing it wrong, I've tried to unite paths / join / outline stroke / make compound path etc etc to no avail. When I try to fill the car outline with colour, it's either a rectangle shape OR nothing (Illustrator says the path is too complex)

Can someone offer any help? Admittedly Illustrator is not my strongest skill so perhaps I'm missing something?

The outline I want to act as a clipping mask

Uniting paths doesn't create the full outline

Failed clipping mask

  • Select shape builder hold alt (or shift cant remember) and draw a marque around your car. That should do it.
    – joojaa
    Nov 20, 2014 at 13:21
  • Just curious, where'd you get the great car vector? Its something I'm always searching for.
    – Ryan
    Nov 20, 2014 at 13:32
  • @Ryan see this post on car vectors.
    – joojaa
    Nov 20, 2014 at 13:56
  • Hi @Ryan - it was supplied to me by the signage company :)
    – vneal
    Nov 20, 2014 at 14:20
  • Hi @joojaa - yes that sort of worked. Still a few areas that won't convert to a shape area though. Very odd. Thank you for your assistance :)
    – vneal
    Nov 20, 2014 at 14:55

1 Answer 1


CAD drawings imported into Ai are usually insanely complex. It's just the nature of how CAD programs work; they use such a different object model under the hood than Ai's Postscript heritage that a CAD designer's dream tends to be an Ai user's nightmare.

If you were lucky enough to get a file that retained the original CAD layers, you should first turn off all the layers that don't apply to your project.

Either way, I think there's a preliminary step that will make your life a lot easier: go through each of the individual plan and elevation drawings and copy just the paths you need onto a new layer. There's a huge amount of extraneous (for your purposes) detail in the CAD, and throwing it away will allow Illustrator to do its thing without hitting that complexity barrier you've run into.

Once you have copied the paths you need, you can lock or hide the CAD layer(s).

This approach has the benefit of making changes and edits far easier as the project moves to completion.

  • cad programs depend on postscript for printing. But no that does not mean you get to open simple stuff in illustrator. Anyway this is not a complex cad drawing. Also you might not be answering the question.
    – joojaa
    Nov 20, 2014 at 21:00

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