I would like to divide these shapes into multiple layers. One layer for the eye, one for the head, one for the mouth etc..

How do I do this? I forgot to create new layers while creating my shapes.

I did this all in one layer: enter image description here

2 Answers 2


Realize that no command is going to split that raster photograph apart. I assume you are referring to your black paths and not the photo.

Illustrator's Layer Panel has two commands to break a single layer's contents into separate layers : Release To Layers (Sequence) and Release to Layers (Build). The difference between these two commands are how the objects are broken out.

  • (Build) constructs layers based on the stacking order of the objects. Layer 1 will have object A on it. Layer 2 will have objects A and B on it. Layer 3 will have objects A, B, and C on it. And so on... It "builds" the layers to reflect how the artwork is stacked.
  • (Sequence) puts each object on its own layer.

In you case, you would use Release to Layers (Sequence) and you would then have an individual layer for the path around the eye, and a layer for the path around the head, etc.

You can then drag the new layers outside the master layer in the Layers Panel if you'd like.

Release to layers - Illustrator


I will assume that your path layer is one path, that cannot be separated, or already rasterized. If not already rasterized, right click the layer, then click rasterize.

  1. Copy the layer into new layers according to the amount of shapes you want.

    Example: you want one layer with the mouth and one layer with the eyes, so copy your layer twice. To copy just drag the layer to New Layer button on the bottom of the Layer window.

  2. Click on the top layer. Press CTRL and while still holding CTRL click on the layer again. This will select the entire layer content.
  3. Click on the Polygonal Lasso tool in the toolbox. While holding ALT draw a selection around the parts of the shape that you don't want in the current layer. For example, If you want the mouth, deselect everything aside from the mouth.
  4. Now press CTRL+SHIFT+I to inverse the selection and press DELETE. Click on the eye on the left of the layer in the Layer window to hide the completed layer while you repeat these steps on the next layer down.

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